Our Mission

To teach excellence in drawing, painting and sculpture using methods inspired by the Renaissance and 19th century Masters, and adapted for today's learners.

The REAL Academy of Art Colorado teaches the fundamentals of drawing, painting and sculpting using methods that have withstood the test of time.

REAL’s name is derived from Renaissance Alive, a nod to the Renaissance masters of realism. Based in Denver, REAL is Colorado’s first and only art school certified by the Art Renewal Center (ARC), one of the world’s most respected fine art organizations. ARC is the foremost authority and evaluator of representational art schools. Schools earning its highly coveted seal of approval provide not only art instructors and teaching curricula of outstanding quality — but also nurture students whose artwork demonstrates mastery of fundamental skills.

REAL is committed to helping its students become professional artists if they wish by providing them with the guidance and resources they need to move from “hobbyist” and “amateur” to “business owner” and “professional” in the digital age. REAL also is committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.


The REAL Academy of Art Colorado is the first and only art school in Colorado certified by the Art Renewal Center, one of the world's most respected fine art organizations.

REAL Academy of art is the first and currently the only art school in Colorado to be recognized and certified by the Art Renewal Center (ARC)

Our Art Director and Instructor

Ali Ghassan
The Art Renewal Center - ARC Assiciate Living Master Award
The Art Renewal Center - ARC Associate Living Master Award

Ali Ghassan

Ali has been named a “Living Master” by the prestigious Art Renewal Center. Few people in the world have achieved this distinction. 

Born in Babel, Iraq, Ali earned a master’s degree in Fine Arts at Babel University, studied in Italy and Russia, and was an internationally award-winning, professional artist before becoming a professor of Fine Arts at Babel University in 2008. Ali has taught art and sculpting for nearly 20 years. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world and has earned him first-place awards in Iraq, France and the United States. 

Ali and his wife immigrated to the United States in 2014 and worked together to share their passion for teaching and restoration of the Masters’ art techniques. Through word of mouth, Colorado students found Ali and his commitment to ARC’s teaching philosophy, which ultimately gave rise to The REAL Academy of Art Colorado.

Ali’s art skills: 

  • Art Instructor (12+ years)
  • Sculpting Instructor  (5+ years)
  • Sculpting
  • Mural Painting
  • Arabic calligraphy
  • Painting on porcelain
  • Stained glass painting
  • Preliminary designs for architecture and interior designs
  • Etching
  • Silk-screening / print screening
  • Woodcarving
  • Theater decors
  • Story writing
  • Art criticism
  • Digital painting and graphic design


Our Board of Directors

Board President Marlene Kort

Marlene has been a professional artist for more than 20 years. She has held board positions, maintained membership in many art organizations and has gallery representation for her work. She also has taught art in workshops and with private students. Marlene holds a master’s degree in public health with a focus on community organizations.

Board Secretary Anne Marie Kratz

Denver-based visual artist Anne Marie Kratz has developed her art skills over several years at Iowa State University, University of Denver, Art Students League of Denver and The REAL Academy of Art. Having previously worked in the salon industry, Anne Marie’s creative evolution took her to REAL, where she made a career change and enjoys helping others do the same.

Director Christine Nelson McCandless

Christine is a retired International Baccalaureate math teacher who was attracted to serve on the board by REAL Art Director Ali Ghassan's vision and passion for educating new artists. Christine is an active volunteer in the Denver community. She holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Director Maryann Waugh, MEd

Maryann has worked for many years in the nonprofit realm, serving in capacities ranging from full-time employee to board director. She is the principal of Quandary Consulting & Analytics, LLC, which provides grant writing, evaluation, and data analysis and visualization services for a variety of nonprofit, health care, and educational organizations. Maryann has a minor in studio arts from St. Michaels' College, and has received formal atelier training from REAL.

Director Anagloria Rodriguez Wilkinson 

AnaGloria always has been a teacher and creative. Over more than 20 years, she has taught all ages, from infants to college students. While pursuing her graduate degree in Educational Psychology with a focus on Bilingual Education from West Virginia University, she worked and taught for the McNair Scholars Program, which addresses the lack of representation of disadvantaged groups in higher education. Anagloria brings to REAL her passion for diversity and inclusion.