The Riga School of Arts and Crafts:

A Trade as a Foundation for Life


Vocational schools were once rather scorned in Latvia, seen as educational outlets for pupils for whom high school and university education was an unrealistic option. In recent times, however, views about vocational schools have begun to change. The profession learned by a 20-year-old at a vocational school often provides a far more stable foundation for life than biding one’s time in a secondary school with the hope that a university degree might eventually guarantee a cushy office job.


The Riga School of Arts and Crafts is a very significant educational institution – one whose graduates have helped to decorate the interiors of seven embassies and 47 churches across Latvia. The most famous achievement of these young people has been to restore and manufacture interior elements for the church at Lestene, a structure known far and wide for having the most ornate collection of Baroque wood carvings in Latvia.


“Many of our graduates work abroad,” says Arvīds Verza, a stylised furniture master and expert who also chairs the Department of Wood and Metal Arts at the Riga School of Arts and Crafts. “They have opened up workshops and companies in the United States, Sweden, Great Britain and Norway. As true tradespeople, they are in much demand throughout the world.” Students at the school have produced ornate chairs and sofas, enormous picture frames, as well as various types of metalwork. Each and every room and corridor at the high school is a testament to the serious work being taught there. “It’s something of an obsession,” admits Arvīds. “The lights are on until late in the evening here, because a trade cannot be learned by spending a few days at school and hearing someone talk about it. Students must try their hand at the trade and learn how to live with it.”


The Riga School of Arts and Crafts currently has about 800 students, and each year it graduates some 200 young masters in wood processing, metal processing, design and textile arts, among other professions. Several former students now teach at the school themselves.