A movement is afoot in Great Falls to promote the artists living and working quietly in the community. Last year a group of nearly 30 artists came together to begin highlighting the artistic work and achievements of what had been an underground artist population. They have participated in several local events but are hoping that this weekend's Artful Day in Great Falls studio tour will catapult them into the mainstream.
The Great Falls Studio Artists Tour is being held on Saturday, June 5, in conjunction with Jinny Beyer’s annual Quilt Garden tour. Beyer is a quilt artist and a member of the group. Tickets for the tours are $25 and include both the garden and studio tours and lunch.
The eight studios participating in the open tour include artists working in such diverse mediums as pottery, painting, glass, basketry and jewelry design. All artists in the group must live and work in Great Falls.
Nancy Nichols, a potter, organized the group last year after feeling that a void existed in the community consciousness regarding the talent in Great Falls and the caliber of artists working there. “The first thing we did as an organization last year was to go on a studio tour of just us. The really interesting thing is that you see the art through their eyes,” said Nichols.
“I felt like we were losing the sense of community in Great Falls. I decided to look around and see if there was a group of people to work with. What really surprised me was how eagerly people embraced the idea,” said Nichols, a third-generation Great Falls resident.
Painter Marcia Fouguet, the president of the Great Falls Art Center, said, “Unlike some other communities throughout Fairfax County, the artists here have not been well-supported through the business community. We have to do a better job of encouraging the businesses to support the artists here.”
Enrolling the whole community in the local developing artist coalition is Nichols’ goal. “With the global situation what it is, it might be good for everyone’s psyche to enjoy something local for a change, to enjoy the simple things in their neighborhood,” said Nichols.
At each of the studios, the various works of art on display will be offered for sale. “I would hope people come on the tour for the sake of seeing the artists and their studios and don’t feel pressured to buy. Artists get feedback from people being there and visiting. People don’t have to buy. We don’t see it as a sales opportunity as much as a chance to show people we are here,” said Nichols.
Collectively, the artists on the tour have agreed to donate 15 percent of their sales to the building fund for the Great Falls Volunteer Fire Department.
The artists on the tour are hoping the event marks the beginning of recognition within the community that the arts are alive and well in Great Falls. “This could set an interesting precedent for future tours and artists in Great Falls,” said Fouguet.
“This is an opportunity for people to come see what I do, but more importantly to get to see how I do it. They can stay as long as they want and ask questions. There might be artists who want to see their colleagues working, and there might be newcomers who want to come out and see what’s here in Great Falls,” said Nichols.
According to Linda Marcinowski at Jinny Beyer’s studio, which hosts the garden tour, “We get about 50 to 70 people per tour. There’s a morning and afternoon tour.” The garden tour and the studio tour are being run differently, said Marcinowski. “For the garden tour we are organizing car pools from here. That’s so we can stagger the people.” Parking for the garden tour is located at the Jinny Beyer
Studio, 776 Walker Road, in the Great Falls Village Center. Carpooling will be arranged for that location.
Proceeds from the garden tour benefit the Virginia Quilt Museum.
The studio tour, said Nichols, “is totally self-guided. Come see one, stay as long as you want, then go on to the next one. Refreshments will be provided at the studios. If it’s a nice day, we might just sit outside.”
Tickets and maps are available through the Jinny Beyer Studio, 703-759-0250, and additional information is available at the Old Brogue Irish Pub, which is providing lunch for the event, at the Great Falls Village Center.