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Work Study & Scholarships

Scholarship Opportunities

Washington Studio School is deeply committed to promoting an inclusive community. We believe that students from all backgrounds should have access to quality studio-arts education. WSS offers financial aid to eligible students in the form of full or partial scholarships and work-study positions. 


Please see below for details and to submit an application.

Scholarship Opportunities

To ensure that arts education is accessible to talented students regardless of economic background, WSS offers scholarship assistance to adults and teens requiring full or partial financial assistance. The number of scholarships available will vary from year to year according to resources and availability of funding. We are grateful for the generosity of our donors who support all or part of the available scholarship opportunities. Please see below for our different scholarship options. 


Established in honor of longtime WSS student, friend, and supporter, Joan Burgess Shorey, the scholarship is generously funded in large part by the WSS Joan Burgess Shorey Legacy Fund and by our community of donors. The program provides full or partial tuition assistance to adults and high school students with limited economic resources. High school students may apply to attend WSS’s highly regarded Summer Teen Intensive Program, and adults may apply to attend a ten-week class or workshop throughout the year.


About Joan Burgess Shorey

Joan Burgess Shorey was raised in Chicago and lived in Washington, D.C. from 1964 until her death in early 2018. She attended Vassar College and the Harvard School of Design after which she moved back to Chicago to a career in community planning work. In D.C., she co-founded a consumer organization, Concern, Inc., worked for Solar Lobby, helped organize Sun Day, and was an aide to Congressman Richard Ottinger. She embraced volunteer work throughout her life and became, along with her husband, Ev, a stalwart of the citizens association CAG, and was a leading supporter of the Georgetown Public Library. She was an active member of The Folger Library Poetry Board and student body at Washington Studio School, taking numerous classes and supporting the organization throughout her tenure in various capacities.

Learn more about the Joan Burgess Shorey Legacy Fund.


The WSS Alma Thomas Scholarship, inaugurated by The Friends of Alma Thomas, is in honor and memory of abstract expressionist painter and art educator, Alma Thomas. Thomas was the first fine arts graduate of Howard University and an art teacher at Shaw Jr. High School from 1924 to 1960. Thomas was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The Scholarship is available to DC resident teens and adults from historically underrepresented communities who attend the University of District of Columbia, Howard University, DC public high schools or charter schools. The scholarship is also available to art teachers in DC public high schools or charter schools. The winning applicant(s) will receive full or partial tuition to WSS’s Summer Teen Intensive Program or enrollment to attend one ten-week class or a workshop


The WSS Alma Thomas Scholarship honors DCPS art teachers and awards spots to these teachers in our classes and workshops with a simplified application process. Please contact us (admin[at]] for additional information.


Work-Study Winter Term 2024

WSS is looking for a couple of reliable students interested in a work-study position where they can earn half to full tuition for classes the following semester. The students would be responsible for sitting at the front desk to greet night students arriving for classes and directing them to appropriate resources when asked. 


We are looking for students with availability from 5:30pm - 7:30pm (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) at least one day a week, ideally two. Students must have good communication skills, be reliable, and be punctual. 


Class Credit:

If students work one day a week, they can earn up to half tuition for a class next semester. If they work two days, they can earn up to full tuition for a course next semester:

15 Hours = Half Class Tuition ($225)

30 Hours = Full Class Tuition ($455)


Please Note: If you plan on taking a night class, you would regularly miss 30- to 45-minutes of the class by work at the desk. We recommend selecting nights you do not have a class you are already committed to. 


Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Those interested in taking a course during a current or upcoming term should submit their applications two weeks prior to the start of the course.  

Email questions to: or call 202-234-3030.

Scholarship FAQs
  • What is the Foundation Certificate Program?
    This 2-year structured introductory program is meant to develop fundamental proficiency in drawing and painting based on direct observation. The program will provide students with a firm foundation in the materials, techniques, language, concepts and processes of visual art.
  • What is the Master Certificate Program?
    The Master Certificate Program is designed for serious, advanced level students at various stages of life as an alternative to a university MFA program. Students who are accepted into the program enter with strong skills and a commitment to the rigor, seriousness of purpose, and curiosity necessary to the life of an artist. The Master Certificate Program has been a hallmark of the school’s offerings for over 20 years.
  • Why earn it?
    Foundation Certificate: Students who complete the Foundation Certificate will have received a comprehensive, sequential course of study in the basics of visual art, and will emerge being able to see as an artist does and translate that response with assurance, skill and a vocabulary of visual elements and principles. Master Certificate: Students who complete the Master Certificate will emerge with the necessary skill, discipline, curiosity and independence required to maintain a strong studio practice. They will be prepared to go on as professional artists, asking individual questions and producing personal work.
  • Am I ready?
    Foundation Certificate: Anyone willing to make the commitment to the sequential, structured study of the basic foundations of art is ready. There are no prerequisites. Master Certificate: Program Directors and faculty are available to help assess whether you are ready to apply to the Master Certificate program. Strong skills at the intermediate level as well the willingness to put in time both inside and outside of classes helps determine the readiness for the rigor of this program.
  • What do you look for in a portfolio?
    Master Certificate Only: The portfolio should demonstrate skill in seeing visual relationships (shape, value, color, etc.) and how they find form, space, movement, and feeling. Reviewers will look for both depth and breadth in media used and subject matter. Portfolios are expected to portray a high level of proficiency, but with the understanding that it is student work rather than professional level.
  • Is an interview required?
    After reviewing other materials, the Program Directors may schedule a brief interview to further assess applicant’s commitment and compatibility with the program philosophy.
  • Does Washington Studio School offer student visas or permits for international students?
    WSS is a non-accredited non-profit institution. Accordingly, Washington Studio School is unable to offer visas or permits for international students to attend our program.
  • How long will the program take?
    Foundation Certificate: If the recommended sequence and schedule is followed, the program will take two academic years. However, it may be extended up to four years. Master Certificate: The program will take approximately three years. The completion timetable is based on achieving a level of mastery determined by faculty review. Some students take more time to achieve that level than others.
  • Can I start any time?
    Foundation Certificate: It is recommended that students begin this program in the fall to best benefit from the sequential aspect of the three terms (Fall, Winter and Spring). Master Certificate: Applications to the Master Certificate program are on a rolling basis. Students can apply to begin any of the three 10-week terms.
  • Is financial aid available?
    At this time, only very limited scholarship funds and work study opportunities are available. Please visit the Work Study & Scholarships page to learn more.
  • Who are the instructors?
    Faculty at WSS are all practicing artists who are highly trained, experienced instructors. While they all have individual artistic styles and teaching styles, they are chosen to teach at WSS because of an overall shared language and teaching philosophy. This makes it possible to move from instructor to instructor without hearing conflicting lessons. Please visit our Faculty page for more details about our individual faculty members.
  • Are my classes only with certificate students?
    No. Certificate and non-certificate students enjoy classes together. Many strong students do not have schedules that allow them to participate in the certificate programs, yet all students benefit from the combined nature of our classes. Occasionally a class is planned just for Certificate students.
  • How much time is required outside of class?
    Foundation Certificate: Full-time students are expected to put in a minimum of 10 hours per week beyond class time. This includes keeping a sketchbook as well as attending drop-in figure drawing sessions. Master Certificate: Full-time students are expected to put in a minimum of 20 hours per week of independent work in addition to coursework. This includes sketchbook/journal, transcriptions, drop-in figure sessions, and independent studio time.
  • Can I take classes before committing to a program?
    Foundation Certificate: Yes. If you would like to try a class before applying to the program you may. If the review committee feels the work meets standards, the class may be applied to the program requirements. Master Certificate: Almost all applicants to the Master Certificate program have taken classes at WSS before applying to the program. These classes prepare them for the rigors of the Master program and allow them to experience the culture and philosophy of the school, ensuring that it’s a good fit.
  • Can I take another class in place of a required course?
    Our curriculum for both programs is carefully considered to give the most depth and growth possibility to the students’ experience, but we will consider on a case by case basis the substitution of a class for another if there is reason.
  • May I take a leave of absence? For how long?
    Continuity is important in the growth of an artist. Occasionally a student must take a leave of absence from the program for health, family or work matters. We may accommodate a maximum of one year leave. For absences loners than one year, students must reapply to the program.
  • Will I have an advisor, and what role do they play?
    Foundation Certificate: Students will have a faculty advisor who they will meet with three hours per term to discuss progress and recommendations for classes. Master Certificate: Students will have a faculty advisor who they meet with three hours per term, with increments to be decided by the student and advisor. Meetings are for the purpose of discussing progress, artists to look at, and recommended classes. Working with an advisor is a separate aspect of the program from the Independent Study component. Students are expected to maintain a journal of their process and growth and to submit it for review by their advisor at the end of every term. A minimum of two entries per week are expected in a ten week term.
  • How am I evaluated?
    Foundation Certificate: Instructors and advisors will evaluate work based on a set of criteria established to demonstrate understanding of visual language at different levels of learning. Successful candidates will complete all coursework with regular attendance and evidence that they are working outside of class in sketchbooks and open sessions. Master Certificate: The Master Certificate is based on reaching a high level of mastery, rather than the mere completion of a list of classes. Instructors and advisors will evaluate work based on a set of criteria established to demonstrate understanding of visual language at different levels of learning, including the use of visual elements and principles to develop a personal vocabulary for communication. Students meet with their faculty advisor multiple times during the term.
  • Is there a formal graduation?
    There is no formal graduation. There are opportunities for exhibition.
  • What can I do with the certificate?
    Foundation Certificate: Graduates of our Foundation program will have developed a portfolio of work. This program can stand as an independent course of study or prepare students for further study. Master Certificate: Graduates of our Master Certificate program are professional practicing artists who are showing their work in galleries and alternative spaces, and a number are teaching in non-degree visual art schools.
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