Catching up with Carol Ward – One River School


We thought it might be interesting to see what Carol Ward has been up to since we last discussed the Morris-Jumel Mansion.  We went out for lunch at Polpettina, a small Italian restaurant in Larchmont, and caught up about her job at One River School. Here’s what she had to say:


Tell me a little bit about One River; what’s your elevator pitch?

One River is about transforming arts education through the lens of contemporary art, using living artists to teach the core curriculum and showcasing emerging artists in the gallery.  At One River in Larchmont, we show both local and emerging New York City artists. We do about four to six professional shows per year. The artist up now, Maureen Meehan, is local; she’s from Larchmont.  So we are connecting to the community. The next person who will be exhibiting, Franck de Las Mercedes (and you really should interview him!) is someone I found through the Northern Manhattan Artists Alliance (NoMAA), through their Uptown Arts Stroll.  I’m really glad to be featuring someone from the Heights!

Do you exhibit students’ work as well?

Yes, we are doing two student shows per year, January and June, with all students, from Pre-K through adults, having a piece on display.

That must be so much fun!  Where I live, one of the local libraries does an annual student art show with pieces by art students in the local schools, and it’s terrific.  The kids love seeing their work on display and checking out who else has a piece selected. It’s a great event when they do it.

Yes, it’s all about the community.  We had 240 students represented at the last show in June, and over 150 family members came.

That sounds lovely.

Yes, it’s a way for other family members to see what their journey has been.  When you see something on the gallery wall, you really see the progress.

So, you are still very much involved in the visual arts!  I remember some of the work you did when you were at Morris-Jumel Mansion–the exhibition with Yinka Shonibare and the corset pieces by Camilla Huey.

Funny you should mention Shonibare.  When I met the founder of One River, Matt Ross (he had been the CEO of School of Rock before he started One River and is definitely using a similar model), he asked me if I was familiar with the James Cohan Gallery--and I was, I’d worked with them on the Shonibare exhibit at Morris-Jumel.   When I went to my training in Englewood, the Cohans were there. They are involved in the company and are opening up a One River location in the Chicago area.


How many sites does One River have now?

There are 13.  When I was interviewed for this job, back in 2017, there were two.  I was hired in November of that year, and this site was the third. Now there are some that are corporately owned and some, outside the tri-state area, are franchised.  The goal by the end of this year is 20!

So One River has been successful, then?

Yes, with the communities and with the students.  I grew up in Mamaroneck, very close by here, and knowing the area was helpful to me.  I’ve been meeting with businesses with the goal towards making One River a community resource.  And without a buy in from the community, you can’t be successful. We’ve been steadily increasing the number of students.

During the school year, when are your classes?

Classes are after school Mondays through Thursdays, all levels, PreK through adults.  We have a lot of students in grades three through five, and teenagers. We’re trying to grow our adult population.


One of the great things about the visual arts is that you don’t have to be super-talented.  Art can be for everyone. PIck up a pencil and a piece of paper and draw.

Yes, for some people it is a great social outlet.  A way to meet people, to relax. And have fun.

And make something beautiful!


I’m glad you’re still dealing with the visual arts, clearly it is important to you and to your career.

It’s part of the mission, to teach people about art.  Yinka Shonibare is a lesson plan! Things like: here is an artist.  How can we be inspired by that? How can we make our own piece with that inspiration?  Right now we are working in one of my classes on a monochromatic seascape. But that’s just the parameter–what the students create is up to them.

So it’s not one of those “wine and paint” things where everyone makes the same painting, a sunset or a mermaid or something?

No, not at all, it’s not step by step!  We are hoping our students start you and keep going, and that they see progress and learn skills.


Do you miss the history aspect of your past work?

It’s different, but I’m still getting some history, because of the connection with art history.  I reach classes here. I encourage active looking. We take our interns on field trips to museums.  On the history side, we do VTS, visual training strategies–to get them looking at the art work. Knowing about what they’re looking at makes their art better.

We have a manga class for teens.  They are diehard fans and they totally geek out–and they try to make new things in their artwork.

It sounds like a very good place for you.

Yes, it’s an opportunity to learn, to meet people.  All of our teachers are working artists and I also help them try to figure out their “brand.”  I have a side consulting business where I work with artists on various opportunities for sales and business.  It’s called Outside the Lines Consulting. My idea was initially to help non-profits, but now it has morphed into helping emerging and mid-career artists market themselves…fairs, arts organizations, websites.  And for me it is very helpful to have One River supporting of that type of professional development. I also do independent curatorial work. I did an art show at Gale Brewer‘s office, and a pop up gallery in Larchmont.  That work is separate–I delineate my time from One RIver. At One River, Matt Ross respects the art business and entrepreneurial work.

Sounds terrific!  May One River and Outside the Lines continue to grow and prosper!  


More Catching Up by Laura LaVelle

Garnet Heraman, serial entrepreneur

Abdul Fattah Ismail, poet

Juliet Sorensen, law professor


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at


Lead-In Image Courtesy of Carol Ward