“I remember my first day here. I was so insecure. But my teacher told me that we all have to start somewhere.”
– Cindy Reid, Vernon, NJ

cindyAlthough I have attended some very good schools (I have a bachelor’s degree from
Skidmore College, which cost a small fortune), I consider my involvement in the
Ridgewood Art Institute (“RAI”) to be my single, most important educational experience,
as it has added such a positive dimension to my life.

I had wanted to study oil painting for a long time, but felt too intimidated to pursue a
structured course. Here at RAI, not only have the brilliantly talented teachers provided
necessary feedback and instruction (freely, and in a positive manner), but fellow gifted
students have also offered input and encouragement.

The overall atmosphere at the Barn is noncompetitive and supportive–an environment
that makes it so much easier to develop skills quickly. I only wish I had discovered the
school sooner. Better late than never, however, and now that I have found it, I hope to
attend classes here for the rest of my life.


“There was nothing like it in Trumbull. The trip was getting to me and I needed to be closer to this wonderful place.”
– Cathy Puccio, Ringwood, NJ

puccAs a young adult, I took painting classes at the Ridgewood Art Institute, affectionately known as “the Barn”. Although I really enjoyed them, and knew the Barn was a special place filled with many talented painters, I, like most teenagers, took the place for granted. I continued to take classes occasionally at the Barn during my college years and whenever I visited my New Jersey hometown, a mere twenty minutes from the Ridgewood Art Institute.

As life moved on, so did I. I married, raised two boys, and lived on both coasts. During these times, I never forgot the Barn, and I always searched for a replacement for the Ridgewood Art Institute. I never found it. When my husband’s job led us to Connecticut, I continued my search for a “Barn Substitute”, to no avail. Although I taught art in the public schools in Connecticut, I knew I was missing something. Eventually, I took a plein-air painting workshop in Connecticut. One of the teachers was a student of John Phillip Osborne, a name I knew well, from none other than the Ridgewood Art Institute.

I knew then, that there was no other choice; I had to brave the commute from Northern Fairfield County in Connecticut — an hour and forty-five minutes one way — to return to the Ridgewood Art Institute. When I walked back into the Barn for the first time, not only did it look the same, it smelled the same! I was overwhelmed with wonderful memories emanating from the paint-filled walls. I knew I was home again.

Now, it is two years later, and after a grueling four day – a -week commute back and forth to Connecticut, we have picked up and moved to New Jersey, only a half an hour away from the Barn!

I am proud to say I now teach at the Ridgewood Art Institute, as my mother did for twenty years before me. As Dorothy exclaims in “The Wizard of Oz”, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard”. There’s no place like home.


“I love basketball, but I also love painting. It’s a tough choice… but because of the Barn, painting wins out.”

-Annie, Ridgewood, NJ

annieWhen Annie’s mom was a little girl, she had two passions – art and
basketball. She became a star basketball player for Ridgewood High School. Annie was
born with the same two passions, but after taking her first classes at the
Ridgewood Art Institute, she gave up basketball for art.

Just as Annie’s mom became a gym rat, Annie has become a Barn rat. Annie spends four afternoons a week painting at The Barn. She takes a watercolor class with Joel Popadics and three oil painting classes with Jill Olivito, Natalie Williams and John Osborne. Annie loves each class she takes but all in a different way. She loves the friendly atmosphere and the new friends she has made there.

Annie’s mom loves the flexible nature of the classes. Because you pay by the individual class, if Annie has a conflict one afternoon, its no big deal to miss a class. The instruction is excellent and the teachers are all extremely encouraging. You definitely get the impression that they want their students to be even better than they are. Last spring at the Annual Young People’s Scholarship Exhibition Annie won the Terry Smithers Memorial Award.

Due to the flexibility of the class schedules, over the last few years, Annie has still been able to participate in many other activities, including, ballet, jazz, lyrical dance, lacrosse, basketball, cheerleading, horseback riding and flute lessons. Painting is Annie’s quiet time. It’s the time of the day that she is doing something that she likes more than anything else. She leaves her art classes at The Barn completely relaxed and in her happiest frame of mind. She loves her time spent at the Ridgewood Art Institute so much that her mother says “if there were still a hay loft in the Barn, and if she could sleep there, she would!”


“When I first saw Joel Popadics’s watercolors, I said to myself, now that’s how I’d like to paint, that’s how to lay down a wash!”
-Arthur Gilmore, Greenwood Lake, NJ

arthurTwo weeks after I retired, I called to enroll in his class. For nearly five years, every
Thursday I leave the lake to paint in the Barn. It’s the only place I know where I can get
instruction from international level talent without travelling into the city. I’d have to trek all
over the country to workshops to get exposure to painters of this level.

Painting is a lonely pursuit, One of the great advantages of the Barn is the community of
artists that I have gained. I learn a great deal from the other students, and sometimes I
spend nearly as much time kibitzing as painting.”


“There is world class art instruction here. Why travel into the city when some of the best instruction can be found at RAI.”
-Susan LaMantia, Armonk, NY

susanFor the past twenty years, I have studied painting with numerous teachers and in various places, from an artist’s basement to S.U.N.Y Purchase and Silvermine School of Art.

Learning each step of the way, I had the good fortune to study with a former student of an artist who had studied under DuMond, and for the first time, found myself learning and understanding things I hadn’t even known I didn’t know. When this teacher passed away, it left a huge void in my life. For years, I wandered around looking for someplace to continue my learning journey. I heard a lot of hype about expressing yourself, but not too many people knew the mechanics of doing that with paint.

Then one day an artist friend told me about the Ridgewood Art Institute and John Osborne’s class. I looked at the catalog on line and thought, “There is hope!” Attending an outdoor workshop of John’s I found myself painting with committed artists and students working in plein air. Here was an artist and teacher who knew what he was talking about. There was discussion about values, shapes, capturing atmosphere and the light effect, edges! Finally, knowledge of art and painting!

Signing up for class in June, the room was filled with like-minded, hard working, students of all levels. There was camaraderie, but mostly – there was commitment!

When class ended in June, I pretty much begged for a spot in September. Starting with one
class a week, shortly I was pleading for a second day. Why look any further? Why travel to
NYC when I can learn all I need to here, in such a wonderful environment with great people?

Tuesday and Wednesday painting classes at the Ridgewood Art Institute are the highlight of my week. Sometimes they are challenging–even frustrating. There are times when I feel like breaking my paint brushes and going home crying, but I see other people working through the same frustrations and desires, and that inspires me. Then, there are the glory days, when I see that I have learned yet something new. Something the teacher has been saying suddenly makes sense to me, or I’ve worked out another problem or advanced a bit on the skill scale. Those days are worth the struggle.