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 2000 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.  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!

2023-24 Grant Supporters

  • The Virginia Commission for the Arts grant review panel returned The Bay School to the PRIORITY 1 status for 2023 funding, impressed with our new strategic plan. The new IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access) statement should help keep us there. This money will help cover overhead costs.
  • The William F. and Catharine K. Owens Foundation disbanded and left the Bay School an endowment of $100,000, managed by the Mathews Community Foundation. The annual payout will cover the direct costs (instructors and materials) of some of our community outreach programs for children. These programs are free to the participants.
  • The Mathews Community Foundation has awarded the Bay School $10,000 for arts outreach programs occurring between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023. The MCF is a steadfast supporter, with the annual amount varying.
  • 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 has contributed $5,500 for general operating expenses, in conjunction with 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 the Coalition 4 Kids (C4K) and some of this money comes to the Bay School to support joint programming.
  • Dominion Energy has contributed to our operating expenses since 2016. We received $10,000 in 2023, in the form of sponsorships for our annual Fine Arts Auction and Family Art Festival.
  • The Gloucester Community Foundation has funded our outreach program at the Puller Center in recent years.
  • The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Rappahannock (UUFR) Trustees of the Servetus Community Outreach Endowment Fund awarded us for the third time, with $5,000 for outreach programs. They prefer to fund arts education for preschool children and seniors, and craft, rather than fine art. With weavers and basket-makers on our teaching staff, we easily meet their goals.
  • 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 an art club at a satellite location.