For Joanne Coppola, the Craft Center’s ceramic studio in the Union basement has been almost like a second home.
“It’s just a wonderful place the hours are fantastic because we all have lives and we come here to de-stress,” the Medford resident and ceramic studio member said. “A lot of times we just sit here. We’re not talking to each other; we’re just here.”
But after Nov. 19, the studio will no longer be able to keep its doors open to the 100 students, faculty and community members, including Coppola, who come there to relax and meet with friends. Due to upcoming renovations on the 46-year-old building, clubs and organizations stationed in the Union will either be removed or relocated sometime this year, and the university was not able to find a space to host a new studio.
Emily Brownawell, studio manager and senior studio art/psychology student, dates the opening of the studio back nearly 40 years.
“A lot of people have been using this space for several years,” she said. “Out of all the ceramics studios on Long Island, this is the most affordable, and it has the best hours. It’s very accessible for people.”
A petition circulated during Spring 2015, aimed at keeping the ceramic studio and the student art gallery in the SAC operational. The Statesman reported that as of early May, the petition had 1,200 signatures, 200 over its goal.
Brownawell said the petition helped to save the gallery, and the Craft Center will remain active holding craft nights and classes. But the petition made no progress in relocating the studio.
“The petition allowed me to speak to one of our deans, Dean [Timothy] Ecklund, who really doesn’t have any control over the situation.” she said. “Those conversations were a little more productive about what we might do to get a new student gallery space but less productive about getting a new ceramic studio.”
The ceramic studio offers weekly pottery classes, as well as open hours for its members to work on independent projects. Brownawell said that there is still hope that the studio will be relocated, but that it is highly unlikely.
“We found out towards the end of spring semester that the building was coming under construction and we would be needing to move out,” she said. “As of right now we don’t have a space, and it’s unlikely that we’ll get a space. That may change, but probably not.”
The materials and equipment in the studio, which include wheels and kilns, will most likely go into storage or be dispersed throughout the SUNY system, Brownawell said.
She says the studio has been in talks with Gallery North in Setauket about donating the equipment, but since it is all state property, that might not be possible.
“We have some info about what other studios exist,” Brownawell said. “There have been a couple conversations with Gallery North. They really want a pottery studio there, but we don’t know if we would be able to donate our materials because it’s all state property. We’re still hoping they change their mind and keep the space open in a new building.”
Many members are actively searching for new studios, but the results have been disappointing.
“I don’t think there’s anything similar to this,” said Nancy Marshall, a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. “What we need is something on campus, not off-campus. That’s what the university is about; you want to bring people to the university so it can blossom.”
Many members have found the closing difficult and are taking advantage of their time left in the studio. Coppola drives 30 minutes nearly every day of the week to work on her vases and sugar bowls.
“It’s the arts,” she said. “We’re not sports—and I am a sports fanatic—but we don’t generate a whole lot of revenue for the school. It’s an outlet other than studying and drinking. This is something else to do. It’s just a shame that somebody doesn’t think it’s important.”