The Alpha Workshops is the nation’s only nonprofit organization providing decorative arts education and employment to at-risk youths and adults with disabilities or other vulnerabilities. We were honored to recently have Paul Kratz, Sales Director at The Alpha Workshops, visit Fuigo Studio to showcase their latest collection and answer a few questions about their dedication to beauty and changing lives.
Why is Alpha Workshops mission and vision so uniquely important?
The Alpha Workshops Studio School is the country’s only state-licensed vocational school training persons with chronic health issues or other vulnerabilities in decorative arts careers. This mission is supported by The Alpha Workshops Studios, a major creative resource for interior designers providing decorative painting, gilding, verre églomisé, custom furniture lighting and, of course, our famous wallpapers, all created by Alpha Workshops Studio School alumni.
Founded in 1995, Alpha Workshops’ original intent was to provide a “safe place” for persons with HIV to find a focus away from their illness. Since then, Alpha Workshop’s successful combination of self-expression and professional training helps people struggling with mental illness, drug addiction, autism, PTSD, previous incarceration, victims of sexual or other violence.
What is a recent piece or project you’re especially excited about?
We recently completed a six month long project creating much of the decoration at The Polynesian, an island-themed cocktail lounge off Times Square. Working with Vanessa Guilford of Tocci Design, Alpha created a massive 22 panel geometric ceiling mural, a number of tropical seascape murals, the longest over 15 feet, as well as a gilded chandelier and a map-themed dining table.
We are currently working on a “makeover” for Gotham Hall. In 2005, Alpha was commissioned to create the interior décor for the opening of Gotham Hall Events, working with designer Zina Zimmerman. Now, with Alpha Workshops also directing interior design, we’re back there, creating an entirely new look for the building.
What wERE the creative inspirationS behind thESE projectS?
For The Polynesian, we were inspired by traditional Polynesian textiles and water color paintings created by 18th century French ethnographic explorers.
For Gotham Hall, a 1926 former bank building landmarked both inside and out, it’s the incredible classical architecture – trying to recapture the purity of late 18th century minimal color palette of Gustavian palaces – letting the architecture shine without distraction.
Why is preserving the traditional art of craftsmanship so important to you?
Nothing can replace the “feel of the hand” in creating compelling interior design.
What does community mean to you and how is community an integral part of what you do at Alpha Workshops through your approach to creation and your Studio School?
The school’s intensive 39 week program creates close bonds among the students. Virtually all of the school’s instructors are school alumni employed as artisans at the Studios. Thus alumni teach new students. After graduation, a number of students become apprentices for a term of 3 to 6 months. As further preparation for their careers, these apprentices work in the Studios and on our job sites, or in allied industries such as upholsterers and interior design ateliers.
Who are some emerging artists coming through the Studio School that you’re particularly excited about?
The Alpha Workshops works collaboratively; we do not credit individual artisans, although many of our artisans and students have notable artistic careers outside of their work at AW.