In a nonstop world, it’s sometimes hard to make time for one’s passions, or even know how to find them. In the heart of East Greenwich, however, Nancy Scelsa has created a space for all passions to run wild. The Nancy Stephen Gallery and School of Art has been tapping into the artistic minds of students of all ages for 23 years – and shows no signs of stopping. “What is important to me is that nobody is turned away,” Scelsa explains, “Art should be available to everyone interested.”
In the mid-1990s, Scelsa was faced with the decision to either continue as a high school art instructor or to follow her dream of opening her own space. “It was always an art school for me more than a gallery,” Scelsa says, as her vision began during her time at Paier College of Art. After receiving her degree in graphic arts and teaching art for years following, she knew her passion needed a home to thrive.
Named in love and honor of Scelsa’s late brother, the Nancy Stephen Gallery and School of Art first opened its doors in 1993. Since then, Scelsa makes it her goal to find new ways to challenge both her students and herself as an instructor. She stresses, however, that her role as an instructor is to unveil what is already there. “I don’t give you talent,” she explains. “What I do is instruct you and pull that out so you can further your creative process.”
Offering scholarships year-round that are dispersed on a need basis, Scelsa is dedicated to anyone who shows an interest in the arts. Her students’ creations line the walls of the studio rooms: paintings, drawings, and sculptures from students aged five to 92. “Everyone experiences their artistic journey differently,” she says. “The Nancy Stephen Gallery is a home for everyone.”
With students traveling from opposite ends of Rhode Island and beyond, Scelsa will occasionally face doubtful students questioning whether or not they “have the talent.” Her response? “Well, do you have the interest? Then you do have it.” East Greenwich