“New Cottage Arts has one mission: to bring music and art to everyone.” This is a lofty, and noble goal, one that was originally set about four years ago. Through late-night talks with his husband, Brian, Victor Ngo-Smith developed the idea for a space where arts education wasn’t seen as a luxury, and where accessibility, diversity, and inclusion were centered.
They kept building on these ideas, and this past June, they finally found the current studio space where New Cottage Arts was able to make its home. So, what is New Cottage Arts? The short answer is a reasonably priced, Denver-based combination music and visual art school boasting classrooms, practice studios, a gallery space, and several accomplished instructors teaching classes that can be attended by folks of all ages.
The instructors at New Cottage Arts have backgrounds ranging from DJing and production, to ballet, to opera, and beyond. “We want to choose the best from the extraordinary pool of local Denver talent,” Ngo-Smith told OUT FRONT. But talent isn’t all it takes to teach at New Cottage Arts. “We focus on selecting teachers not only based on their impressive list of degrees and experiences, but also on how much joy and good juju they can inspire and offer our students.”
New Cottage Arts is trying to inspire some “good juju” of their own in the surrounding community. They’re the first gallery space to emerge in the Westwood neighborhood, and so far, the community has been enthusiastic about their presence. The staff wants to take that energy and continue spinning it into positivity and love for the arts.
“Through our programs, we hope students will not only be challenged to cultivate a love of lifelong learning dedicated to developing their own expressive, creative selves by honing an artistic skill, but also to discover how the impact of this dedication extends far beyond themselves and spreads into their communities.”
Part of their dedication to promoting a love of the arts in the community is making access to lessons affordable while paying instructors what they’re worth.
“We are committed to offering the best in music and art instruction to our community and city while keeping the rates as affordable as possible while also being able to offer our amazing teachers an honest wage.”
New Cottage Arts provides both group and private lessons in sessions that run around eight weeks. Each eight-week session runs between $185 and $448 depending on whether it’s a group or private session and the length of sessions for private lessons.
If folks find it difficult to keep up with these prices, there are some options available such as payment plans that separate the cost of sessions into two payments instead of just one. They are also looking into other methods to help alleviate costs for those in need.
“We are currently applying for funding that will help with the cost of lessons for our community, including a grant that would offer a year of full-tuition scholarships for a group of students from our Southwest Denver community.”
New Cottage Arts is still a fairly young project, but Ngo-Smith and the other members have big dreams for its future. “We hope to be able to reach as many students as we can through our school and to help shape and build their artistic selves to become confident, powerful advocates for the arts,” Ngo-Smith said. “Through this community focus, we hope to encourage and help facilitate dialogue between the students and their communities, developing motivation, social capital, leadership, and civic engagement.”
Community really is key.
While the hope is to eventually expand the project into other neighborhoods so that more folks can have access to their programming and resources, the feeling of closeness and community they provide is their highest priority.
“And although we hope to expand to other neighborhoods and communities that could benefit from the New Cottage Arts education model, we also want to maintain a friendly, local, personal experience for each and every student.”
Through this method, New Cottage Arts aims to make Denver the place for other cities to take example from for arts education. “By incubating more innovative approaches to arts education like ours, Denver can become a model of successful outcomes for other cities to follow,” Ngo-Smith said. “We believe Denver can become a world-renowned hub for growing and fostering local talent in this way.”