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New art school in Virginia Beach fosters discovery

Joe Simone

Mimi Boseman


Karin Fleischman was shocked when her painting, “Mad Hare Day,” sold for $120 at an SPCA fundraiser in March. The Little Neck resident painted the picture of a grey rabbit with tousled hair in only two days.

More impressive: she had only been painting for a few months, and this was her fourth painting.

Fleischman has been taking art lessons from Joe Simone since December and followed him to his new art school, The Virginia Beach School of Art and Gallery located in the Damalas Center on Laskin Road.

“It’s like magic,” Fleischman described. “It’s amazing how he makes my art look so good.”

Simone, a Shore Drive resident, is originally from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and moved to the Virginia Beach area in 2005 to pursue several business ventures. He’s an has painted more than 750 works and has written four books on art instruction. His artwork is in homes around the world, he said.

In 2012, Simone started teaching art classes in a 300 square foot space inside a retail store at Hilltop. Students called it a “closet.” Two months later, he relocated to a room in the Cavalier Yacht Club and finally opened his new school plus gallery on the second floor of the Damalas Center in June.

The 1,500 square foot space includes an instructional area on one side and a gallery on the other, decorated with three crystal chandeliers and rotating artwork created by Simone’s students.

Mimi Boseman, a Birdneck Point resident, has been taking lessons from Simone since 2012.

“We all have gone way beyond what we have dreamt,” she said. “We didn’t start with stick figures; he taught us to paint.”

Recently, Boseman sold one of her paintings that was displayed in the student gallery and was also commissioned to paint a longhorn steer for a customer.

Simone’s mantra is “discover your talent and develop your skill.” His school is based on the “Ateliers,” of France, where students go directly to the canvas and learn drawing coupled with art history, composition, color theory and style.

“We delve right into painting,” Simone said. “Students are painting after one class.”

Each month features a different artist, who is incorporated into the art lesson. Classes are three hours each, limited to eight students and are held Tuesday through Friday.

Art has helped Simone deal with many hardships over the years.

“It has kept my spirit alive,” he said. “There is a seductive quality about painting.”

Everyone has a story, Boseman added, and the classes are a “sanctuary for people.”

Patty Lewis, a Birdneck Point resident, started taking classes in March. She said the lessons served as an outlet after her husband passed away. In addition to learning how to paint, she has enjoyed building new friendships.

“Everyone is so supportive of each other in the class,” she said. “I am amazed by my progress and so are my sons.”

The Virginia Beach School of Art and Gallery, 1776 Laskin Road, Damalas Center, Suite 204. Classes are three hours each, 10 a.m-1 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday; Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and by appointment on weekends. Cost: Monthly tuition $210. Info: 496-0308, www.vbsag.com

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