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GRACE Grand Opening Features Reston Artists

Artists with Reston roots provided art for GRACE's inaugural exhibit in its new space at Reston Town Center.

Much of Adam Grossi’s inspiration for his art can be traced back to Reston, where he spent 16 of the first 18 years of his life growing up.

"A lot of my art had a lot to do with the ideas that Robert Simon [Reston’s founder] had when he was designing Reston," said Grossi, 24. "Particularly, the idea of what makes a utopian space."

Last Friday night, Grossi was one of 13 Reston-affiliated artists welcomed by a packed house at the Greater Reston Arts Center’s grand opening for its new facility located at the Reston Town Center. The event doubled as the new facility’s inaugural exhibition called "Imprint: The Artists from a New Town," featuring artists who grew up or spent several formative years in Reston.

"It seems very fitting to show my work here," said Grossi, reflecting on the idea of presenting his art where he grew up.

"As you can tell from the size of this crowd, people are very excited about [seeing the work of these artists]," said Kate Hanley, interim president and CEO of GRACE.

"We have serious art coming out of this town," said Deborah McLeod, curator of the exhibit. "Look at the work, look at the resumes, look where everybody has gone on to."

"In reviewing every submission for the show, I witnessed work that offered its own distinct approach and style," McLeod said.

ONE OF THE FEATURED artists, Paco Rodriguez, who called the exhibit "eclectic," noticed this trend as well.

"I think the eclecticism reflects the Reston experience because, at least for me, Reston has always nurtured individual direction or fostered individual direction," said Rodriguez, who was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to South Africa in 2000.

Many of the artists attended schools in Reston. Rodriguez, and another artist, Yumi Janairo Roth, first met in the third grade at Terraset Elementary. They graduated together from South Lakes High School in 1988. "We’ve always kept in touch," said Rodriguez, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. "We took art courses together in high school."

Grossi, who started in art by drawing caricatures of his baseball card collection, attended Terraset and Langston Hughes Middle School. Now residing in Pittsburgh, Pa., Grossi supports his art-making doing freelance web and print design, illustration and videography.

"Once I got to art school, some teachers opened up the idea of pursuing my ideas fully and not constraining myself to a commercial medium," said Grossi.

"Both of my parents still live here," said Isabel Farmsworth-Mercer, who has two sculptures in the exhibit. "And it’s a real treat to see Reston is supporting the arts," said Farmsworth-Mercer, a 1985 South Lakes graduate who now lives in Kent, Ohio.

Marco Rando, another featured artist at the exhibit, won his first art contest while in the sixth grade. "It was a GRACE event," said Rando, who lives on Lake Anne with his wife and two kids. "We did a poster of women’s liberation. My friend and I drew a picture of a woman on a bulldozer and we won the prize," said Rando, who has since exhibited his art in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Recalling other Reston influences, Roth explained how some aspects of growing up in Reston are revealed in her art. "When you grow up in a town like this, where space is clearly delineated and demarked, you play around with it," she said. One of her pieces at the exhibit, "Piñata (Cone)" looks like a piñata version of the orange work-area cones on highways.

"They often invite you to do the very thing you’re not supposed to do," Roth said of her artwork, which, in this case, encourages people to smash into the cone because it’s a piñata.

Several artists took time to remember teachers in Reston who were influential. Ray Wilkins and Bernadette Monroe, art teachers at South Lakes, were mentioned by several of the artists as important influences.

"I remember [South Lakes] introduced a seventh period, so we could take an extra art class," said Roth.

During the event, Rodriguez bumped into one of his teachers from Dogwood Elementary. "I will say this, [Rodriguez] had a sparkle in his eye since the first day I met him, and the art and the work that he does now is what was always in him — that sparkle," said John Frye, who was Rodriguez’s first grade teacher at Dogwood.

Other featured artists at the exhibit included Rebecca Baron, Maggie Booth, Will Hargett, Jr., Elizabeth Kendall, Michael Mendez, Pete Petrine, Monica Stroik, and James Yamada. Their work will be on exhibit at the new GRACE gallery through August 20.