From Wilson Hall, there’s art for all

The Wilson Art Organization, a rising non-profit, makes debut with the goal of bringing art to as many students in the Rockbridge area as possible


Andrew Donchez, ‘17, Murray Manley, ‘18, Sara Dotterer, ‘18 and Hayley Price, ‘18, the administrators of the Wilson Art Organization, work closely together to get their project off the ground. Photo by Nuoya Zhou, ‘18.

Nuoya Zhou

Creativity is now for a cause.

The recently launched Wilson Art Organization is an entirely student run organization that collects and sells student art works.

With the help of the Community Legal Practice Center at the Washington and Lee Law School, WAO is in the process of registering as an official non-profit organization.

Sara Dotterer, ‘18, Andrew Donchez, ‘17, Murray Manley, ‘18, and Hayley Price, ‘18 are the administrators of the organization. Dotterer and Price are both studio art and business administration double majors, but Donchez and Manley are both economics majors.

With their diverse backgrounds and individual experiences, each of them brings a unique skill set to the table.

“We hope to spread awareness about the art culture and about events happening in and around campus and offer college students an opportunity to establish themselves in the art world by facilitating the selling of art,” Manley said. “[We plan to use] the money raised through art sales to fund an after-school arts tutoring program for young students in Rockbridge County.”

WAO hopes to start an after-school arts program at Maury River Middle School because the organization believes that students need an outlet for their creativity and self-expression.

Rockbridge area kids have limited art exposure during school. For example, for the four elementary schools in Rockbridge County, there is only one art teacher.

WAO believes that their organization is necessary because students need an outlet for their creativity and self-expression. Eventually, they hope to expand to Waddell Elementary School, Lylburn-Downing Middle School, Rockbridge County High School and Parry McClure High School.

“We have not seen an arts enrichment program in any of these [university sponsored] after school programs [in Rockbridge County schools],” Donchez said. “We believe that by generating self-sustaining revenues we can provide this opportunity for youth in the area. A lot of art programs have been cut in the daily curriculum at these schools, so we hope to provide the same educational benefits associated with art.”

The idea for WAO came from Washington and Lee alumna Sarah Helms, ’15, when she presented it for a project in her Social Entrepreneurship class. Last spring, Helms contacted the four administrators and discussed making the idea a reality.

Once they were on board, they spoke with some professors in Williams school for advice on the business side.

“I am always happy when an idea is passed along,” Business Administration Professor Andrew M. Hess said. “Sarah began Wilson Art in my class with the hope that it would become a win-win for W&L and the community. As student art is sold, the funds are reinvested in future artists in Rockbridge County. It is a perfect example of social entrepreneurship and I will help the founders in any way I can.”

Half of all proceeds from each sold artwork go to the owner of it and the other half benefits the after-school arts tutoring program that they are initiating.

“I am very supportive of their efforts and am looking forward to seeing the work of our campus artists,” Dean of the Williams School Raquel Alexander said.

Currently, WAO is building a website, a blog and a Facebook page to reach out and collect various pieces from W&L student artists.

While its website is expected to launch in about two weeks, WAO has started an Instagram account, “wilsonartwlu,” to update students about upcoming events and new additions to the art collection. The organization plans to host an art show of the pieces they collect soon to get people excited about it.

On Jan. 27, the administrators of WAO interviewed the first four students who expressed their interests in either joining the group or selling their artworks.

Katrina Spiezio, ‘17, was one of the four students who contacted the organization. She said she looks forward to seeing the future of the project.

“[Helms] kind of handed the organization to underclassmen, so I was really excited to see it still going after she graduated,” Spiezio said. “I’m a studio art major. I don’t know if I can sell some works or make some myself, but I am more excited about the local art programs that they are trying to bring.”