Craft School fills role in community

The Webb family’s stamp is on the Shelburne Craft School.

Aileen Osborn Webb, family matriarch, supplied funding and professional support during the organization’s founding. Webb died about four decades ago. She was a patron of the arts, creating works in ceramics, and toiled as a sculptor. Her Shelburne summer home had a studio, as did her New York City home.

“We have a super-rich history with the Webb family,” said Shelburne Craft School Executive Director Sage Tucker-Ketcham.

The Shelburne Craft School first began to take form in 1938. The school started under the Rev. Lynwood Smith, who was shepherd of Trinity Episcopal Church, using the parsonage as a woodworking teaching space.

Decades later, the Shelburne Craft School’s campus set up a permanent presence in the Village center. In 1945, it started as a nonprofit school, and now carries the State of Vermont seal as an official state Craft Education Center and is a year-round organization, welcoming students of all ages.

Today’s craft school provides a slew of classes in an array of mediums, including wood, painting, clay, and jewelry. More than 1,500 students from every walk of life sign up annually for courses. Adults, children, and Shelburne Community School partnerships are all part of student life.

The Craft School’s belief that working with one’s hands is an “essential part of a well-rounded life,” forms the heart and soul of classes. “We are a community arts and crafts educational space,” said Tucker-Ketcham. “We’re in the Village, and we’re very accessible to community members and we’re accessible to retirees. We’re very supportive of Shelburne as they are of us,” she said. “We’re here, and we’ve been here a long time.”

Tucker-Ketcham joined the Craft School as executive director in December 2010. Her artistic life includes periods working as an art educator, gallery owner, adjunct college instructor, painter, and entrepreneur. The faculty is comprised of one full-time faculty member, four part-time employees, and 20 half-time teachers.

While adult students are an important part of the Craft School, Tucker-Ketcham said the partnership between the Shelburne Community School and her organization also provides opportunities for budding artists. Community School eighth-grade students are enrolled in and attend a three-month program. The Craft School’s enrollment figures show 80 percent are adults, while children account for 20 percent of the School’s population.

Tucker-Ketcham said it’s common for more mature students to return to the campus, noting they received their artistic start here years earlier. “When I look at the kids, I can picture them when they’re in their 40s and 50s. We have people who are in their 60s, who say, ‘This is a large part of my life.’ Students here are building a skill,” she said. “They’re not just doing arts and crafts.”

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