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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Studio Arts

The Studio Arts Department of the Smithsonian Associates has offered hands-on art classes for over 40 years.  Designed for individuals age 16 and up, our courses cover a range of media, including Drawing, Painting, Fiber Arts, Photography, Digital Media, Ceramics, Beading, Calligraphy, and more.  For most classes, students can come in as complete beginners, although some classes do require more advanced knowledge of a particular medium.  The goal of each class is to help students develop their own artistic style and progress as artists. This involves teaching new or different ways of thinking about art, and allowing students to explore different tools and materials.

Primarily housed in the S. Dillon Ripley Center, our Studio Arts classes are easily accessible and centrally located on the Mall.  We offer over 200 classes and workshops per year and pride ourselves on the quality of instruction fostered within our intimate classroom settings.  Our courses and workshops are taught by professional artists and experienced teachers, and focus on skill-building and creative exploration.  We have over 20 active instructors, as well as special guests and visiting artists.

Our variety of course offerings keep people coming back year after year.  Whether you’re interested in diving into a new artistic medium or just want to keep your skills honed, our diverse selection of courses varies from season to season in order to provide refreshing opportunities to learn new mediums and techniques.  As well as offering continuing instruction, our classes also provide a creative setting in which students can meet like-minded individuals and make connections that extend beyond the classroom.

Courses are offered on a quarterly basis

Fall classes are announced in the August Associate, Winter classes in the November issue, Spring in the March issue, and Summer classes are announced in the May issue.


From the first time sketcher to the experienced artist, the Smithsonian Associates offers a range of drawing classes suitable for students of all levels of experience. These courses work with a variety of materials, including charcoal, pencil, and pastel. Emphasizing the importance of line and shading in rendering an array of forms and compositions, our drawing classes cover still-life, landscape, architectural interiors and exteriors, portrait, and figure drawing.

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Fiber Arts

Knitting, quilting, and appliqué classes are all encompassed within our fiber arts courses.  The Smithsonian Associates offers beginner, refresher, and independent project-based classes for each medium.  Learn to how to use new tools and techniques, or simply sign up to meet and sew alongside other participants

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Mixed Media

Classes include collage and assemblage, explorations of the encaustic medium, and a study of abstraction that uses collage plus a series of drawing and painting exercises designed to examine non-traditional ways of handling traditional materials and subject matter.

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Other Media

Depending on the season, the Smithsonian Associates offers a range of classes in different media, including beading, mosaic-work, calligraphy, bookmaking, printmaking, art history and theory, and Japanese flower arranging.  These courses are fantastic opportunities for students looking to explore new artistic outlets.

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Concentrating on either oil painting or watercolor, our painting courses integrate lectures, demonstrations, direct observation, and hands-on exploration in order to provide a technical background that allows participants to discover their preferences and develop their own style.

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The Smithsonian Associates offers digital and film-based photography classes geared towards all levels of experience. We offer both introductory courses and advanced open darkroom sessions, as well as shorter classes and workshops that provide in-depth instruction on how to master camera and computer editing techniques. We also have an array of special topics courses that include portraiture, flash, landscape, pinhole photography, on-location photography, photo-trekking around the D.C. area, and photo theory. Lectures, demonstrations, assignments, field trips, and hands-on experience all play a role in expanding participants' knowledge and skill with photography.

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Sculpture classes give both the beginner and more experienced artist the opportunity to explore the history, materials, and methods of sculpture. Lecture and gallery visits are combined with hands-on studio work in a variety of media such as wire, paper and cardboard, clay, wood, and found objects. We also offer a special neon light sculpture class each spring, which takes place in the artist's Washington studio.

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