From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
With so many artists and opportunities to learn about and see great art around the city, it can be easy to overlook the resources that are right around the corner, such as the Washington Studio School (WSS), a 26-year-old art non-profit, that has been located north of Dupont for almost a decade.
The school traces its roots back to the Phillips Collection and American University’s art department.
“In the 1950’s there was a small school in the ‘Studio House’ behind the museum that was led by Duncan Phillips’ friend Law Watkins, Sr,” according to Jill Phillips, Head of Faculty at WSS.
“When the museum needed that space back for exhibition purposes, Watkins was asked by American University to develop an art department at their campus. That program was based on the founding philosophy of the Studio House artists – that art education should be grounded in teaching perceptual strength, knowledge of history, discourse among the disciplines and with drawing as a key element. In 1985, when AU’s art program moved in different directions, co-founders Lee Newman and Joey Kossow, with other former AU students and faculty, formed the Washington Studio School,” said Phillips.
Phillips says the school continues to distinguish itself from other local arts institutions because of it’s small size and the fact that it is “a school, an exhibition space and an atelier at once.”
“The Atelier,” Phillips explains, “is a group of about 20 artists, some current students and alumni as well as a couple of faculty members, who share studio space in the building and give each other feedback and camaraderie in what can otherwise be a very lonely pursuit. This is especially valuable for those making the transition from student to working artist.”
WSS has three terms each year. Classes, which usually have between eight to 12 students, meet once a week for three hours and last 10 weeks. Courses include drawing, painting, sculpture, and digital photography. Students are a broad range of ages and there are courses for a variety of skill levels. Although it is not a degree-granting institution, the school does have a certificate program. Additionally, more intensive workshops are also taught by visiting artists and faculty throughout the year. Visiting artist Maggie Siner will be teaching one of these workshops on “Mark-Making, Calligraphy and Gestural Unity in Painting,” on February 17.
WSS has much to offer, even to those who may never take a class there. Phillips says, “WSS loves being part of this vibrant neighborhood and looks forward to continuing to do our part to revitalize and maintain an arts presence in the area.”
The school has temporary gallery shows in two exhibitions and hosts opening receptions for each show to welcome neighborhood visitors. Other free public events include film series, Drawing at the Museum days and their Young Artist speaking series. They also exhibit topical installations, such as one related to the international AIDS conference this past summer.
This Thursday, January 24 at 7 p.m, WSS is hosting an artist talk and opening reception for Ken Kewley and his exhibit there. Those interested can RSVP to [email protected]. Winter Session classes begin January 28, and full schedule can be viewed here.