A holiday open house held at Willowbank School of Restoration Arts recently was an opportunity to share news with the public about plans for the future.
About 100 people — Queenston residents, Willowbank board members and those interested in the estate and the school — crowded into the upstairs drawing room to celebrate the season, and learn a little more about the growth of the school and where it is going.
It was also an opportunity to publicly launch the school’s new website, which was badly needed and has school staff and supporters excited, says Caitlin Wooll, education coordinator.
Although most of the students had left the area for the holiday, before returning in January for the next semester, on hand was one of a group of five students who had recently returned from an exciting second-place finish at the Association of Preservation Technology and design competition in Miami. Meghan Lenz was happy to share some of the details of their accomplishment, against much larger institutions with engineering-based programs. The international competition included designing an arch, and building it to ensure it was weight-bearing.
Lenz says as challenging as the hands-on portion of the competition was, students were also required to talk about their model, and to make a presentation that represented a big portion of their scoring.
They felt like they had done “really, really well,” since the Queenston program is so focused on questions and discussions, rather than engineering.
“It was a good lesson for us, that these people from other schools are not the enemy. We can get along and work together. For the most part, everyone was working to support each other, and it would seem that’s the way it should be, all of us working together with our different skills,” says Lenz.
Although a portion of the trip was funded by the school, the students were on their own paying for the bulk of it, and continue to fundraise to offset the costs by selling items they’ve made, such as slate cheese boards, coasters and blackboards.
The school is also looking at ways to raise money to offset tuition costs for students, and to further connections with the community. There will be a music series beginning Jan. 26, with concerts on Feb. 23 and March 22, says Wooll.
The school is also examining new avenues to reach prospective students, and to develop funding partnerships, said Craig Crane, the managing director of Willowbank.
“The school is running pretty smoothly now, and my job is getting easier. We are also working on the process of re-imagining the lower campus (formerly Laura Secord Memorial School), and talking about what that could look like. And we’re active in Toronto. We’re growing. The future is starting to appear.”