The Woodstock School of Art (WSA) will host an opening reception on Saturday, June 25 from 3 to 5 p.m. for its “Instructors’ Exhibition.” The group show featuring one or two works by more than 30 of the artists who teach at the school will remain on view through October 8 in the Robert H. Angeloch Gallery, named for the late Woodstock artist and WSA co-founder.
“Our instructors are our most valuable resource, so we like to showcase their work,” says WSA executive director Christopher Seubert. “And the annual exhibition is a great way for people to see who they might want to study with in the future. The majority of the artists try to make it to the opening and are more than happy to talk with community members or potential students about technique or what their class is like.”
The independent, nonprofit school is run in the atelier tradition. Instructors are all working artists given complete autonomy to implement their own teaching methods in the studios. The atelier method, based on the 19th-century French system of teaching art, is advantageous for artistic growth, as technical skills are cultivated in an artistically committed atmosphere. There is no prescribed curriculum at WSA or degrees conferred, and students of all ages are admitted with no entrance requirements, free to choose instructors who best suit their personal goals.
In seeking out an art instructor, it’s a good idea to choose a teacher whose personal style is compatible with one’s own. And there should be something about their work that really resonates with the student, because while the intention is never to learn how to copy the teacher’s style, there’s no point in studying with a portraitist, for example, who layers paint in thick layers of impasto when one is drawn to paint transparent watercolor landscapes.
The “Dollar Days” event next month on Sunday, July 17 will offer an additional opportunity to meet the WSA artists and preview their classes and workshops. A selection of the school’s instructors will offer brief demonstrations – an hour to an hour-and-a-half in duration – at a cost of $1 per demo, previewing what someone will experience if taking their class. Some of the instructors will prepare an interactive project for the session, with others offering a demonstration followed by a question-and-answer session; it’ll be left up to the individual instructor, says Seubert. “It’ll be very engaging and a great opportunity for potential students to see if the class or workshop is right for them. Sometimes you can just tell right away if something is a good fit.”
The $1 fee is just to formalize things, with preregistration strongly suggested. “We expect this to be a high-volume day for us, with a high turnout,” says Seubert. “There will be demos going on all day in all of our studios, so we want to make sure we can accommodate everybody.”
Sixteen weekly classes are offered seven days a week, and 61 short-term workshops are scheduled this year, with 37 instructors proficient in a broad range of techniques.
The Woodstock School of Art is unique in its emphasis on maintaining a non-toxic environment, with the use of turpentine and mineral spirits prohibited in the studios and low-toxicity citrus-based alternatives encouraged. (A list of available substitutes is on the website.) “It’s something we’re very happy to be able to offer,” says Seubert. “Some of our students and instructors have developed sensitivities to chemicals, so we want to accommodate that as much as possible.”
Chemical sensitivities, often related to repeated exposure over a lifetime, are an obstacle to an artist trying to achieve traditional painting effects and personally frustrating in the day-to-day limitations that they bring and can lead to serious health issues. Seubert notes that WSA program and gallery coordinator Eric Angeloch (son of co-founder Robert Angeloch) is currently working on developing a non-toxic painting workshop for the school to offer next year, inspired by his own experiences. “He’s been doing a lot of research searching for something that will give him the [painting] results he desires but won’t make him sick.”
The Woodstock School of Art is housed in historic native bluestone-and-timber buildings set on 38 acres of woodlands. The buildings are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Originally dating to the time of FDR’s New Deal, the structures were commissioned in 1939 for the purpose of teaching craftsmanship to rural youth under the auspices of the National Youth Administration. When World War II broke out, the buildings were abandoned. For a time, the Art Students League in New York City taught a summer program of art classes there, but when they left in 1979, Robert Angeloch, who had been a student there, came in with a group of supporters and moved the Woodstock School of Art there (which originated in 1968). The school’s first sessions had to be held in the summer months, because the buildings were without insulation or heat at the time.
Today the Woodstock School of Art offers fine art education year-round in climate-controlled studios lit with northern light. Dedicated to preserving its buildings, WSA began fundraising for renovations some five years ago, says Seubert, with about a month-and-a-half of work left on the graphic works and sculpture studio. Rot from water damage was repaired, but the building overall was in “surprisingly good shape for its age,” he adds. “We were able to make it more energy-efficient, adding radiant heat to the flooring – something we’re doing in our other studios, too. We’ve added some skylights and of course, a lot of insulation and updating of windows.” The final project will be a print and works-on-paper studio devoted to all manner of printmaking.
“Instructors’ Exhibition” opening reception, Saturday, June 25, 3-5 p.m., free, through October 8, Robert H. Angeloch Gallery, Woodstock School of Art, 2470 Route 212, Woodstock; (845) 679-2388, www.woodstockschoolofart.org.