Baltimore Clayworks, a non-profit ceramic art center, has announced it has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection after 37 years in business. The company was saddled with $1.0 million in debt.
“We’ve had to make the difficult decision to file Chapter 7 and shut down operations,” interim Executive Director Devon Powell said. “We’re sad about the totally avoidable and unnecessary loss of Baltimore’s jewel of a ceramics organization.”
Chapter 7, the most common type of bankruptcy filed in the U.S., is a straight bankruptcy or liquidation and is the one that most people associate with the word “bankruptcy.”
In the event of a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court appoints a trustee to oversee the case, sell the assets, and distribute the money to creditors who filed claims.
For the last six months, Baltimore Clayworks has been attempting to pay off its debt. Then, last winter, its board announced the intent to relocate, as well as sell off the organization’s studio and gallery.
The company was moving forward with plans to sell the facility for $3.7 million to Itineris, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization that offers job training to adults with autism. However, that deal fell through last week. Itineris said it would be staying in and purchasing its current rented building instead. The decision will save the organization a considerable amount of money and also result in minimal disruption to those in its program.
In conjunction with the planned sale of its building, Baltimore Clayworks tried to raise $50,000 to restore cash flow, but these efforts generated slightly more than 10% of that goal.
Interestingly, the Clayworks Community Campaign, a popup organization in opposition to the sale of the Clayworks building was a little more successful at raising money. It raised $200,000 in donation and pledges, which it offered to the Baltimore Clayworks board to help pay down some of the debt and develop a restructuring plan. In exchange, the Clayworks Community Campaign asked for representation on the board. The board rejected the offer.
Board president Kathy Holt said that before any aid could be dispersed, a variety of restrictions had to be met or agreed to. Even though some of the money could have been available as soon as this week, Holt still declined, saying there was not enough money or time to stave off bankruptcy.
An immediate infusion of the entire $200,000 would have allowed Baltimore Clayworks to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, giving it time to restructure and find a buyer while continuing to operate. But without the lump sum, it was simply not feasible and the organization is now insolvent.
Clayworks had an annual budget of about $1.2 million and about 12 full- and part-time staff members.
Naturally, each side has accused the other of dishonesty and misrepresentation. Holt said that the buildings will be closed “until further notice.” It has not been made clear how artists will be able to retrieve the works currently inside the Clayworks buildings.
“Baltimore Clayworks shutting down after 37 years,” The Baltimore Sun, July 17, 2017.
“Buyer for Clayworks’ properties cancels deal, buys own building,” The Baltimore Sun, July 10, 2017.