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Giving Rye: Meet Clay Art Center

(PHOTO: Emily Peck, executive director of the Clay Art Center.)
(PHOTO: Emily Peck, executive director of the Clay Art Center.)

Giving Rye is a new occasional feature highlighting non-profits and community groups in and around the City of Rye. Today meet Emily Peck of Clay Art Center.

Your Name: Emily Peck

Organization: Clay Art Center

Your role: Executive Director

MyRye.com: Tell us your organization’s mission.

Peck: Clay Art Center is dedicated to education, creativity, and community engagement in a diverse and inclusive space for studio practice, exhibitions, personal growth, and professional development. Our vision is to ignite a passion for clay and provide a nurturing community for that passion to flourish.

(PHOTO: Class at Clay Art Center.)
(PHOTO: Class at Clay Art Center.)

How long have you operated in Rye?

Peck: Clay Art Center has been operating in Port Chester since 1957. Many of our students and artists come from Rye and we have run afterschool programming in the Rye elementary schools. We partner with Rye Presbyterian Church on the Empty Bowls fundraiser where our artists donate bowls which are sold and all the proceeds are donated to organizations that address food insecurity in Port Chester.

What programming or work in Rye is the organization best known for?

Peck: 

  1. Ceramics classes: We offer classes in wheel throwing, hand-building, sculpture, surface design, and other ceramics skills for adults & youth at all levels from those who have never touched clay to experienced artists. Many students get to know us at our maker nights or family wheel nights where adults and families can try creating on the wheel or our Saturday Clay program where families can create their own ceramic sculptures.
  2. Shop and Gallery: Our Gallery Program presents free exhibitions, a shop, artist lectures, and demos, both in person & online, showcasing contemporary ceramics from artists at all career stages. Our Clay Holiday Market is a popular shopping destination for handmade holiday gifts including functional items, ornaments and more.
  3. Community Arts Programs: Our community programs awards scholarships & free ceramic classes to underserved youth & adults, and actively engages school & community groups in collaborative public art mosaic projects. Our programs, both onsite & throughout Westchester, are funded via partnerships, grants, donors, & fundraising events.
(PHOTO: Exhibits at Clay Art Center.)
(PHOTO: Exhibits at Clay Art Center.)

Looking forward to 2024, what will be your top initiatives?

Peck: 

  1. Continue to engage the local community with ceramics through classes so that everyone has the opportunity to be creative.
  2. Build our reach and impact within our community through our Community Arts Programs and scholarships and build more partnerships with local Westchester nonprofits to offer arts education to the community.
  3. Organize events to introduce our programs, exhibitions and shop to the community. We will be celebrating our Clay Holiday Market with shopping, free arts activities for families and sweet treats. On the first Saturday in June we are once again co-organizers for the second annual Port Chester Arts Festival to promote the arts organizations and artists that call Port Chester home.

Tell us about the population you serve and how they can get involved with your programming and services.

(PHOTO: Class at Clay Art Center.)
(PHOTO: Class at Clay Art Center.)

Peck: We are a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization for the Ceramic Arts. We provide opportunities to engage with clay through classes for adults, youth, and families, as well as serving the needs for artists through studios and exhibitions. We deliver clay programming to underserved populations in our local community through after-school, onsite and off-site programs. We have opportunities for everyone to get involved whether you want to take a one-time or weekly ceramics class, visit our shop and exhibitions, or tour our artist studios and facilities.

Are you a 501(c)(3) non-profit with tax exempt status? 

Peck: Yes

(PHOTO: Class at Clay Art Center.)
(PHOTO: Class at Clay Art Center.)

Looking back across 2023, what were your organization’s top achievements? 

Peck: 

  1. Provided 20% more scholarships for youth and adults than in 2022 – over 600 scholarships allowed people to have the opportunity to participate in our clay programs.
  2. Worked with community partners including HOPE House, Barbara’s House, Don Bosco, Port Chester Recreation, the Port Chester public schools, and more to deliver clay programs to underserved populations.
  3. Celebrated 25 Years of our Artist In Residence program, which has seen over 50 emerging artists to date call Clay Art Center “home” as part of their career development. These young artists spend a year at Clay Art Center teaching, developing a solo exhibition and advancing their craft.
(PHOTO: Exhibits at Clay Art Center.)
(PHOTO: Exhibits at Clay Art Center.)

How can local residents support your organization? 

Peck: Local residents can take classes, visit our shop and gallery, donate to support our scholarship programs, exhibitions, and community programs, or volunteer. We are always looking for volunteers to help out at an exhibition or event, or join our board of directors.

What local Rye residents and area businesses have been the longest, steadiest supporters of your organization? 

Peck: Many of our students and artists live in Rye. Reena Kashyap, a previous director who led our transformation into a nonprofit organization, was a longtime Rye resident. Artists including Robin Henschel, Deborah Mawhinney and Tracy Jakobson call Rye home. Dale Oberlander, a Rye Resident and Director of the Early Childhood Center at Rye Community Synagogue, co-chaired our Hand in Hand benefit and is a longtime student. Local businesses like June & Ho, Patisserie Salzburg and others have supported our fundraisers with food and gift certificates.

(PHOTO: Emily Peck, executive director of Clay Art Center with NYS Senator Shelley Mayer and Development Director Wendy Weinstein.)
(PHOTO: Emily Peck, executive director of Clay Art Center with NYS Senator Shelley Mayer and Development Director Wendy Weinstein.)

Tell us about you:

How long have you been in your current role?

Peck: I started in October 2019 just before the pandemic. I have been in this role for just over 4 years.

Is the role full time or part time? Paid or volunteer? 

Peck: This is a full-time paid position.

How would your friends and family describe you in one word?

Peck: supportive

Pick one:

Peck:

MyRye.com

Select from:

Your Pick:
Coke or Pepsi? Neither
Regular or diet? Neither
Action movie or rom com? Rom Com
Cook, order in or eat out? Cook
Dog, cat or no pet? No pet but if I had one it would be a dog
Balsamic vinaigrette or ranch? Balsamic vinaigrette
Ruffles Original, Lay’s Barbeque or Funyuns? Ruffles original or salt and vinegar
Still, sparkling or tap? Sparkling

 

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?

Peck: I love traveling and want to explore many parts of the world. I am just as happy on a beach, as I am hiking in the country or skiing in the mountains. I also enjoy traveling to places where I can learn more about their arts and culture by visiting museums, artist studios, and markets.

What is your favorite streaming / TV series?

Peck: I am a fan of the Great Pottery Throw Down on the BBC. It is fun to see what ceramics challenges they come up with.

Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you lived in the City? 

Peck: I don’t currently live in Rye but I grew up on Platt Lane next to Midland School. I went to Midland School and Rye Middle and High School where I had the opportunity to make ceramics with some amazing art teachers. My parents still live in the house I grew up in so I spend a lot of time in Rye and love to go on runs to the Boardwalk at Playland whenever I can.

Thanks, Emily!

Organization’s website.

Specific donation link.

Facebook.

Instagram.

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