A! Magazine for the Arts

Laken Bridges

Laken Bridges

New center opens at William King

December 26, 2018

A new project is in development at William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, Virginia. The former Washington County Administrative Building located on the museum campus will soon experience an extensive renovation to create The Center for Studio Art & Education. The center will provide a space where artists, makers, students, educators and the community can connect, exchange knowledge and hone skills while examining the rich diversity of our world through the lenses of art, craft and creative technologies. The center will seek to foster an environment where curiosity is sparked, critical thinking is engaged and creativity flourishes. All will be invited to explore formal, conceptual and technical aspects of the creation process as both a mode of personal expression and a vocational possibility.

The center will complement the museum’s existing youth education programs with teen and adult programming. Teaching studios will include ceramics, printmaking, painting, drawing, darkroom photography, a 3-D lab supporting processes in sculpture and textiles, and a digital lab. The museum has partnered with the Department of Media and Communication at East Tennessee State University to develop a special project to take place in the digital lab which will allow the museum to offer training and testing in Adobe Creative Cloud software leading to professional credentialing to support workforce development.

In preparation for the opening of the center, the museum is offering a variety of teen and adult classes and workshops in its existing educational space. This programming will continue to build in 2019 before transitioning to the new space. Courses will be taught by both museum staff and by contracted artists and educators. Interested qualified persons are invited to inquire. Formally trained and self-taught artists will be considered equally based on their work, research and experience with teaching.

Artist Charles Vess, whose works will be exhibited at the museum Jan. 17 through Feb. 24, has donated his lithography equipment to the center’s future printmaking studio.

“It’s been in storage for 20 years and at this point I realize I’m not going to ever have a place for it. It should be used. It’s a really beautiful process. I studied printmaking in college and then thought I’d never get to do it again. Then I got the opportunity to buy a lithography studio, and I bid on it and won. I had it at William King and made one print. Then I had to put it back in storage, and it’s been there since ‘96. It’s time to get it out and let people use it, and I can go up there and use it. It seemed like a good thing to do, and I like to do nice things,” Vess says about why he donated the equipment.

However, not all teaching studios are yet fully equipped. Groups or individuals interested in contributing to the development and furnishing of the center are encouraged to contact the museum. Donation of new and gently used tools and equipment supporting various art media is welcomed.

The development of the center will also allow the museum to expand its community of resident artists by offering seven new studio rentals for artists, makers and other creatives. The studios will range in size to accommodate various needs and budgets and will be accessible 24-hours daily in consideration for late night creative bursts. Interested persons are encouraged to contact the museum to learn more about studio rentals.

Funding for the building renovation and for the equipping of the digital lab has been made possible by grantors including Educational Foundation of America, Appalachian Regional Commission, Tobacco Regional Revitalization Commission and funds from local and regional donors. A grant application with USDA Rural Development has also been filed and is pending approval.

Management of this project and coordination of teen and adult programming is led by Laken Bridges, director of higher education. Prior to joining William King Museum, Bridges taught undergraduate art at Appalachian State University and East Tennessee State University. She holds an M.F.A. in visual arts from Clemson University.