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Hoping to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter, the Clay Studio of Missoula is planning to renovate the entrance and the exhibition gallery to create a roomier, more unified space.

The Clay Studio of Missoula is raising funds online to pay for an expansion and renovation of its two gallery spaces.

The studio raised $12,000 at its Potsketch auction in April, and is seeking the remaining $10,000 on Kickstarter.

"The biggest perk will be that square footage in the sales area and a more welcoming entrance," said Shalene Valenzuela, executive director of the Clay Studio.

The nonprofit offers community ceramics classes, hosts professional resident artists, and has a sales gallery and an exhibition gallery, where it shows new work from local and regional ceramicists each month.

The renovations will remove a large storage room that separates the entrance from the exhibition gallery to create a roomier, unified space.

Currently, when you enter the building on Hawthorne Street, you walk down a narrow hallway, and then hit the sales gallery, a 17-by-12-foot room.

An expansion to a 17-by-23-foot space would mean more room on First Friday, where receptions are pushed into the work area, and guests sip wine around wedging tables and other equipment.

It will also allow the studio to meet the rising demand for sales space.

"There is this growing community of clay artists who are settling here and looking at ways to show their work," she said. The expansion would allow them to "more broadly feature their work instead of cramming everything into a hallway space."

Due to fire code, the limited space also means they can't provide seating for people who may need to sit down to enjoy the work.

Then to the east is the exhibition gallery, which has its own limitations.

"Originally, when the Clay Studio had moved into the building, that space must've been used as an office," she said.

It has far too many electrical outlets, for one. There are security bars on the windows that interfere with the atmosphere, and a former closet area that usually holds one work on a pedestal doesn't have enough room for viewing in the round as sculptural ceramics are intended.

The renovations will allow for larger works and more works.

There are a limited number of studs in the walls, which creates issues when hanging heavy ceramic works.

The entrance to the space is quite narrow, which can create accessibility issues for people in wheelchairs, and also for guests at busy receptions. It's currently difficult for two people to pass through the entrance at one time.

They've also decided to employ movable walls between the galleries to accommodate events like the annual holiday sale.


The Clay Studio hosts five artists at a time, for short-term or long-term residencies that can last up to two years. They help maintain studio facilities, including a large Anagama kiln.

In addition, the studio has about 25 artists who use community or semi-private rental work spaces.

The studio offers classes to community members, usually on a quarterly schedule and running 10 weeks at a time, adding up to five to six dozen students at a given time.

As you'd expect, the rewards for donating to the campaign are almost exclusively ceramics. The lowest level of reward is a T-shirt, then a selection of cups and gradually increasing into larger works such as ceramic gumball machines and sewing machines by Valenzuela, whose work has been exhibited at the Missoula Art Museum among many other venues.

A few of the artists who contributed include Mo Gary, Perry Haas, Cathryn Mallory, Lee Stuurmans and more. To see the full offerings, donate or get more information, go to kck.st/1OpSSYP. If the target of $10,000 isn't reached by Saturday, Nov. 7, the studio won't receive any funds.

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