There’s a sign pinned to a board in the entrance to the Washington Heights Arts Center that says “artistic center of the universe.”
That’s a title center director Jim Olson is confident Washington Heights can live up to.
“We get people coming here from all over the front range to work on all kinds of projects,” he said. “We’ve also been able to attract 40 to 50 really great teachers to teach here as well.”
Washington Heights, 6375 West 1st Ave., is overflowing with artistic opportunities.
The center offers courses in everything from pottery, jewelry and metalsmithing to dance, ukulele and weaving.
A school building from 1898 to 1968, the city took ownership of the building in 1998 and since then has been building an ever growing location where residents can work on a variety of arts projects.
Sumi von Dassow, a pottery teacher at the center, has seen the programs at Washington Heights grow, going from having a pottery class in one small room in the back to spilling into a larger connected room to make space for all the work.
“My students say working with their hands to create the pottery is better than therapy,” she said. “It’s also great that we get to promote the fine arts.”
Each room in the building is dedicated to different arts — there is a room full of looms for the weavers, a drawing and dance studio, pottery rooms and in the basement, where the cafeteria used to be, is a room where papermaking, metalsmithing and jewelry making stations are set up.
Olson said that one of the benefits of signing up for a class in any of the areas offered is that once a patron does that, they can drop in and use the center any time to work on their craft.
“The energy here is quite extraordinary, and our classes are a great way to learn from other’s successes and failures,” he said. “We have seen students start in the kids classes and continue all the way through to the adult classes.”
For Olson, the fact that residents have access to such a wide variety of arts makes Washington Heights special.
“One day you’ll stop in and you’ll hear a tap class going and the next it will be weaving,” he said. “There’s always something going on, and we invite people to pop in and see what’s going on today.”
For more information, visit www.lakewood.org and search Washington Heights.