It all started in the mid-1950s...
when master potter Betty Woodman convinced the City of Boulder to house its recreational pottery program in historic Fire Station #2 on University Hill. The Boulder Pottery Lab was the first city-supported pottery program in the country and was run by the Parks and Recreation Department for over 60 years. "When I started teaching there, there was one class, one evening a week, of seven people," she said in a 1991 interview. "Fifteen years later there were 400 students taking classes." It was so successful, in fact, that the Pottery Lab became a national model for other cities. Betty Woodman drew some of the most important local and national talent in ceramics to give workshops at the Lab. "It became a very big program."
For decades the Lab has served the Boulder community by providing accessible, affordable, high-quality ceramics education and recreation programs to people of all ages and abilities. Generations of Boulder families have walked through the historic firehouse doors on University Hill to participate in pottery classes and camps at the Lab. Many of our current adult students remember bringing their children or coming as a child themselves to pottery classes here, making the Pottery Lab a well-known and beloved institution.
Studio Arts Boulder was founded in 2009 by Paul Heffron and staff, students, and friends of the Boulder Pottery Lab. They hoped to expand the programs offered at the Lab and support other studio art forms that needed more space and resources to flourish in the Boulder region. The "studio arts" are those art forms that require equipment and facilities which are beyond the means of most individuals. Ceramics, glass arts, metalworking, printmaking, sculpture, fiber arts, and woodworking typically require shared studio space and a collaborative environment to be successful. Mr. Heffron saw the logical connection between these art forms as the foundation for a showcase studio arts campus. It would house multiple art forms in one central location and provide world-class instruction in each medium. With this vision, Studio Arts Boulder was launched and the search for a suitable home began.
Simultaneously, the City of Boulder began looking for a non-governmental organization to steward the Boulder Pottery Lab. Since the founders of Studio Arts Boulder already had a deep relationship with the Lab and ceramics was a vital component of the Studio Arts Boulder vision, overseeing operations of the Pottery Lab was a natural fit for the budding organization. Lead by Lolita Higbie, Studio Arts Boulder signed a contract with the City of Boulder to take over management of the Pottery Lab on January 1, 2015.
Since then, the organization has focused its efforts on the delicate transition from mature public program to independent nonprofit organization. The success of the Lab's ceramics program is critical, but the mission of Studio Arts Boulder remains the same - to foster creative collaboration in the studio arts. So, in addition to the day-to-day management of the Lab, Studio Arts Boulder is also building partnerships with other studio art organizations to support their work and develop joint programs. Today, the organization is thriving on both fronts. As part of a nonprofit organization, the Pottery Lab is moving closer to long-term financial sustainability so it can serve Boulder for many more decades. Working together with our studio art partners, Studio Arts Boulder will eventually expand operations into other art forms. As the organization grows it will continue to support kids and adults in their lifelong artistic pursuits and prepare the next generation of cultural leaders.