Editor’s note: This article, written by Megan Proft, Northfield Arts Guild Education and Volunteer Manager, originally appeared in the special National Volunteer Week section in the April 10, 2019, edition of the Northfield News.
At the Northfield Arts Guild, there are many volunteers you get to see like ushers at a show or greeters at the front desk. However, unless you are a clay artist, you might never come across one group of volunteers who dedicate hours and hours in each week: studio monitors.
Every Monday and Wednesday night, the Guild has open clay studio that is staffed by volunteer studio monitors Emily Haskell, Sonja Hillestad and Judy Kutulas. Studio monitors are responsible for both managing the open studio time and assisting with general studio tasks.
“Mostly (we’re) just making sure it’s a clean, welcoming environment and that people can get whatever questions they have answered,” Haskell said. ”We also help with firings and keeping the supplies stocked.”
Haskell has been a monitor with the open clay studio since it began more than 10 years ago. She first came to the Guild to take classes from ceramic artist Jim Haas. Soon after, she started volunteering in the shop and took up the post of studio monitor.
“I’ve worn a variety of hats as a volunteer — and occasional employee — over the years… volunteering at the Guild has definitely given me a place to connect to the community of Northfield,” she said. “It’s always a welcoming place where I know I can contribute and also be appreciated. It’s the second most likely place you can find me aside from my own house.”
Kutulas, who joined the clay studio nine years ago, said being a clay studio monitor has been a way to share her knowledge of ceramics while learning from others.
“I’d like to think I bring expert knowledge about clay, and I am always flattered when somebody asks me a question or watches me do something,” she said. “Truthfully, however, we all try out ideas and techniques learned from one another.”
Like Haskell, Kutulas has found a second space to call home with the Guild’s clay studio — and one that keeps her working on her art.
“Longtime studio members have become my clay family,” she said. “I can’t imagine that I would have stuck with clay as long as I have if I was throwing alone in my house.”
The give and receive nature of volunteering as a monitor has kept Hillestad active with the studio too. “I continue to volunteer in the studio because it gives me the opportunity to work on my own project,” she said, “but most importantly it is a way for me to give back, in my small way, to the Guild and all it means to me — this vital part of Northfield’s arts community.”
In addition, she said it is just plain fun. “On any given evening, I am with other potters from those who are just learning the basics… to the experienced ones,” she said. “All levels are welcome. We all experience the joy of creativity — sometimes through animated conversations, and sometimes working in silence in our own worlds.”
Visit northfieldartsguild.org for more information about volunteering at the Northfield Arts Guild.