Once a church, and then a bar, and then left vacant for over a decade, 1131 Bedford Ave is now home to Artshack Brooklyn, an all-inclusive, all-encompassing community ceramics art studio offering classes, workshops and parties for children and adults.
When Mckendree Key founded The Artshack in 2008, it was little more than a couple of students in her apartment, until partnering with cofounder Dany Rose in 2011, and the studio moved to the 3rd floor of Rose’s house. Not long after, the first Artshack location opened at 384 Waverly, offering classes in a variety of mixed media, from weaving to ceramics.
However, with the popularity in ceramics and the medium’s requirement for more room, Key and Rose decided to add an additional space devoted entirely to clay, replete with eight wheels, a large (and notably sturdy) hand-building table and three kilns.
The new space opened officially on July 8, and has more than 80 students enrolled.
Key, a professional artist with over 15 years of teaching experience and Rose, a product designer, have developed a flexible lesson plan that targets an individual student’s needs and unique situation. Although students create lasting pieces, the focus is on skills building rather than finished products.
Students typically range in age from five to twelve years and learn hand building, throwing (the wheel), glazing, plaster mold making, slipcasting, and mixing and firing clay.
“It’s all encompassing,” Key noted, adding that students not only work in clay, but have a chance to learn about chemistry in the mixing process, about color, about form, and even a bit about selling their work; all fundamentals for aspiring artists.
“We really teach the creative process,” said Kareem Woods, instructor and artist. “Students are currently making a creature, but the goal is to get them comfortable using clay,” he said, smirking at one student, and their suspiciously batman-like figure.
Key emphasized the importance of a business like Artshack in a time when more and more schools are cutting their arts programs. Artshack has affiliations with PS 20, PS 11 and Arts and Letters, sending instructors to pick up students at the end of the school day and accompanying them directly back to Artshack.
One recent addition to Artshack is the Mini and Me Program. Running once a week, caregivers and children under five come to work and play in clay, experimenting, learning, and most importantly, getting their hands dirty.
Another Artshack program is Thinkshack, a tuition-free program where students make an innovative design in clay that is then turned into a plaster mold– allowing the invention to be reproduced and eventually sold. All proceeds from Thinkshack sales go to scholarships for Artshack students.