By Jessica Opatich, Denise De Sousa and Wenhao Ma
Surrounded by handmade teapots, glazed ceramic bowls and intricately designed clay vases, some molded herself and some molded by the women she considers family, Estrellita Ammirati fought back her tears. She’s been wrestling with the thought of Stony Brook University’s ceramic studio closing forever.
“I just found out a couple of months ago,” Ammirati said. “I’m retiring in November. I really thought, come January, I was going to be able to spend a lot of time here.”
The ceramic studio, which caters to both members of the university and residents of the community, is being forced by administration to shut down after nearly 30 years of activity.
“We are excited that the Stony Brook Union is scheduled to go under a much needed complete interior demolition,” Timothy R. Ecklund, who serves as the assistant vice president for student affairs, said, while explaining the University’s renovation plans involving the Stony Brook Union. “We are now challenged to find a space to relocate the many offices and program spaces currently housed in the Union. The unique space and equipment that is necessary to run the successful ceramics program [makes] finding a new permanent home for the Craft Center a challenge.”
For the artists of the ceramic studio, a branch of the Craft Center, the news has been both a shock and a slap in the face.
“We were all devastated,” Mary Oshiro, a community member who has been coming to the studio for years, said. “Nobody can understand it.”
As November 20, closing day, draws near- members of the ceramic studio continue to hope that administration will have a change of heart.
“We’ve gathered petitions to try to raise awareness and to show how many people value the space, and we ended up getting over 1,000 signatures,” Mikaela Batista, a graduate student, said. “It’s just sad to know that slowly but surely the arts aren’t receiving enough recognition across all schools in the U.S. and it’s something that really needs to be addressed as a whole.”
Members of the ceramic studio, who are bracing themselves for the worst, are preparing for their final pottery sale on Wednesday, November 18 in order to raise money for their end of the semester party.Oshiro compared the studio’s last party to a funeral.
“There’s no place to go. There’s really no place on the North Shore here,” Oshiro said. “There’s no place to go at all.”