MILLVILLE — At the front of the Millville Clay College’s main studio, students began to bring out their projects.
One student coated Christmas ornaments, while another worked on her miniature clay bunny slippers and high-top sneakers. In the back, even more students worked on vases and mugs.
The college is part of the 30,000-square-foot Millville Arts & Innovation Center — the new Cumberland County College campus — which is attracting more students and community members because of its resources.
The $6.9 million facility, which is the satellite campus to the main building in Vineland, houses the college’s arts curriculum.
Funding for the project came from $3.2 million in state funds, of which $1.6 million must be repaid. Cumberland County government paid $800,000 of that, Millville paid $400,000 and other entities financed the remaining $400,000.
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The building opened in the beginning of the year, but now that the campus is in its first fall semester, it’s become a busy spot for artists both in the college and in the community.
Sixty to 80 students were in the school at the beginning of the year. Now, the school sees 200 to 300 students each week, according to Jacqueline Sandro-Greenwell, director of the Clay College.
The building also hosts noncredit art programs for community members who want to take a class. Surrounding elementary schools come to the college for field trips. Even main-campus employees will visit the Millville campus to get out of their comfort zone for different workshops.
Sandro-Greenwell said it’s great to see the reaction to the building from students and faculty, and she’s seeing it pay off in her students’ content.
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“I definitely can see an improvement in the art of the students. It’s kind of elevated their performance for them to be in this state-of-the-art building and having the gallery. It’s a very professional atmosphere,” Sandro-Greenwell said.
And the new year will bring even more students. As of now, the building is almost entirely art students. By 2018, general education courses will be taught at the building, including sociology, computer science and art appreciation.
But for now, the college is busy with students moving around, pulling their projects off shelves already crowded with other clay mugs and busts.
Robyn Hee, of Millville, worked to coat a box of ornaments with clay. She graduated from Cumberland County College in 2005 and still helps out assisting Sandro-Greenwell. She knows what an upgrade the students have at the new studio on High Street.
“(The old studio) was a lot smaller. This is nice with all the space and a lot more room for all the students and for all the classes,” Hee said.
Hee added it’s nice for other community members to get the college experience with noncredit classes.
“For some, they never had a chance to go to college and now have an opportunity,” Hee said.
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Jessica Lane brushed a vase with a fresh coat of clay Tuesday morning. Lane worked as an art assistant at the main campus before helping move much of Vineland’s art equipment to the new building. Lane was there the day of the ribbon-cutting for the studio she’s now standing in.
She said the new campus has been great because it’s created a real artistic community inside the building. Sometimes students will finish their projects and hang them up for students of different courses to critique and discuss, Lane said.
“It’s really nice to have everybody here and it’s concentrated and it’s just art students and it creates this environment,” said Lane, of Millville. “It’s pretty neat. It’s like we have this little community.”