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Itineris to buy Clayworks buildings in Mount Washington

Word on the street spread weeks ago that Itineris, a nonprofit organization serving adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, had entered into a contract to buy Baltimore Clayworks, the ceramic arts center facing about $1 million in debt. It's now official.

Itineris executive director Ami Taubenfeld confirmed Thursday that the organization is "under contract for purchase" of Clayworks for $3.7 million. Itineris currently rents its facility in Waverly.

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"We need to grow," Taubenfeld said.

Itineris plans to move into Clayworks' Mount Washington two buildings on opposite sides of Smith Avenue by March 2018. Itineris offers job training and other services for autistic adults.

"We have had clients take Clayworks classes before," Taubenfeld said. "We plan to keep the four gas kilns and the beautiful kiln outside. We may have potential clay artists."

The Clayworks properties, a former library converted to class and studio spaces and a former convent used for offices, conference rooms and art gallery, are "almost perfect for us" as is, Taubenfeld said.

During a legislative briefing in Annapolis in May about the pending sale, Clayworks management told legislators that the then-undisclosed buyer was willing to make the buildings available for ceramic arts use by people outside the Itineris organization, including Clayworks members.

"We don't have any specific plans, but we are open to collaboration," Taubenfeld said. "We need to sit down with some of the artisans and figure out what they are hoping for."

The Clayworks board is considering places to relocate in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, opposition to the sale continues. So far, efforts by an organization called the Clayworks Community Campaign to postpone or stop the organization from moving out of Mount Washington, where it has been based for 37 years, have been unsuccessful. A legal move was explored a few months ago, but called off.

The most recent of several town hall-style meetings organized by the campaign was held Monday.

"We are really not involved in that," Taubenfeld said of the controversy. "We are a nonprofit looking to grow. We found a beautiful [property for sale] and pursued that."

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