Born in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo nearly three decades ago, the American College of Building Arts has grown and evolved into a unique U.S. institution, located in the heart of Charleston, that is dedicated to training students in traditional crafts.
But until this year, the college’s rich teaching opportunities were limited to four-year students who focused on one of six specializations.
Those include timber framing, architectural carpentry, plaster, masonry, blacksmithing and architectural stone carving.
The new year promises more for others interested in expanding their skills or knowledge without the four-year commitment, as well as diversifying the offerings of the college itself.
In 2018, the college will be offering both intensive, one-week courses in hands-on crafts, including ironsmithing, woodcarving, stained glass and furniture making, and weekly nighttime courses on an array of subjects (see accompanying info).
Fees for the intensives, which start Jan. 8, 2018, are $750. Those courses are six hours a day for five days. The cost for the six-week evening courses, which start Feb. 5, 2018, cost $250 (one costs $375). Evening courses are held once a week, two and half hours each night, for six weeks.
Dr. Wade Razzi, chief academic officer, says the college’s move from their former home in the Old City Jail into a renovated and expanded building, known as “The Trolley Barn,” in the fall of 2016 provided the opportunity for outreach programming.
“Over the years, we’ve had a lot of people contact us who have wanted to take some portion of our academic program, but we haven’t been set up to do that until now,” says Razzi. “This is our way of excerpting the curriculum.”
Razzi says those who enroll for the courses will range from the young adult considering his or her educational options to second-career and retired older adults. Some current ACBA students also may take courses in classes that aren't part of their majors.
Most of the courses won’t require previous educational or hands-on backgrounds.
One-week intensive courses, he adds, will offer people who don’t live in the Charleston area an opportunity to come for a short-stay to learn some skills.
Razzi also says the courses will be a way to let more people in the Charleston area learn, first-hand, what the college does and offers. He also hopes that people will help guide the college to offer courses that are in demand locally.
“We like to think it parallels what we already do, but it’s opening it up to a new audience who will have an interest in doing one of these specific courses without necessarily wanting to commit to four years.”
Architect Curtis Estes, the coordinator for the intensive and evening programs, says the college’s new space affords it an opportunity for the expanded programming, which actually started with three evening classes in the fall.
Estes says those classes, which included an introduction to interior design, computer-aided drafting and Charleston architecture, were successful, but that they learned the classes needed to be shorter in length.
“Our expertise is the building arts, so we’re focusing on educational material that is aimed at professionals who want to expand their knowledge, people who are involved in historic preservation, or retirees who are interested in various designs.”.