“[Cocktails and Clay] is a fun way for community members to be social in our space,” says Crystal Parnell, the coordinator of last Friday’s “Cocktails and Clay” at the Hyde Park Art Center. Every second Friday of the month, guests can sip cocktails and tour galleries, view student films from the University of Chicago’s Fire Escape Films, and participate in a ceramic session at the four-hour-long open house.
The four clay sessions, which are spread throughout the night, are led by HPAC’s current ceramics teacher, a position which rotates from month to month. Groups of friends and strangers squeeze around benches that line two large wooden tables. Once seated, everyone is given a pile of clay which serves as their artistic palette for the following hour. “These sessions are a great way to introduce people to ceramics,” says Aurora Tabar, HPAC’s ceramics instructor for April. “Clay is great to play with and easy to learn about. I’ve had several people sign up for classes after these events.”
The monthly event, which began in 2006, was originally targeted at young professionals, but over time it has become an increasingly popular event for University of Chicago students and community members of all ages. “Cocktails and Clay” has even become a destination for groups from Meetup, the online social networking site. Although the HPAC audience is steadily growing, it is their relationship with UofC students that they really hope to strengthen. “Despite being so close to the University, we still feel like students don’t know about us,” says Parnell. “We want to encourage students to come to our events more.”
Beginning April 25, HPAC will begin its seventieth anniversary celebration. Seventy events of poetry, music, art, and theater performances will take place over seventy days. As HPAC begins to celebrate seventy years of community growth, “Cocktails and Clay” stands as a tribute to the organization’s timeless ability to build and foster communities through the arts.