The Alpha Workshops Studio School

Licensed by the New York State Department of Education, The Alpha Workshops Studio School (AWSS) provides tuition-free classes in decorative arts and painted finishes. Open to individuals living with HIV/AIDS or other disabilities, this vocational program requires no prior arts experience for enrollment. Offered four times per year, INTRODUCTION TO DECORATIVE ARTS TECHNIQUES consists of a 10­-week survey of the elemental techniques of decorative painting and fine wall finishes. The 26­-week ADVANCED COURSE IN DECORATIVE ARTS TECHNIQUES,given twice a year and available to graduates of the introductory course by invitation only, develops technical mastery of gilding, glazing, Venetian plaster, faux finishes, casting and more. Some program graduates take staff positions in Alpha’s professional design studios and assist in the production of Alpha’s award-winning products; others find gainful employment in the design industry and related fields. Students receive a weekly stipend.


For further information and to apply to the Alpha Workshops Studio School training program:

  • Tel: 646.692.8091 (9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
  • Fax: 212.594.4832
  • Email:
  • Mail: The Alpha Workshops Studio School, 245 West 29th Street, 14th Floor, New York, New York 10001.


The Alpha Workshops Studio School conducts four 10-­week Introduction to Decorative Arts Techniques (IDA) sessions each year. Classes meet Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Instructor Carol Cannon gives students a comprehensive foundation in decorative painting and finishing techniques used by contemporary professional decorative artists.

The AWSS supplies each IDA trainee with a all necessary tools, equipment, and materials. An onsite design library offers a curated selection of books about the history and application of the decorative arts. Exclusive field trips to museums, show houses, and historic houses provide context for skills learned in the classroom.

Trainees must attend a minimum of 175 class hours and produce a full portfolio of samples to obtain a certificate of completion. Weekly written evaluations grade each trainee’s development of practical skills and classroom conduct. A final portfolio review determines which trainees are invited to progress to the advanced course.

View sample Introduction to Decorative Arts Techniques Curriculum


The Alpha Workshops Studio School holds two 26-­week Advanced Courses in Decorative Arts Techniques per year. Classes meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The Advanced Course in Decorative Arts Techniques (ADA) provides specialized instruction in the applied decorative arts. Coursework emphasizes The Alpha Studios’ three primary areas of production: wall treatments/decorative finishes, hand-­painted wallpaper, and three-­dimensional
projects. Students must put in a minimum of 455 hours of studio time and finish a full portfolio of samples to receive a certificate of completion.

Students master a comprehensive set of decorative techniques over the six ­month course and typically explore a different skill each week. Practical skills ­­such as measuring, drawing to scale, calculating square and linear footage, and maintaining professional job etiquette ­­are taught alongside decorative techniques that revisit and build upon elements from IDA. Topics include advanced drawing methods, complicated faux finishes, foam carving and assembly, casting and mold ­making, wall treatments, Venetian plaster, restoration techniques, hand-­printed wallpaper design and production, flat design, and color matching. In addition to a full portfolio of technical samples, students execute several in-­depth individual projects, including the design and production of a unique hand-­printed wallpaper, gilding an object, and creating a mold from which a bookend, paperweight , or other small object is cast in plaster. Instructors evaluate students on a weekly basis, and deliver formal written evaluations that assess mastery of specific techniques, coursework, and job readiness skills midway through the program and upon its completion.

Selected students may also undertake specific renovation projects at partnering nonprofits throughout New York City. These innovative onsite initiatives serve both educational and community development purposes. Students gain invaluable experience in the application of large-­scale decorative painting and plastering, as well as a familiarity with the etiquette of working on professional job sites. The partnering nonprofits receive a free custom installation that enhances their lobby, conference room, or other public area and benefits their clients and staff. Projects have included: An abstract mural of Broadway theaters for the client conference room at The Actor’s Fund; a “wallscape” for Bailey House’s client lounge featuring flowing waves and a sunburst; a feature wall finished in vibrant orange Venetian plaster for the recreation room at Praxis Housing; and the creation of a large mural and striped wall for the reception area of AIDS Center of Queens County.
Field trips to cultural institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, The Frick Collection, Gracie Mansion, and The New Whitney, as well as tours through designer installations at The Kips Bay Showhouse, Holiday House, or The Showtime Showhouse, further enable ADA students to see the decorative arts in context and gain an understanding of what they can achieve in their career specialty.

Integrated Work Readiness modules focus on the development of professional conduct and/or other behavioral social goals. Topics include appropriate workplace attire, job searches via websites and print media, resume writing and cover letter composition, and mock interviews.


The Alpha Workshops Studio School provides each trainee with an individualized career-­advancement recommendation and offers follow-­up services for a minimum of six months.

Employer Incentives

Employers of The Alpha Workshops Studio School graduates may qualify for salary reimbursements of up to 160 hours and a tax credit. For further details visit www.acces.nysed.govor contact the The Alpha Workshops Studio School at 646.­692.­8091 or e­mail