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Local Artists Seek Shoppers

Great Falls Studios prepares for its second annual Holiday Art Show and Sale

Cindy Grisdela has been making quilts for 20 years. She has made them for friends and family, used them as gifts, and as decor for her home. This year, she decided it was time to extend her services outside of her inner circle.

"I know I need to branch out - I've got everything in my house padded," joked Grisdela, who estimates that she has made approximately 100 quilts in her lifetime.

A resident of Great Falls, she recently found the perfect opportunity to make her quilts available to the outside world. While attending the Jill Banks art exhibition at the Great Falls Library she discovered Great Falls Studio - a consortium of local artists. She promptly joined the group and is now preparing to participate in its second annual Holiday Art Show and Sale at the Great Falls Library. The event, held Dec. 2-4, will feature award-winning art, including original paintings, photography, pottery, jewelry, quilts, sculptures, collages and many other arts and crafts items. Ten percent of the proceeds will go toward the Friends of the Great Falls Library.

"It's a real community effort, and it increases community energy," said Nancy Palmer, a local jewelry-maker.

Palmer says that seeing her jewelry on people is "one of the best feelings."

"A lot of people try to get me to raise my prices because they say it's worth more, but that doesn't matter to me in a way because I'm more interested in getting my work out there," said Palmer. "Seeing your work in other people's homes, or on other people, is just so gratifying."

Great Falls Studios was originally founded in May 2003 by local potter Laura Nichols. Since then, its membership has grown to include 35 local artists. In April of this year Nichols' friend Doris Leadbetter, a broker with Doris Leadbetter & Associates Re/Max Gateway in Great Falls, asked Nichols if the artists of Great Falls Studios would be interested in helping her to decorate her new office.

"Laura said 'yes, when do we start - tomorrow?'" said Walt Lawrence, a local photographer and member of Great Falls Studios.

Leadbetter has continued to help the consortium in a variety of ways. In addition to letting the artists use her Re/Max Gateway offices as a permanent gallery, she has also sent out postcard mailings promoting the various Great Falls Studios events.

"She has been a real bottom-line supporter," said Palmer.

Great Falls Studios has made donations to a number of local groups and events including the Taste of Great Falls and Great Falls Day.

"Over the last couple of years, we've donated about $4000 to a variety of Great Falls charities," said Lawrence.

THE ARTISTS ARE HOPEFUL that this year's Holiday Art Show and Sale will draw even more holiday shoppers, as it will be bigger than last year's and feature a wider selection of artist creations. Since the event will include everything from cards to large paintings, attendees will be able to find items in every price range.

Local potter Donnalee Holwerda participated in last year's show and sale, and says that in addition to promoting the work of local artists, it is also "fun for the artists to spend the day together." Holwerda will be selling platters and bowls, or what she refers to as "functional ware."

"I love nature, and clay is earth," said Holwerda. "I use a lot of leaves and other organic things as my inspiration."

Award-winning artist Jill Banks will also be a participant in this year's event. Her first solo show is currently on display at the Great Falls Library.

"Portrait painting I loved from the start, but more recently I've moved into still lifes... I like watching things spring to life on canvas," said Banks.

For her part, Cindy Grisdela is looking forward to making more quilts.

"I've been doing this for 20 years and the possibilities are still limitless, and that's what I like about it... I can continue to grow and there is always something new, and I think that is the greatest thing about art," she said.

THE GREAT FALLS STUDIOS second annual Holiday Art Show and Sale will be held at the Great Falls Library on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2, 3 and 4. The hours of operation are 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4. Great Falls Studios, a consortium of local artists, welcomes artists of all types and levels. For more information, please visit their website at www.greatfallsstudios.com, or call Walt Lawrence at 703-757-6762.