The grassroots effort to prevent the board of Baltimore Clayworks from selling its Mount Washington buildings picked up fresh momentum Monday night when the Baltimore City Council approved Resolution 17-0030R:
"For the purpose of requesting that the Governor of Maryland, and the Members of the Board of Public Works of Maryland, reject the proposed sale of two buildings owned by Baltimore Clayworks at 5706 and 5707 Smith Avenue in the Mt. Washington community of Baltimore City, to ensure that they remain a vital part of the larger Baltimore Clayworks community and an asset for the Citizens of Baltimore City."
The resolution's sponsors were Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer, Ryan Dorsey, Zeke Cohen, Robert Stokes Sr., Mary Pat Clarke and Bill Henry.
Introducing the resolution, Schleifer described Baltimore Clayworks, which is in his district, as "a gem for the entire city, state and really the country." He said that the sale "would force the closure of this nonprofit" and that "there are many alternatives to this sale."
After announcing a financial threat from a deficit of around $1 million, the board of Clayworks announced it would consider selling its properties and relocating to one of the city's arts districts.
Opposition from artists, teachers, students, patrons and others was swiftly organized under the banner of Clayworks Community Campaign. But the board never altered course and, in May, accepted a $3.7 million offer from Itineris, a Baltimore nonprofit serving adults with autism.
"The people who want to save Clayworks by stopping its sale are in fact at risk of sealing its doom," said Clayworks interim executive director Devon Powell.
"I only wish that they and our City Council representatives would realize the breadth and depth of our financial situation and the triple win within sight: financial stability for Clayworks; a welcome new nonprofit neighbor for Mount Washington; and a potential boost for the redevelopment of the City's new arts districts, which our Council also supports," Powell said.
Because Baltimore Clayworks received more than $700,000 in bonds from the state since 2000, the organization must ask the Board of Public Works for permission to sell the properties, Powell said.
The Board of Public Works is expected to review the sale within the next few weeks.
"We don't know how [the council resolution] will affect the [Board of Public Works] review process or their decision on the sale," said Marsha Smelkinson, a key figure in the Clayworks Community Campaign. "But the resolution does ensure that the Community will be heard. That's a big step, and we are grateful for the City Council's enthusiastic help to keep Baltimore Clayworks alive."
Clarification: An earlier version of this article said there was no discussion of the resolution at the council meeting. Council members had discussed it at a lunchtime meeting that day.