Located in the middle of the Warwick Shopping Center is an art studio where Village Studio Arts owner Camille Donne (Dahnee — Italian origin) helps others discover or rediscover the joy of creating art. “I teach mostly children and teens and they are primarily interested in pottery,” she says. “They can make a mug, bowl or coaster in one class. It is then fired in the house kiln and can be picked up the next day.”
Donne’s classes are held mostly in the studio. However, when possible, she goes to retirement homes. Currently, all classes are sold out,
although she welcomes “drop-ins.” “My business is mostly ‘word of mouth.’ I do my own marketing and students also come by way of Facebook,” she says.
Donne opened her studio in June 2021. She homeschools her two children — a 9-year-old son with autism and a 13-year-old daughter with sensory issues. Both of her children enjoy art. “Because of my children’s needs, I am interested in helping other children with similar problems,” she says. She partners with Tidewater Arts Outreach in Norfolk and the Autism Society of Tidewater. “There is actually a large population of children with autism in the military. Unfortunately, there are no services to meet their needs,” she adds. Her studio is handicap accessible.
“I have loved art and dreamed of making art since I was a child,” Donne says. “I was always mesmerized by potters at work. Art has always been my favorite subject, but I didn’t share that with others until I was in my forties! It’s never too late to follow a dream! After all, Grandma Moses was 77 when she began painting!”
Donne says her favorite techniques are printmaking and pottery, but she loves to make and teach many art forms. With her busy schedule, Donne says, “I don’t sleep much and I have to be a careful planner.” Her camps are very popular. “Parents love them. I currently have 80 homeschoolers signed up and there is a wait list for placement,” she says with a smile.
Donne’s student population is composed of 50 percent adults and 50 percent children. ”The children actually do better if the parent is not with them,” she says. “They know what they want to create.” Donne also hosts birthday parties. Oftentimes the lessons take on a theme. Her “artists” come from Newport News, Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. “For some reason there are a lot of homeschoolers from Virginia Beach,” she adds.
“My art materials are all high quality. It’s the ‘real stuff’,” Donne says. “My supplies are actually better than those used in the public schools. I never reuse clay. And I am constantly mopping and cleaning!” All supplies are nontoxic. There is no oil painting because those supplies are flammable and toxic.
Donne hosts special events for Newport News libraries and public schools. “I enjoy getting to know people,” she says. She is licensed as a visual arts teacher K–12 and as a classroom teacher K–6. She is certified in CPR and first aid, and she has had extensive experience working with individuals with disabilities. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion.
Her art classes offer excitement for the “would be” artist. On Saturdays mornings, self-guided featured projects that include sculpting and wall hangings are available. She is planning to add high-temperature firing and dip-glazing to her project list.
Donne was a military dependent. She was born in San Antonio, Texas and moved every three years. “We located on the Virginia Peninsula when I was in high school.,” she says. “When my parents were ready to move on, I remained here. I was then 21 and had a job plus friends from Christopher Newport University. My parents now live in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. In fact, my father is the town dentist.”
Donne has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and fine arts from Christopher Newport University. She has worked as a historical interpreter for Colonial Williamsburg. “I was a classroom teacher for Newport News Public Schools before taking a few years off to be a stay-at-home mom,” she says. She reentered the workforce when she saw that Peninsula Fine Arts Center was searching for an education director with experience in the education, fine arts and museum fields. “It was the perfect fit and I worked there from 2014 until it closed,” she says.
Donne says she doesn’t have much free time these days. Her husband is a fire marshal in York County. “I like to explore beaches, parks and new places with my children,” she says. “And I love donut and ice cream shops,” she says with a laugh.
TO THE POINT:
Village Studio Arts
Address: 10864 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601
Contact: Camille Donne, owner