A Vital Part of George Mason University
The Potomac Arts Academy is a vital part of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, bringing university quality arts instruction to the community through innovative and inspiring music, theater, visual art and creative technology classes, exciting summer programs including dance and film & video, or through a variety of special events and programs focused on teacher education and enrichment.
The Potomac Arts Academy seeks to enrich the lives of community members of all ages, skill levels and socio-economic backgrounds by providing the highest caliber of artistic instruction in an accessible and nurturing environment. Creating a strong bond between George Mason University faculty and students, professional artists/performers and the surrounding communities, the Academy will ensure a vibrant future for the arts in our region and beyond.
The Academy’s History
Potomac Music Academy was established in 2003 through a generous donation from the Don and Nancy DeLaski family, supporting a number of summer programs offered to the community through the Department of Music at George Mason University. Primary programs included Piano Pedagogy, Jazz Workshop and Strings Connection along with the long-standing and successful Orff Teacher Training Program. These programs were administrated through the Department Music under the very capable leadership of JoLynn Bailey-Page. As programs continued to expand and new opportunities arose, it became clear that a larger infrastructure was needed to support growth. The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) Dean, Bill Reeder, a champion of community engagement, hired Libby Curtis in January of 2008 to serve as Director and begin the process of building that structure and lead Potomac to its next level of development.
With a directive from CVPA, Potomac has expanded community outreach programs into all of the academic units and has changed its name to Potomac Arts Academy to reflect its broader mission of offerings in Music, Theater, Dance, Visual Arts, and Film and Video. Potomac also set to work building internal administrative structures to support development and management of an effective website, on-line registration, marketing, and financial and facility management.
In 2011 an important collaboration was built with Acting for Young People (AFYP), a thriving community theater non-profit whose Founder/Director, Mary Lechter, also serves on the Mason School of Theater faculty. Through much cooperation and negotiation, Acting for Young People and Potomac Arts Academy (PAA) merged establishing AFYP as the Potomac Theater division, with Mary continuing to serve as AFYP Director and PAA Associate Director.
In seven short years Potomac Arts Academy has established itself as an important community and Mason asset, building innovative pathways for the academic units and community to more fully engage in enriching relationships through the arts. Organizational goals include:
- Development of impactful arts advocacy through community engagement
- Provide Mason student learning opportunities with innovative arts programs and initiatives
- Build programming that reaches all ages and levels of our community, including programs from early childhood to 55 and older
- Establish in-school programs for underserved school children in area public schools
- Provide substantial financial support for Mason students and arts professionals through teaching opportunities
- Support effective Mason student recruitment
- Build new and growing career paths in the arts for alumni and professional artists
During our first summer, in 2008, approximately 350 students participated in Potomac programs. At the end of summer 2015, enrollment grew to over 4000 participants. Current activities include Year-Round Classes and Theater Showcases, Private Music Lessons, Summer Programs, and In-School/Afterschool Outreach Programs which are open to all ages and levels in Music, Theater, Visual Arts, Film and Video, Dance and more.
As Potomac continues to grow and prosper, we will strive to bring the highest caliber arts instruction to the surrounding community as George Mason University leads the way to ensure a vibrant future for our region and beyond!