Reviving Rural Community Pottery Studios: A Pilot Study

Longitudinal studies show that youth and young adults with limited financial resources benefit from involvement in arts programming: as participation increase, so does academic achievement (Catterall, Dumais, & Hampden-Thompson, 2012). This finding has important implications for the many agencies serving youth in economically-distressed communities in Central Appalachia, particularly since the region has some of the lowest educational attainment in the country (ARC, 2015). This paper examines one such opportunity by providing guidelines for reviving rural community pottery studios. There are several organizations that have the makings of a pottery studio in southeastern Kentucky—and thus a direct avenue to provide arts engagement to youth—yet several of these are rarely or never used for programming. This paper presentation will provide the findings from a pilot study conducted at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County, Kentucky. The study began with identifying the necessary steps to best approach a successful revival of a neglected ceramics studio. Findings offer fundamental guidelines for pottery studio revitalization, including what types of table surfaces allow for the best moisture absorption and how to recycle clay to minimize waste. This project also provides tested teaching plans for lessons that cater to all age groups, from small children to adults. The goal of the session is to help the audience better understand both the obstacles and the productive aspects of attempting to reinvigorate an old or abandoned studio, along with providing clear and actionable guidelines to allow their pottery studio to provide opportunities for rural youth.