Since its founding in 1986, the Fairfax Art League has provided local artists and art enthusiasts with the opportunity for fellowship.
The Fairfax Art League began with a group of six people who saw that there was no place for local artists to display their art. They began exhibiting their work in the John C. Wood complex, which no longer exists. Membership quickly outgrew the space of the complex. With the support of the City of Fairfax, Old Town Hall was offered as a gallery for the art league.
When the location of the art league was being moved to Old Town Hall, Trudi Arnold, the league’s current co-president, was on the art faculty at Fairfax High School.
"Founding member Kathleen Higgins contacted me and offered that the students of Fairfax High School begin exhibiting at the John C. Wood Center," said Arnold.
Throughout all these years, the Fairfax Art League sponsors the exhibits of the Fairfax High School art students.
The current members agree that Higgins was instrumental in molding the league as a community education for the arts.
"She was the real spirit of the league," said Arnold. Higgins’ original vision of the art league as a "community education for the arts" is still maintained today.
League membership is open to the entire community and artists of all levels of experience are welcome.
"Everyone is supportive and encouraging," said Mark Isaacs, the publicity chair. "None of our shows are juried. We can show everyone’s art," said Arnold.
As a non-profit organization, the Fairfax Art League relies on the help of members and volunteers displaying artwork for shows, and setting up for receptions. "Volunteers also assist with providing refreshments for certain events," said league chairman Carol Caputo. "We always need people to sit in the Old Town Hall gallery and when we have our downtown shows."
The membership fee is $30 a year and runs from July through June. "It’s a nominal charge because we’re in such good partnership with the city and local merchants," said Isaacs.
THOUGH MEMBERS are not required to submit artwork, they must be over 18 to display their art. However, members of all ages in the community are encouraged to attend the special events, workshops and monthly meetings to see and talk about art.
Membership meetings are the first Saturday of every month, from September to June.
The Fairfax Art League also sponsors workshops four times during various months of the year. Locally renowned artists are invited to these workshops to give demonstrations for the members.
Both the meetings and the workshops take place at the Green Acres Center, 4401 Sideburn Road, Fairfax.
The gallery hangs new artwork on the first Thursday of the month. One Monday a month, immediately following the first Thursday, the league sponsors a reception at the Old Town Hall. A different member’s artwork is featured each month, and the public is invited to attend.
All the artwork shown in the galleries is original art. All pieces must be framed or gallery wrapped for hanging on display panels. Artists can display up to two pieces for a dollar charge.
Traditionally, the Fairfax Art League also displays at City Hall, which recently underwent a renovation.
More recently, the Fairfax Art League has started using an unleased space in the new development area Old Town Village Fairfax as a weekend art gallery. "We’ve done that twice and will do so for the first weekend of the month as long as the space is available," said Caputo.
Though most of the artwork is for sale, an artist may choose to display their artwork but not sell it.
The Fairfax Art League also partnered with George Mason for the University’s very first Festival of the Arts. "We were able to exhibit in a lobby at George Mason’s Center for the Arts. We also had six artists who did paintings that were inspired by one of the plays showcased at the festival," said Caputo.
As part of the festival, there was a Community Arts Weekend. "We had a tent there and had artists painting in them. Children were also able to do some of their artwork and display them," she continued. The league hopes to participate in the festival again next year.
THE LEAGUE'S biggest event of the year is the annual Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts celebrating various kinds of visual art, music, dance, theatre, and culture in the City of Fairfax. This event is sponsored by the City of Fairfax in cooperation with George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College.
Last year, the Fairfax Art League had 140 members. The league continues to draw a wide variety of people with unique backgrounds.
Wendy Wander is a stay-at-home mom who used to work as a buyer for Price Club. "Now that my boys are older, I have more time to devote to art," she said.
Wander works mainly with oils and pastels, and found out about the arts league through a friend. "I was already living in the area. I thought about joining and finally did two years ago. Attending monthly meetings and seeing the demonstrations on the first Saturday of every month keeps me motivated," she said.
Isaacs, a professional landscape architect, sought out a local arts league through the Internet. "When you’re home and you’re painting, it’s boring. You want to hear what other people think of your work and be inspired by what other people are doing," said Isaacs.
"We really encourage the amateur artist. It’s so wonderful to see artists who were never trained. They don’t need to feel that their work is not good enough to show," said Arnold.
"New artists inspire artists with more experience with the freshness of their artwork." said Isaacs. "The reality is that there is a bit of artist in all of us — whether we’ve ever expressed it or just enjoyed looking at it. One of the things we hope to do is foster an environment of learning and optimism for everybody in the community."