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The History of SOA

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Claudine Carew, Founder

Transcription from the presentation on the Claudine Carew Spirit of the Arts Scholarship Award, presented by Mr. Charles Eugene Bush & Mr. Barney Barnes, 2019:

When Harry Potter, Hermione Grainger, and Ron Weasley first found themselves on the Hogwarts Express bound for the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they knew they were going to a very special school, one that was not just everyone's choice for an education period 

Young students all, Hogwarts was destined to shape their lives with fantasy, drama, and the coming of age. This magical school would bring new social and emotional experiences, new friendships, infatuations, romance, difficult schoolwork, and exams with the familiar anxiety, occasional depression, and stress that accompanies academic situations. All designed as a greater test for the confrontations in the real world that would lie ahead. 

So also, we can attribute your experiences at the York County School of the Arts which we know affectionately as SOA. This special magnet school in York County is also truly a magical place with a special, challenging, unique curriculum designed to bring out magical creativity in each one of you, it's lucky, privileged students . 

Hogwarts, of course, had its Dumbledore, founder, headmaster and much-loved counselor. SOA on the other hand had Claudine Carew, its founder, principle, and chief advisor. And Ms. Carew was, by any standards, an extraordinary and exceptional person. 

Graduated from Matthew Whaley High School, Claudine sought her theatrical training and education at Richmond Professional Institute, now Virginia Commonwealth University. An honor student, upon graduation, she taught school and became a resident member of Barksdale Theater, Richmond’s highly thought of pay-for-performance Playhouse where she was best known as Billy Dawn in Born Yesterday. 

Soon, Ms. Carew moved to Williamsburg where along with five colleagues she owned and operated the Wedgwood Theater in a converted tomato Canning factory in Toano, Virginia. The 350 seat theater lasted about 10 seasons and the company produced over 70 plays during its era. Miss Carew then turned to teaching in the York system and immediately made a reputation for herself with innovative curriculum, especially special creative writing classes. Taking advantage of the then new concept of magnet schools, Carew founded the School of the Arts at Bruton in 1988. While SOA grew and prospered, Ms. Carew, believing that the best teachers not only taught but we're also practitioners of what they taught, “put it on the line” as she acted in plays at the Williamsburg Players (Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And Josie Hogan in Moon for the Misbegotten to name only two). She also directed and oversaw most of the 18th century play series at Colonial Williamsburg. 10 years after the founding of SOA, tragically Claudine Carew in 1998 died, a case of a notable, accomplished life that surely had not fulfilled its final promise. 

A shocked academic and theatrical community immediately determined to establish a memorial for Claudine Carew. That memorial eventually took the form of the Claudine Carew Spirit of the Arts scholarship award, presented yearly to a deserving graduate student from the School of the Arts. Hundreds of small and some large donations have, over the years allowed this 501c3 fund to invest the principle and award the interest to a deserving student or for the benefit of the school.