Old Crozet School Arts Launches Classes

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Sharon Tolczyk and Mollie Washburne
Sharon Tolczyk and Mollie Washburne

As recently as June, Old Crozet School Arts founders Sharon Tolczyk and Mollie Washburne didn’t know if they were going to be opening an arts school in the old Crozet elementary school or not. On September 1, as workmen paused from installing a sprung dance floor in one former classroom, they hosted a kick-off event to announce the beginning of classes in 16 types of art on September 8. They had gotten a tremendous amount of work done in, as old-timers used to say, a rapid hurry. Not too long ago local citizens said they wanted a cultural center in the 1924 building, and with enterprising spirit, and a leap of faith, Tolczyk, serving as artist director, and Washburn, the administrative director, have made it happen.

They have leased four classrooms, each commodious, and a smaller room that will serve as an office, in the wing of the building added in the 1960s. The Field School, formerly housed in Claudius Crozet Park’s community building, has occupied the 1924 section of the school that contains the auditorium, classrooms, kitchen and offices. OCSA asked for first-right-of-refusal on the four remaining rooms in their wing, but the County would not agree. The lease is for one year. The county intends to reseal the parking lot and paint stripes on it later this month.

“It’s a creative vision,” Tolczyk told the crowd of 35 that gathered to support the program and for a peek at what was happening. “We want to hear from the community about what they want this to be. We want to build interest in the arts in Crozet.” She thanked the 16 new faculty members for “stepping into an unknown entity” and praised the county’s general services staff for all their help getting the space ready.

“Our classes are generally aimed at beginners,” Tolczyk said.

For fall, classes are being offered in sewing and quilting, Suzuki cello, yoga, drumming, music appreciation and theory, watercolor and oil and acrylic painting, Pilates, beginning juggling, creative movement, theater improv, acting basics for adults, collage, nightclub salsa dancing, African drumming and art, abstract painting, ballet and beginning guitar.

Registration began in mid-August and 30 students enrolled. The budget demands a minimum of 45, Tolczyk admitted, and they are hoping registrations in the first week of class will get them there. Registration forms are available online at the OCSA website, oldcrozetschoolarts.org. To get things started, course fees are being held low.

“We’d love to be successful and lease more rooms,” Tolczyk said later. “We tried to bite off only what we could manage financially.” They had help with a business plan from SCORE, an organization of retired executives and businessmen who volunteer such expertise. “We have a game plan for the first year. But that includes people signing up for classes and showing that they want us.”

They signed on three artist advisors, John Hancock in visual arts, Boomie Pedersen in theater, and Elizabeth Roberts in music, to develop programming and through their many contacts the first faculty has been formed.

“We wanted people with the right approach to teaching, those who will show respect to students and encourage them. We want this to be a positive and nurturing experience,” Tolczyk said. “We want students’ participation in the arts to be life-long and it can begin right here.”

“Some of our teachers are capable of taking any student to the professional level,” Washburne said confidently.

Together they’ve planted the seeds of an indigenous arts culture for Crozet. Now we’ll see if we can make it grow.

For more information or to register for classes, visit www.oldcrozetschoolarts.org.