PLAINFIELD, NJ - Many people in Plainfield and the surrounding towns don’t know it, but NJ’s oldest private non-profit art school resides on a beautiful wooded campus right off of Park Avenue.

The Central New Jersey campus, which attracts not only gorgeous animals such as deer, foxes and turkeys year-round, is actually a converted 1900’s brick mansion.

Back in the early days, Mr. & Mrs. George A. Strong built the property, and lived there until approximately the 1930’s, when then the Wardlaw-Hartridge Boys School moved into the mansion. The school ultimately built an additional wing behind the mansion, which included classrooms, dorms, a basketball court and an auditorium.

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In the late 1970’s, the duCret School of Art moved in and now makes use of the facilities, with a few updates that have been made. The basketball court is now a Fine Art Floor, the dorms have been converted to artist lofts and there are additional labs on site, including a jewelry lab, a photo studio, a computer lab, a stained glass studio and a ceramics studio.

Who knew this was all right in Plainfield?

The duCret School of Art, located at 1030 Central Avenue, was founded in 1926 by Marjorie Van Emburgh and was originally designed as a three-year academic and professional career school for visual artists.

duCret still offers that program, but has also expanded its curriculum over the years to include a Class-at-a-Time series, where adults can learn and develop art skills around full-time jobs and growing families.

It also offers seasonal workshop programs for kids, teens and adults, including a ‘Teen After School Program’, a ‘Saturday Morning Kids and Teens Program’ and several summer art camps in July.

The school, which is governed by a board, is artist-run and all faculty members are working professionals in their fields of expertise. For instance, Jessica Tyner, a professional New York City commercial and fashion photographer, and now a Plainfield resident, runs video and photoshoots at the duCret kids & teens fashion art camps. She also teaches adults Photography and Photoshop skills throughout the year. Last year she employed three duCret students, Clarissa Blue of Roselle, Megan Yannick of South Plainfield and Nicole Sese of Piscataway, who now work under her wing on NYC product shoots, in her studios.

This year, there are a variety of new class offerings that embrace the Internet industry, as more and more jobs require Internet and graphic design skills. This year, duCret added  ‘3D Computer Rendering’ to provide adults the skills necessary to apply for work in the Interior Design, Real Estate and Film industries.

Those desiring to explore the world of animation, major motion picture set design and gaming can learn in classes such as Animation, Illustration, Cartooning, 3D Computer Sculpting, SFX Costume Design and Foam-smithing.

The school has also expanded to include a Fashion Design program and offers F.A.B. (Fashion Against Bullying) design classes for kids and teens, as well as adults.

Throughout the years of expansion, the school has held on to its original mission to keep the campus a ‘family friendly’ and welcoming artist’s haven, where everyone knows your name. During the year, the ‘Arts Center’ part of the school produces art shows, exhibits and participates in many community fairs and events.

It also seamlessly branches into several alternative areas of life, such as offering home schoolers, privatized group classes or hosting Paranormal events, such as the NJ Paranormal Event to be held at the school on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. On that date, the general public can sign up for walk-through tours under the guidance of NJ Paranormal group founder John Ruggerio, and experience the unseen side of life, complete with scientific ghostbuster equipment.

The school is Central Jersey’s most hidden gem – one that gleams with great promise for aspiring artists who have neither the inclination, nor the finances to commute to big city training schools.

Check out the TV screens in the South Plainfield Shop Rite. The duCret commercial, where local students are featured, plays at the register counters 24/7.

Or stop by the administration offices Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm for a free tour or to pick up seasonal class brochures.

The duCret School of Art is currently accepting applications for both its full-time and part-time Professional Career Programs, and registrations for the Class-at-a-time programs, which can be viewed at www.ducret.edu.

All Fall Semester classes start soon, right after Labor Day.