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Community Spotlight: Capitol Hill Arts Workshop

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) has engaged the DC community through art for over 45 years. The nonprofit organization provides artistic educational programs for about 20,000 people a year of all ages – from babies to adults. Instructional classes include photography, music, visual arts, dance, writing, and ceramics.

The organization is especially proud to provide a tuition assistance program: Not a single student has been turned away for an inability to pay for a class. That’s why we chose CHAW as our spotlight this month. We spoke with Elizabeth Rubando, marketing and development manager and ceramics department chair at CHAW about how CHAW makes art accessible for everyone in the DC area.

What are some community benefits of art education?

Through its multi-disciplinary arts programs taught by teaching artists with a passion to share their disciplines, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) has fostered a safe and nurturing environment for people of all ages and artistic abilities to build community while discovering the arts, experiencing the artistic process, and expanding appreciation of the arts. As part of its commitment to building community, CHAW lends support to other arts and community organizations through partnerships and by providing pro bono space and/or reasonable rent for performances, projects, workshops and meetings. At CHAW, we are committed to direct action that bridges the community’s income gap: providing a space where children from different racial, socio-economic, and geographic backgrounds can learn and play together.  Creativity, confidence, and community are our three guiding principles, which determine the efficacy of programming, design, and external growth.

How did CHAW get its start?

The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop's mission is to build community through the arts. It is a community-based, not-for-profit organization founded in 1972 by Sally Crowell and other community members who were interested in sharing their artistic expertise with children and adults.  Arts instruction classes were held in several Capitol Hill churches until, in the late 1970's, the organization obtained the use of the old B.B. French School (545 Seventh St, SE) from the District of Columbia government.

CHAW embarked on an extensive renovation of the facility, which had been closed for many years, through a partnership with the Marines of the 8th & I Street Barracks, neighborhood businesses, and local residents.  Federal financial support from the U.S. Department of the Interior helped to fund the endeavor.  The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop moved into the fully renovated building in 1980.

Who teaches the classes at CHAW?

Our teaching artists are talented, community-minded artists who love what they do and get energy from taking their passions into the classroom. CHAW teaching artists are creative, organized, reliable and collaborative!

How can someone apply for financial assistance?

It’s easy! Fill out a tuition assistance form online or at CHAW along with a registration form for the class of your choice, we will work with you on finding the best solution to get you making art! We have never turned a child or adult away for the inability to pay!

What is the CHAW Gallery Residency program?

This residency provides an opportunity for a dynamic individual artist or artist team to create a new body of work, evolve an existing body of work, or develop a project in a stimulating, supportive environment. The residency encourages interaction, dialogue and exploration both within the CHAW artist community and city-wide. The residency offers six weeks of time and space to an artist or team of artists each year to experiment and realize new work.  The right fit is someone who is interested in transforming the gallery space—and who is looking for a blank slate that is theirs, offering freedom, challenge, and openness to the artistic process, as well as a collaborative community element.

Do you provide any additional services other than classes?

CHAW also provides space rentals for all sorts of arts groups and organizations looking to fulfill their artistic desires! We have a renowned Black Box Theater and host 5 Theater Partners, who produce their shows in our space. CHAW has a robust outreach program that works with organizations around the DC-metro area to bring art into the community and/or bring the community to CHAW!

How can I support CHAW?

You can support CHAW in many ways, through our donation page online (, becoming a CHAW Muse, or simply dropping by a gallery event! We have multiple campaigns throughout the year that support our Tuition Assistance program, Youth Arts Program, and studio renovations. Any support, even just word of mouth, can make all the difference and can help provide art for all!