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Artfest Returns, Bigger and Artsier

Second MPA Artfest is this Sunday, rain or shine.

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Sandy Fennell, left, and Kitty Gonzalez of New Dominion Women’s Club, ready to lead the Children’s Art Tent at last year’s MPA Artfest.

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Gisele Nimic’s tent at last year’s Artfest.

With more artists and more attractions, the second MPA Artfest, put on by the McLean Project for the Arts, could draw a bigger crowd than the swarm of 3,500 that passed through last year’s festival, said Nancy Perry, the organization’s executive director.

The event is slated for this Sunday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at McLean Central Park. However, in the case of rain, the festival will be moved into the McLean Community Center. Admission is free.

Forty artists from the mid-Atlantic region will display and sell their work, up from 34 artists last year. Perry said about half the exhibitors would be from Northern Virginia, while most others will come from southern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. New this year will be a senior citizens’ exhibition to complement the returning children’s art walk, which will line the path from the library to the park with art by 14 of the area’s public and private elementary schools. All of the area’s major senior centers will be contributing to the seniors’ show. "There’s not a single segment [of the population] left out," Perry said.

Also new will be the ArtSmart tent, where speakers will teach adults about a number of art-related topics, such as collecting, framing and viewing art, as well as integrating it into the home, said Dabney Cortina, who handles public relations for the MPA. Like last year’s, she said, the festival will also include a tent where children make art, live music and food.

THE ARTISTS, Cortina said, were juried in from a pool of about 120 and include a variety of media, including, but not limited to oil painting, watercolor, collage, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, and a fiber artist. "There’s something for everybody, in terms of the type of art and the price," she said.

Musicians will include the McLean Youth Orchestra Chamber Ensemble, choirs from the Potomac School, Latin jazz by Afro Bop, rock from The Nighthawks, acoustic pop by local singer Chelsea Lee, Bob Perilla and Big Hillbilly Bluegrass, and Drum Daniel.

Morton’s Steakhouse, Lebanese Taverna, Greenberry’s Coffee and Tea Company, Entertaining the palate, Moorenko’s Ice Cream Café, the "old-fashioned kettle corn man" and Vinson Hall Retirement Community will be the food vendors, Cortina said, noting that Moorinko’s had created an ice cream flavor, Berry Artsy, just for Artfest. Vinson Hall will be selling children’s box lunches "so you don’t have to buy your five-year-old a crab cake sandwich," she said.

Perry said the event is being staged by the efforts of a range of McLean groups. For example, the McLean Rotary Club is sponsoring the children’s art tent, where the New Dominion Women’s Club will lead activities, while the McLean Citizens Foundation is sponsoring the children’s art walk exhibition. Local Boy Scouts will camp out in the park the night before the event to guard the setup and then will volunteer the next day. The Sierra Club is helping with recycling. Among the other groups helping out are the McLean Women’s Club and the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, and the event is funded by contributions from many local businesses and individuals.

CORTINA figured it was taking a total of about 200 volunteers to pull the event off.

"It’s been a neat, neat event to bring the whole community together," Perry said.

She said the festival would cost about $80,000 in total, a sum that the MPA hoped to cover in donations and sponsorships. Any revenue beyond what was spent will go into the organization’s programs.

By the time the MPA staged last year’s Artfest, Perry said, "the idea of an arts festival had been in the works for several years." A number of local groups had been suggesting such an event. "It took several years of planning, but we were finally able to make the dream come true last year," she said, noting that almost a dozen committees still work on the festival year-round.

But, she said, the festival fulfills the MPA’s longstanding mission of educating the public and exhibiting the work of area artists. "We feel it benefits us by bringing the art into the public eye," Perry said.

Gisele Nimic, a McLean artist who participated in last year’s Artfest and will be reappearing this year, said the event benefits artists as well. "Sales were good. There was really good traffic. People were very nice and very enthusiastic," she said of last year’s event, adding that the festival had been "very well organized."

"I met other artists, which was great and which did lead to other shows," Nimic said. She said the experience also led her to get more involved in the MPA and apply for a solo show, which has not yet been planned.

Also, she said, it had worked to her advantage that there were few other ceramic artists at the event.

Because parking is limited at McLean Central Park and the adjacent McLean Community Center, the parking lot at Cardinal Bank, at the intersection of Beverly Road and Dolley Madison Boulevard, will be available, and free shuttles will run between the two locations regularly. Cortina said the MPA would prefer that festival-goers park there than on neighborhood streets.