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The community art school offers a wide range of programming for all ages.

IS183 Offers Art Classes at Williamstown Schoohouse

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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The Little Red Schoolhouse was a good match for IS183 of Stockbridge, which wants to expand arts programming into North County.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A South County institution is coming north — to South Williamstown.

The IS183 Art School of the Berkshires in January will begin offering a series of classes for participants ages 5 and up at the Little Red Schoolhouse near the junction of Routes 7 and 43, South Williamstown's historic Five Corners.

It is not the first time the Stockbridge-based art school has offered programming in North County, but it is the school's most ambitious foray into North County to date.

"The standard model has been shorter programs to 'get your feet wet,'" IS183 Director Hope Sullivan said. "We have offered programs from Sheffield to North Adams. We don't want geography to be a hindrance.

"Often, these programs are in artist's studios. We had a printmaking class at a studio in North Adams, for example. We had a welding class in Stephentown (N.Y.). We often have gone to places for facilities."

The facility at Little Red served as home to the Williamstown Cooperative Nursery School for nearly a half century before low enrollment forced the school's closure this summer.

The South Williamstown Community Association, which manages the town-owned 1860s-era building, has been looking for tenants willing to run programming at the school. Prior to IS183, the building's only users were a Girl Scout troop for twice-monthly meetings and a local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"It's a wonderful space in a historic building," SWCA President Pat Greenberg said. "It's up to code. It's handicapped accessible. It's well maintained.

"We're hoping to make it more of a community center because we don't see on the horizon that there would be a nursery school coming in to replace the one that left. At the same time, IS183 was looking for space and interested in expanding to North County, and it is a good match."

Sullivan agreed and explained that a meeting with a Williamstown community activist made the match possible.

"Over the last several years, I've been speaking to people in North County in general, trying to get a feel for what's needed and if there are gaps," she said. "Our mandate is to make sure art making is going on across the county.

"In the spring, I met with Nova Rockwell after seeing her at a North Adams event at her husband's gallery. Years ago, she had taught at IS183's home base. I think by happenstance I was introduced to Cecilia Hirsch right when Little Red was closing."

Williamstown's Hirsch helped put the SWCA together with IS183, which had been eyeing space in the newly constructed Williamstown Youth Center, a spot the school still is hoping to utilize, Sullivan said.

But its first foothold in the Village Beautiful will instead be Little Red, which offers three large classroom spaces, lots of natural light, three bathrooms (two fitted with smaller toilets for preschool-aged children) and a small kitchenette among other amenities.

The inaugural class was a one-day needle-felting session taught by Julia Morgan-Leamon on Dec. 28. IS183 has both single day and weekly classes scheduled through early May ranging from "Basically Drawing Fruits and Vegetables" with Ann Kremers on Tuesday evenings from Jan. 15 to Feb. 5 to "Wednesday Night Writers" with Emily Banner from Jan. 16 to March 6.

Though most of the classes are designed for adults, Rockwell will teach "Paint Draw Glue, and Mix It Up Too!" for children 5 to 7 in two sessions of Sunday afternoons: Jan. 6 to 27 and Feb. 3 to March 3.

Sullivan said the school has seen interest from potential students.

"So far, the response has been really positive," she said. "I think the artists are all doign the initial outreach so we can work in tandem and do social media.

"We've done some fliering. And we've already gotten some calls, which is great."

And the SWCA thinks it is great to have the art school aboard. It is a model both school and community association would like to see repeated, although the SWCA is just beginning to recruit potential tenants, Greenberg said.

"We have not actively looked," she said. "It's been more word of mouth, but we are going to do more of a marketing campaign to attract groups who want to use the building for programs, meetings and classes.

"We do have daytime and nighttime space available. People can call 458-8668 and leave a message."

Tags: arts initiatives,   community center,   Little Red Schoolhouse,   

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