L’Arche Calgary – Tamarack Pottery Studio

The Cause

L'Arche Calgary is a non-profit organization that has provided programs and services for adults with intellectual disabilities for the last 50 years.

One of these is the Tamarack Day Program. Tamarack includes many outings and activities, but in recent years, has focused on artistic and creative endeavours.

Tamarack has 16 artists with intellectual disabilities who create 5 days a week. The art program has previously emphasized drawing and painting, but in the last year, has introduced candle-making into the mix. Our artists have loved learning this new skill and are eager to expand their creative horizons even further by exploring new mediums.

Earlier this year, Tamarack was generously gifted a kiln in hopes of beginning a pottery/ceramics studio for our artists. Unfortunately, there are other barriers to this aspiration.

Currently, we do not have a space large enough to accommodate the kiln, nor do we have the appropriate electrical hookups for it. One of our garages would need to be renovated in order to run the kiln, an expense we do not have the resources for.

Furthermore, purchasing pottery supplies (like clay, glaze, modelling tools, and wheels...) is prohibitively expensive. Additionally, we would love to hire an experienced instructor to teach us pottery basics while we get established.

With this funding, we could get our kiln up and running, obtain the necessary supplies to begin making pottery, and hire an instructor to ensure our Core Members have a solid foundation to begin creating.

Pottery not only provides another means of self-expression for our artists with intellectual disabilities, but it also allows them to earn an income and gain independence. Our Core Members rely on government funding to ensure their basic needs like shelter, transportation, and food are met. When pricing our Core Members’ creations, we retain a percentage of the proceeds to cover the cost of supplies. (The exact percentage varies, depending on the materials used.) The remainder goes directly to our artists, who take great pride in earning their own money and having the freedom to spend it however they would like.

Finally, after covering start-up costs, this project has the potential to be self-sufficient, with profits from sales covering the cost of supplies. Some of our main fundraising as an organization comes from selling our Core Members’ artwork. Pottery would be a new and exciting addition to these fundraisers, boosting revenue.

Who Will it Benefit?

Although, like all projects, this undertaking has a timeline, establishing a pottery studio would create a lasting legacy in our organization and our community.

Of course, our 16 Tamarack Day Program artists will benefit, but so will more than 20 other Core Members in our homes and community who will be given the opportunity to explore pottery as a medium.

Employees and volunteers would also be able to use the pottery studio if they wish. Many of our Assistants come to L’Arche Calgary from abroad, and they relish the opportunity to find new skills and hobbies while they are away from their loved ones. Creativity is therapeutic, and this would be no exception.

We are also hoping to establish an on-location boutique and online store for Tamarack. Pottery and ceramics add diversity to our products for sale. We currently display some of our artists’ work in the lobby of our office but would love to develop this further with more items.

With a greater number of items to offer and an expanded boutique, this also would provide the opportunity for our neighbours to visit and see what we create, raise awareness about our organization's work, and add another place for our neighbours to shop locally in our community.

Everyone who accesses services in our community will benefit from the addition of a pottery studio and its additional fundraising potential. Core Members who live in L’Arche homes full-time, Core Members in our Day Program, and the 50+ people from other disability agencies who attend our weekly activities – when we have more resources, we are better able to serve the people around us.