Washington College Academy is one of the region’s newest — and oldest — up-and-coming art hubs.
Founded in 1780 by the Rev. Samuel Doak as Martin Academy, the school’s name was changed in 1795 to Washington College after George Washington himself gave his blessing for his name to be used.
“He really believed in education and was very glad to lend his name to this institution,” said Heather Jones, the co-education chair at WCA.
Since 1795, the school has changed focus several times. After suffering extensive damage during the Civil War, the campus was used as a women’s college in 1866. Two years later it returned to co-educational status
In 1923, Washington College stopped teaching college-level classes and became a school for grades 7 through 12, where both private and public school students were educated; in 1954 the college changed its name from Washington College to Washington College Academy.
After David Crockett High School was built in 1971, the academy became a private preparatory high school, and graduated its final class in 2001.
“Even after it stopped being a formal high school there were still education things happening on campus, so it has never closed,” Jones said. “It’s been continual.”
Washington College Academy’s newest purpose is to serve the region as an art school.
“We have a lot of art things that are happening, but we really don’t have an art school, and I thought ‘Why not?’” said Jones.
The academy offers a number of different art classes, including blacksmithing, painting, cosplaying and even brick-oven making.
“I don’t want people to get the idea that arts is only painting and drawing, because we have gone so far beyond that,” said Dr. George Blanks, the vice president and chairman of the WCA Education Committee.
Alongside its class schedule, WCA also hosts a variety of events. High School Art Day is a new event coming up on April 10 that WCA hopes to turn into an annual event.
“I would love to see a whole campus full of high school students on that day,” Jones said.
High School Art Day will give high school students the opportunity to take a class in one of several different artistic mediums, like drawing, stained glass or ceramics.
WCA also hosts its WCA Camp Creativity summer camps, one for elementary school-age students and one for middle school-age students, in June. A teacher training day is held in October.
Tuition costs for classes and events vary, but WCA doesn’t want the expense to keep anyone from learning a new skill, which is one of the reasons they have a volunteer program.
“If a person says they want to be in the volunteer program, we might have them do all kinds of things,” said Blanks. “They might help rake leaves up on the lawn, they might help do things around that we need done, and then for every hour they put in working, that’s worth so much on their tuition for their classes. So theoretically they could do enough hours so they wouldn’t have to pay any tuition for their classes.”
The volunteer program is also how WCA does its Artist-in-Residence program.
Artists can rent studio space at the academy and pay either outright with money or through volunteer hours.
While the academy is still building its curriculum and teaching staff, Jones said she hopes the historic campus can grow and become a hub for regional artists.
“There is no reason that we can’t be another art hub,” said Jones. “You can never have too many.”
For more information on Washington College Academy, or to register for classes or events, visit wca1780.com.