In January of 2020, Baltimore Clayworks elected a new Board President, long-time Mt Washington resident, Marcy Emmer. Marcy’s term follows the incredible leadership of the previous President, Susan Patz, who saw Baltimore Clayworks through very turbulent times for the organization, helped it stabilize, and set it on the path to growth. Susan Patz will remain on the Board, and involved with Baltimore Clayworks, and the organization is very grateful for her term of leadership.
We sat down with Marcy to chat and get to know her. Here is our interview:
BCW: As our new board president, I thought I would go through and learn a little about you, your history with Clayworks, and some things you’re looking forward to. First off, will you tell me a little about yourself?
ME: Sure. I was born about a mile and a half from here, on a little street in Oakshire, and Mt. Washington has always been home. My father was in politics, so at a very early age I would go around canvassing, and saying things like “Vote for my Daddy” – which I’m sure got him elected. When I was 7 or 8, my mother drove me down to Center Stage (which was on North Ave at that time) and I got really involved with theater. I was with Center Stage Young Workshop until I was about 13. I then went to the Baltimore Experimental High School, which is no longer here. Had the School for the Arts been here when I was ready for high school, I believe that’s where I would have gone. I think that the Experimental School saved me. Actually, one of the reasons that I care so much, is because art saved me. Had I not been involved in the theater, I most likely would not be sitting here today. As dramatic as it sounds, it’s true. A lot of the people that I spent time with are no longer here due to drugs, etc.
In high school I studied Dramatic Literature, and English Literature, and Drama. Then I went to Towson State while I was still in high school because we had the College in Escrow Program, and I fell in love with the theater program. I was supposed to go to College at Emerson in Boston, but I got scared. So instead I went to Towson State and I was a Theater and Psychology major.
BCW: What did you do after school?
ME: I worked with a psychiatric day treatment center for a while, where I just taught drama classes, which was really therapeutic. The reason that I love both psychology and theater is because I’m always interested in what motivates people. On stage, I’m trying to understand the character’s motivation. Then, I got married very young, at 20, and had 3 children. I was an “at-home” mom, but I actually did a film too when the children were young. It was called Stage Fright and although it was not picked-up, it did play at the Berlin Film Festival, and there was a write-up in Variety Magazine. Then, I started my own afterschool program when my children were at Mt. Washington Elementary because there was no art – the arts were scarce. So, I started a company called For Creative Kids with my friend Sherry Levine. I was the Creative Director and she was the Financial Director. We were in many schools – we did city and parochial schools. We also had a program where we hired graduate students from MICA, Peabody, or Towson to teach kids. Also, I’ll mention, when I was a student and ditched school, I would go to the BMA, where I ended up becoming a docent for 18 years.
BCW: How did you get involved with Baltimore Clayworks?
ME: Well, I went to Pre-School in the Studio Building, and my mother even remembers voting for Kennedy there too, so, structurally, the building was always a familiar place. My dear friend Marlene, who was one of the founders of Baltimore Clayworks, and I have children the same age, and our children grew up together. I would come to Clayworks’ events with her – never thinking that I wanted to throw. But, I had started collecting Sonya Meeker’s pottery very young, and always had an appreciation for art.
To fast forward, now I’m 61 and I’ve been taking classes for 4 or so years. About 10 years ago, I moved back to Mt. Washington and Marlene and I would come to Clayworks. Bianka Groves was my first teacher, and then Lynne Molner. But, I couldn’t do it. Which is interesting to me. Typically if I can’t do something, I’ll get frustrated and give it up. But, for some reason, I’m sticking with it (clay), and it’s been 4 or 5 years. I can just barley do it, but I’m sticking with it.
BCW: How did you start getting involved with Clayworks’ Board of Trustees?
ME: There was a Community Meeting a few years ago, and at it the previous Board’s real estate agent spoke. Well, in class I was very shy, but here I spoke up. I get real estate because that’s what my husband does. So, I understood what they were saying, so I stood up and started asking questions. I remember afterwards Deb Bedwell called me and asked “Who is this person? Who is this powerful woman?” And I said “They are not going to do anything in my house.” I felt ownership then, and I felt that what the previous Board was doing was wrong. I wasn’t in the “Sisters of Resistance,” but I feel like I was their foster child. I was there on the side-lines making recommendations. So that’s how I became involved: I was learning clay, hanging out with people here that I just adored, and I felt so together with these people. Then they (the previous Board) came along and said “No.” And I said “Whoa, not no. That’s not fair.” So I started to get involved in a political way, which was also very comfortable.
BCW: What is one of your favorite memories associated with Clayworks?
ME: I don’t know if Sam Wallace will remember this, but one of my favorite memories was early on, probably in my first class. I was alone, trying to center my clay, and I don’t know if Sam saw me from upstairs in his studio or what. I did not really know who Sam was at that time, but he came downstairs, and he put his hands on top of mine like a bird, to show me how to center. I will never forget that. The way I feel about Sam is not hidden – I love Sam, and I always try to take one of his classes. But that is my favorite memory: someone from up above came down and showed me what to do.
BCW: Speaking of Sam, what is your favorite Sam Wallace quote?
ME: “It’s just clay. It’ll be alright.” And then after he says that you all want to go into song.
BCW: As our new Board President, what are you looking forward to in the next year? In the next five years?
ME: I’ve thought about this, and I would love to see our campus bustling with people. I want people to come here and take classes. I want people to say, when you come to Baltimore: “Did you visit the BMA? Did you visit the Walters? Did you visit Clayworks?” I really want to put us up there. My pipe-dream would be to get accredited, so we can give credit for college courses. Also, I want a Clay-Mobile. I’m so serious. I want us to get a vehicle, to paint it, and to go out to different neighborhoods in the city and show them clay. I want Clayworks to keep on going, and for more people to discover us.
BCW: Is there anything else you’d like to say to either Clayworks or the Mt. Washington community?
ME: Mt. Washington, you need to support Clayworks because it is an anchor in our village and our village it not thriving. We need our people to come down to Clayworks, take a class, have your children take a class, buy a mug… When you need a gift, I want you to think of Clayworks first. And after you come buy a gift, go around the corner and buy some lunch.
BCW: Great. Thank you for talking with me today, Marcy.