Mission & History
35+ YEARS OF ART EDUCATION
Drawing out the artist in everyone through the practice of studio arts.
We teach how to see and create through drawing, painting and sculpture. We offer classes, workshops, exhibitions and programs to engage, connect and bring people together with a fresh approach to studio art. We encourage artists to grow, explore, learn together and create art that is personal and relevant.
SERVING ALL ARTISTS
We teach for all levels of proficiency, from beginners to the most advanced.
RESPECTING ALL ARTISTS
We embrace all artists from our richly diverse and global city.
ENCOURAGING PERSONAL GROWTH
We emphasize the artistic vision, process and pursuit over the final product.
ADVANCING THE ARTS
We seek to serve our city and region through our core aspirations: leadership in the studio arts, excellence in instruction, and belief in the creative spirit.
Washington Studio School (WSS), founded in 1985 through the efforts of Lee Newman and Joey Kossow, is a community of artists and students dedicated to the standards of a perceptual fine arts tradition and its relevance to the present. WSS faculty members are all practicing artists. They share the philosophy that through learning to observe life, to translate the visual through a comprehensive understanding of drawing, painting and sculpture skills, gives the artist a thorough foundation. Concepts, techniques, visual language, and art history are reinforced in every course and are enhanced by the unique mentoring of the instructor. Pictorial examples, in-class demonstrations, and group critiques are employed to advance a student’s understanding of the components of visual elements, ideas, and composition.
WSS offers three 10-week terms per year and a condensed program of intensive workshops and short-classes during the summer months.
The heritage of WSS is set in the years around World War II when a group of individuals met in the attic of the Phillips Collection for lively discussion and debate about the rapidly evolving directions of art. Led by Law Watkins Sr, the group began taking on students and conducting studio classes in the “Studio House” located behind the museum. In time, the museum needed the Studio House space for the museum, and the group moved on to American University (AU) to develop the AU art department. In the early 1980s, sensing a loss of a unique visual arts education in the DC area, former AU faculty members and students along with other artists, founded WSS as a nonprofit institution in 1985.
Washington Studio School is housed in a 1909 townhome in DC’s historical district of Sheridan-Kalorama and was designed by Nathan C. Wyeth, a premier architect in Washington. Mr. Wyeth designed the first Oval Office in the White House during the administration of President Taft, and co-designed the Old Senate and House Office buildings. Today, the front room on the ground floor and the second-floor library of the 2129 S Street NW, townhome are two of the few remaining Wyeth interiors.
The Biddle family purchased the building in 1910 for their residence when in Washington, DC. It was owned and used by the Biddles until Holton-Arms (a private all girls school) purchased the townhouse in 1945 to serve as an adjunct to the Holton-Arms main building located at 2125 S Street, NW. Our second floor library room once served as the classroom for art history. Holton-Arms moved to Bethesda in 1967.