BEVERLY — Jim Sonntag doesn't want to teach people how to work with clay. The owner of Kunsthaus in Beverly would rather provide a hangout for neighborhood ceramics enthusiasts.
In doing so, Sonntag is planning a modest expansion of the ceramics studio in his community art incubator at 10552 S. Western Ave. He plans to add a second pottery wheel and offer open studio hours starting Dec. 10.
The ceramics studio will be open from 6-9 p.m. Thursdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Those interested in using the facilities pay $90 per month and will have access to clay and studio glazes. There's a separate fee for firings.
Sonntag, a Morgan Park resident, said nearby Ridge Park and the Beverly Arts Center already offer classes teaching ceramics. But students are left without a place to practice their new skills upon completing the course. He believes Kunsthaus can fill this void.
"We are not trying to compete with our neighbors. We are trying to form a symbiotic relationship," Sonntag said.
As part of the further evolution of Kunsthaus, the art studio will also begin hosting gallery showings beginning on Feb. 5. Details of the semi-regular showings include hosting two artists — one from the neighborhood and another from elsewhere, Sonntag said.
He said these BYOB galleries were inspired by the success of the Beverly Art Walk. Kunsthaus has participated in the annual showcase of local artists since its inception in 2014.
"I love what this place has done for the community in terms of the arts," said Katie Uza of Morgan Park.
Uza has rented a small studio at Kunsthaus since it opened in April 2014. She pays a modest fee for her creative space and also helps out by hosting "paint parties" in the shared space at the front of the building.
These parties typically involve small groups of 5-20 people who gather to celebrate a birthday or other special occasion. Uza leads the group as everyone paints a similar scene on canvas for $35 each.
People in the group then walk out with their own paintings, and the proceeds from the roughly 3-hour parties help offset the cost of operating the studio. The artists who use the space for their own projects typically lead the parties. Thus, Sonntag compares Kunsthaus to a co-op for artists.
"This has been a project for us for the past 10 years," said Sonntag, who opened the studio with his wife, Kristen.
The pair are also looking for other artists interested in using the studio tucked within the busy stretch of Western Avenue. He said the business is named for art studios commonly found throughout Germany — despite being in a community that is heavily Irish.
"We didn't want to go with the Irish thing. We thought that it was already done," Sonntag said.
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