On Oct. 6, Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane sent an email that delighted craft enthusiasts: The Mayer Craft Center will reopen this semester.
In the email to students and employees, Kane announced that the Center would resume programming in mid-October, alongside the news that Weaver Cottage will reopen as a meeting space. This announcement reversed a July decision to cancel programming and repurpose the Center for student activities.
Space and staff constraints were the primary reasons for the closure of the Craft Center. The College debated using the space for academic use at one point, according to Kane. The Center also hosted Weaver Wednesdays earlier in the semester while Weaver Cottage was in use as isolation housing. Additionally, Kane mentioned that staffing shortages in the Office of Student Life limited the office’s ability to coordinate Craft Center programming.
After hearing of their program’s cancellation, several avid Craft Center users organized a petition over the summer to demonstrate student support for the unique extracurricular art programming that the center offers. However, their mobilization did not change the decision by the start of the 2021 fall semester.
Kane cited the resolution of space constraints as the main reason Kenyon changed its decision.
“Once we learned that the space was not needed for academics after all, and with Weaver Cottage coming back online as a programming space, that resolved the facility constraints,” Kane wrote in an email to the Collegian. “The staffing shortage issue is still outstanding.”
Associate Professor of Art Read Baldwin first heard of the Craft Center’s closure from students, and soon got involved in efforts to resurrect it. “I started making a lot of phone calls,” Baldwin wrote in an email to the Collegian.
He eventually volunteered to take on the role of interim coordinator at the center. Resolving the staffing problem, Kane acknowledged that Baldwin’s involvement facilitated the resurrection. “I’m pleased that we were able to arrive in this place and grateful for Read’s leadership during this period of reduced staffing in our area,” Kane said.
Hearing the news was “equal parts a thrill and a relief,” to Molly McLaughlin ’23, a potter and advocate for the Craft Center. “I was really glad to see everyone’s efforts paid off and to see that the College really took our ideas into consideration,” she said. McLaughlin hopes that events and publicization of the programming will bring more participants into its fold.
To get the Craft Center up and running this semester, Baldwin is coordinating short instructional sessions to reintroduce its programs. While the building is equipped to run woodworking, sewing, weaving, jewelry, metalworking and photography programs, many of the center’s typical instructors have made other commitments this semester. As of Oct. 13, pottery classes taught by longtime instructor Robin Nordmoe are the only programs confirmed to return this semester. Baldwin aims to return to regular programming in the spring.
“[The Craft Center] is an incredible resource for Kenyon students, but we need classes to fill if it is going to remain viable in the future,’’ Baldwin said.
Going forward, Baldwin hopes to involve students in management of the center and plans to create a student steering committee to provide input on programming. Students interested in programming may reach out to Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.