CVA’s Clay Workshop for Individuals with Special Needs


CVA’s Clay Workshop for Individuals with Special Needs

By: Jessica Patrick

As a nonprofit organization, Cary Visual Art strives to reach the entire town of Cary through both art placement and community involvement. The opportunity to hold workshops provides the public with art interaction, education, and most importantly, a sense of happiness and a love of place. Last month, CVA hosted an exciting artists’ workshop at the Arts Center in Downtown Cary. With the help of local sculptor Paris Alexander, participants engaged in the delightfully messy experience of hand-building and working with clay. The intimate size of the group provided each attendee time to connect and bond with each other while receiving specialized attention from both Paris and the event volunteers. The perfect mix of kind people, peaceful concentration, silly conversation, and that wonderfully squishy feel of clay between your fingers quickly turned the workshop into a memorable experience for all who were involved.


The workshop began with each participant receiving a thick, smooth slab of clay. Paris helped everyone get started by lightly carving a picture of each participant’s choosing into the clay. He then shared his knowledge of the medium by demonstrating the basics of working with clay: using water to keep the clay from becoming too dry, adding additional pieces of clay to the slab to create dimension, etc. With Paris’s simple base drawings and suggestions, each participant was then able to engage with the clay in his or her own unique style. Some carved words and names, some created designs with stamps, and some simply enjoyed adding pieces of clay to create texture on the flat surface of the slab.

Like many people, some of the participants had never interacted with clay before. Some were slightly nervous about working with something so messy and unfamiliar in a group setting. These hesitations, along with any others, quickly disappeared as soon as the workshop began. Paris’s laid-back approach to clay and hand-building, along with the causal assistance he provided when needed, allowed each participant to use their imagination and become fully engaged in their own experience. The confidence and smiles that emerged from each member of the group as they showed off their finished pieces demonstrated the true value of the workshop.

In addition to the current display of his sculpture, Eninka, in Downtown Cary through CVA’s annual Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, Paris is also a well-known artist both inside and outside of the Triangle area for his private and public commissions. Some of his sculptures are placed at WakeMed Cary Hospital, Duke University, and SAS Institute. As an artist, Paris constantly engages in additional opportunities for community outreach, both through and outside of CVA. Some of his other volunteer projects include involvement with organizations like the Salvation Army, the Healing Place of Wake County, and the Governor Morehead School of the Blind.

The opportunity to bring fun into the lives of others while interacting with earth and creating art is an experience to treasure. Over the span of this two-day workshop, Paris, CVA members, and other volunteers were fortunate enough to observe the hard-working persistence and experience the genuine benevolence of the participants.


Visit the Cary Visual Art website,, for information about additional workshops, sculpture tours, events, and presentations.


Monday, May 5, 2014
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