School closure leaves students scrambling

Students at now defunct Western Academy of Photography are waiting to see if their programs will continue through another local school.

Sixteen students discovered last week the private photography school was closing immediately for financial reasons, while instructors learned of problems on March 19.

“It’s like somebody died,” said student Nate Clark, who moved to Victoria from Thailand for the one-year program. “A lot of tears between teachers and students.”

Student Melanie Orr knew something was awry at the school when equipment started disappearing from instructor’s classrooms.

She said she’s frustrated the school didn’t inform students about financial difficulties until last week.

“We’ve invested our lives in this program, we give it our all for 10 months, and to just have that stripped away, leaves you stunned,” she said.

Western Academy’s program manager, Andrea Kucherawy, said the school’s owner, Garry Dodds, is in talks with two local schools to continue Western’s classes until June.

“I’m devastated for our students and the era that’s come to an end,” Kucherawy said. “This is the school’s 30th year. We’ve produced countless damn good photographers and writers over those years. If there is a teach-out plan and I’m a part of it, I’m committed to see the students through to the end.”

Should a teach-out plan be approved, students still likely won’t be given a diploma with Western Academy’s certification. That doesn’t sit well with students.

“We are all strong believers in having Western on our diploma,” Orr said. “They have a reputation for really great training and world-class photographers. To just have another school issue our diploma would be a slap in the face.”

Despite the closure, both Orr and Clark said they don’t regret attending Western Academy of Photography as its final students.

“I’ve learned so much already,” Clark said.

“I’ve already learned enough that I think I can start a really good career. The only thing missing is a diploma. But all the knowledge is there.”



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