The Bay School

The Bay School Community Arts Center was founded in 1997 by Wendy Wells.  Wendy, a lifelong artist and educator, was passionate about her vision to have a community arts center in Mathews that could serve as a creative meeting place. Through the efforts of Wendy and committed local artists and townspeople, her dream became a reality and continues to thrive in our small rural town on the Middle Peninsula in eastern Virginia.

Originally named Mathews County School of Country Arts, The Bay School became a 501c3 non-profit organization in 1998 and moved to its present location on Main Street in Mathews Courthouse in 2001.

We conduct over 100 classes in the fine arts and crafts in three classrooms, one of which is a pottery studio with over 30 community members. On occasion, off-site classes are held at local artist studios, and our backyard contains a stage that often is used to present our students' theatrical and musical explorations for the community.

Over 30 talented local artists teach our classes in a variety of media for both adults and children. We encourage you to explore our online class catalog to discover your next creative adventure!

The Art Speaks Gallery showcases the work of over 80 local and regional artists, with monthly themed exhibitions, an annual statewide juried exhibition, a monthly featured artist, and artisan markets throughout the year.

The Bay School partners with many local organizations serving special populations, as well as Mathews County Public Schools and the local YMCA's, to provide art classes for those who cannot easily participate in our public programming, and can benefit from a little extra art in their lives. These programs are free to participants and partners, thanks to our generous funders. This is the heart of our non-profit mission.

2023-24 Grant Supporters

  • The Virginia Commission for the Arts has supported The Bay School with general operating funds since the beginning, as well as providing valuable networking and professional education resources.
  • The William F. and Catharine K. Owens Foundation left the Bay School an endowment, managed by the Mathews Community Foundation, to fund our community outreach programs for children. These programs are free to the participants.
  • The Mathews Community Foundation is a steadfast supporter of all our community arts outreach programs in Mathews.
  • River Counties Community Foundation funds a weekly art program for the after school program and summer camps at the Middlesex Family YMCA.
  • The County of Mathews is a partner in the Local Government Challenge matching grant through the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
  • The Sanders Foundation Fund awarded funds for art supplies for Outreach Programs with area seniors.
  • The Elis Olsson Foundation funds joint programming with the Mathews County Coalition 4 Kids (C4K).
  • Dominion Energy has provided operating support for our community programs, in the form of sponsorships for our annual Gala & Art Auction and Family Art Festival.
  • The Gloucester Community Foundation funds our outreach program with the Lewis B. Puller Center (VersAbility Resources).
  • The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock (UUFR) Trustees of the Servetus Community Outreach Endowment Fund supports our outreach programs. Their focus is on arts education for preschool children and seniors, and craft, rather than mainstream fine art practices. 
  • Hampton Roads Academy Student Philanthropy Team awarded us $1,000 for our after-school program for the Fall of 2023.
  • The Mathews Women’s Giving Circle awarded us a grant of $2,000 in December 2023 to start our new OpenArts in the Neighborhood program at Zion Baptist Church.