An innovative school of art sponsored by the Art Students League of New York opened in Woodstock in 1906, and from its very beginning became a magnet for working and beginning artists lured to the idyllic mountains, meadows, woods, and streams of the Woodstock region. In 1979 the League discontinued its summer classes, and two years later. The Woodstock School of Art, a non-profit organization of local artists started in 1968, took over the complex of massive bluestone and timber studios that had been built by the Federal Government as a crafts training center before World War II.
The native bluestone and timber buildings which house the Woodstock School of Art had their beginnings in 1939 when they were commissioned to be constructed as a school for arts and crafts under FDR’s New Deal program, The National Youth Administration. Today, the studios and buildings of The Woodstock School of Art, on thirty-eight pristine woodland acres, are listed in the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places. Broader in scope than most art education centers and unique in its mission as an independent school dedicated to freedom of expression for both instructors and students, but with a clear emphasis on principles and technique, the WSA encourages the student to find his or her own way. A spirit of cooperative engagement and helpful assistance expresses the school's attitude toward its instructors and their students.
The founders of the WSA were artists, and to this day both staff and officers are artists as well. Each class is an artist's atelier combining the instructor's viewpoint with the free and open dialogue necessary for artistic creativity. The school does not interfere in this vital exchange because of its respect for the artists, for the artist's way of life, and for the creative force that motivates artists. There are no entrance requirements, no set curricula. Students select classes and workshop programs of their choosing conducted by more than thirty professional instructors.
The WSA holds classes throughout the year, summer and winter, in air-conditioned or radiant heated studios, newly renovated but retaining the rugged country charm of the original stone and timber buildings. An average of more than four hundred students from the United States and countries abroad currently enroll in any given year. Since its inception, and continuing to this day, hundreds of renowned artists and notables in the art world have been associated with the school.
The schedule includes daily classes in drawing, painting, composition, sculpture and printmaking, with workshops in specialized techniques under the guidance of experts in their respective fields.
The Woodstock School of Art is one of the unique organizations that contribute to the Town of Woodstock's reputation as a vital, contemporary colony of the arts. Others include the venerable Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, the Byrdcliffe-inspired Woodstock Guild, the Maverick Chamber Music Concerts, the Woodstock Playhouse, and the Center for Photography. All flourish in the stimulating environment and natural beauty in the green valley below the Catskill's Overlook Mountain. Add to the mix the cafes, restaurants, theater, art galleries, antique shops, a first-run movie house, a library with wireless internet access, swimming, tennis courts, horseback riding, and walking along the many secluded trails, the experience of coming to Woodstock and attending the Woodstock School of Art is likely to be as fulfilling and unforgettable as it will be productive.