One River art school opens its doors

WESTPORT — Founder and CEO Matt Ross said when thinking about where to place the newest One River School location, they wanted it in an area that would embrace and support the arts.

For that reason, he said, “Westport is tailor-made for our concept.”

One River School of Arts + Design’s staff officially opened its doors at 833 Post Road E. on June 15, celebrated by ceremonial ribbon cutting and visitors including Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Matthew Mandell and First Selectman James Marpe.

One River signed the lease a year ago, and will be sharing its building with Shearwater Coffee, Brooklyn-based pizzeria Ignazio’s, as well as offices upstairs.

This building is a complete renovation, according to Ross, which allowed them to completely reimagine the space, much like an art project. He said the building is everything he thought and more.

Ross was once the CEO of School of Rock. After he left in 2010, he started taking more classes in contemporary art, reading, traveling around the world and realized there weren’t enough “cool” places teaching art work.

He opened his first location in Englewood, N.J., where it was named One River because of Hudson River. He said he noticed how much art had been going on in New York, and just one river away there was very little.

The new One River in Westport is the first location in Connecticut and one of 12 nationwide. It is run by Director Alyson Luck, who has grown up in Westport.

Luck was in museum education at the Jewish Museum and then onto the Gugenheim for almost nine years, then moved back to Westport.

Coming from a background in established museums, One River was very different for her, she said, because of its “start-up vibe,” but, she said it is both challenging and exciting.

“I think that we are different because a lot of time you start in cave drawings and then go from there, and if you get to a few contemporary arts then you’re lucky. A lot of people don’t know that there’s artists everywhere living and practicing until their older.

“Focusing on emerging and contemporary artists and showing their work and being taught by them is a really cool thing, being inspired by them,” Luck said.

Luck said One River, “has a very museum-education approach. You look at contemporary works of art, get inspired and that’s a jumping off point for an awesome project. And it’s taught by professional teaching artists and just what I had been doing for so long and that I loved, and I just didn’t know that I would find in Connecticut.”

Luck has hired around 13 local teachers like Megan Jeffery, who teaches a variety of classes but has an illustrator background, and Arlen Schumer, a comic-style artist.

All teachers are professional artists who often have their own practice, some of which have taught in schools, according to Luck. She is still looking for some teachers to fill some gaps for the fall schedule.

One River offers classes for students of all ages, including adults.

Another thing that could set One River apart from other art schools is its “jump in anytime” model, which does not subscribe to any semesters. One River has started their summer classes with courses like My Youtube Channel, Manga & Anime, Oil Painting Secrets From the Masters,” and “Street Art Painting.”