Roger Williams, director of the Willamette Art Center, straightens a pottery Covid totem, a class project of students at the center. The totem features heads wearing face masks while the virus orbits. The center starts classes on Monday. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

One public place in Salem where you probably won’t find the coronavirus lurking is in the Willamette Art Center.

Staff and members have taken strong measures to ensure the safety of employees and those who use the pottery studio situated on the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

The precautions are allowing the art center to start up winter classes beginning Monday, Jan. 11. The sessions already are full.

The community center provides for hands on activities, focusing on ceramics.

“We believe it’s the responsibility of nonprofits to return to the community as much as they can because they are so grant dependent that groups such as us feel obligated to use a portion of those funds to make a place like the art center as safe as possible,” said Executive Director Roger Williams.

The center spent about $6,500 in donations, city transit occupancy taxes and funds from the Oregon Art Association to buy protective equipment and supplies.

Several members of the center come from the medical field so their recommendations were followed concerning what to buy.

The center now has four medical-grade air purifiers and filters, at cost of about $4,500, Williams said.

“They can filter out particulate smaller than the virus itself and we run them two or three times an hour at maximum speed,” he said.

Once the pandemic subsides, the machines will used to filter out silica created in the pottery-making process.

Another safety precaution taken each day before the building opens to the public is an employee goes through the 3,600-square-foot studio with a fogger, dispensing a medical-grade disinfectant.

Hand-sanitizing stations are placed throughout the area along with bottles of disinfectant that artists use when they finish working.

While in the studio, everyone is required to wear a mask, and before they can enter the building their temperatures are taken and the time they entered recorded.

The time would help with any necessary contact tracing should someone be diagnosed with Covid.

The number of people allowed in at one time is 15 plus staff. Classes have been cut from 12 to eight. Of the 13 pottery wheels, only six can be used at one time, and only three people are allowed in the glazing area.

For more information about the center, go to willametteartcenter.com or call 503-365-3911.

A pottery totem reflects the pandemic circumstances in a class project done by students at the Willamette Art Center. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Potters work on their projects under strict Covid rules at the Willamette Art Center, the community art center housed at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

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