They are calling it their “last hurrah.”
Each November, the ceramic artists who take classes and create their works at the Napa Valley College Community Education Center in Napa hold a holiday sale of their creations.
With the center scheduled to close at the end of December, this year will be their last sale in the barn-like former armory building on Menlo Avenue near Memorial Stadium.
The teachers and artists who work there learned on Oct. 31 that Napa Valley College has decided to relocate most classes to the Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena.
“The swan is singing,” said Deborah Donahower, who has taught ceramics, mosaics and pastel classes at the Menlo center for nine years. “My 70 students, and the others that learn in this facility, are most distressed at this turn of events.
“It’s our last sale and the end of community education in Napa,” she added.
The three-day sale begins Friday evening and continues Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, some of the items will be discounted as much as 50 percent she said.
“We’ll have the functional and decorative pieces,” she said. “We have garden sculptures, pots for plants, lots of platters, vases, and bowls. We also have some beautiful big totems that are 7-8 feet tall.”
The classes will conclude in December, Donahower said, after which the space will be cleared out. The college will collect the tables and kilns that it owns, and the students will pack up their own supplies.
“It’s the end of an entire community of potters,” said Donahower, who will continue to teach classes at the Upper Valley Campus but said she doubts that many of her students will want to drive to St. Helena for night classes. “Moving classes up to St. Helena doesn’t help Napa residents,” she said.
The college inherited the 10,000-square-foot building, formerly called the Armory, after the National Guard left in 1997. Last year, the college had considered closing the facility to save money as the state continued to cut funds for community colleges. Donahower led efforts to bump up enrollment in the classes — which worked, she said — and the facility got a reprieve.
“This year I found out too late,” she said. “There wasn’t enough time to do much.”
Judi Watkins, dean of the Upper Valley Campus, previously told the Register that it costs $40,000 to operate the center, not including teacher salaries.
The college is exploring new uses for the building, including leasing options.
Donahower said that after the holidays, she has a new project on the horizon. “I am quite passionate about Napa needing its own art center and will be working, after my job at Menlo ends, to find a way to create one,” she said.
“Calistoga, St. Helena, Sonoma and soon American Canyon all have art centers for their residents. I am at a loss as to why Napa, the largest of all these places, doesn’t have one.
“I am going to make a concentrated effort to find an industrial space to start a new Napa community ceramics center or arts center, depending on the space I find,” she said.
“I am going to be contacting Realtors, everyone I can think of to see what the possibilities are. It won’t be the same (as the Menlo center), but it will be better than nothing. It’s my personal goal for the new year.”