Fall at the Workhouse Arts Center means the open houses and art walks that are part of the center’s normal schedule, but this year it also means a time to explore the cultures of Central and Southern America and Eastern Asia.
From Oct. 13 through Nov. 21, the Workhouse Gallery will showcase a style of brush painting developed in China and popular through Japan and Korea known as Sumi-e. Members of the Sumi-E Society of America, Inc., from across the country will be exhibiting their paintings and calligraphy, said Marti Kirkpatrick, an exhibition coordinator at the Workhouse.
“Sumi-e is considered Japanese although it is very similar to Chinese brush painting,” she explained. “Sumi-e Society member artists use a variety of styles, from representational to abstract and from purely oriental to a combination of Western and East Asian.”
Nearly all Asian brush painters use the same kind of tools, she said, including brush, ink, ink stone and paper, and their techniques are also very similar.
“The ink is not ink at all, but consists of a formula of soot and glue made into a stick by a special process,” Kirkpatrick said. “This in turn is rubbed in water on an ink stone and forms what is called black ink, or ‘sumi’ in Japanese.”
Color may be added later, and colors come from various ground materials like jade, white pearl, malachite and other pigments like rattan yellow and indigo.
“Sumi-e artists must learn to use ink freely with a controlled brush stroke, creating what appear at first as lovely paintings inspired by, without imitating or realistically copying, nature,” Kirkpatrick said. “On closer observation, the complexity and power of these ‘simple line’ paintings touches on all of one’s senses. It is almost possible to feel the wind, hear the crickets and taste the salt air.”
The exhibit will be sizeable, featuring 77 juried artists and six invited artists from the U.S. and one from Hong Kong.
Bringing the exhibit to the Workhouse made sense, Kirkpatrick said, because the arts center is “committed to offering the public a wide range of visual art exhibitions covering all the varied media and styles being explored by artists today.”
The opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16 from 5-7 p.m. on the second floor of the gallery in building 16. That weekend, local Ikebana artists will display 10 Ikebana arrangements inspired by certain works in the exhibit, Kirkpatrick said.
THE FOLLOWING weekend, Oct. 22-24, the Workhouse will shift focus and look to the countries of Central and South America with the Latin Expressions festival.
There will be four short films, two from Bolivia and one from Chile scheduled so far, shown Friday night, said Joey Wallen, coordinator for the event. “We’ll have a reception with food and drink from countries the films represent,” he said.
On Saturday, venders will sell food and beverage from Mexico, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Argentina and others. Bands and dancers from those countries will provide entertainment, Wallen said.
When the planning for this year’s event started, it was going to be a festival of Bolivian culture, Wallen said. However, the Workhouse soon decided to extend the invitation for performers to more countries, and “once we branched out and reach out to some cultural attaches, more and more countries were interested.”
Most of the events Saturday are free to the public for families to “come and enjoy,” he said. There will also be a fashion show, mostly featuring Bolivian costumes, which will also be on stage Saturday afternoon.
Sunday will feature more bands, this time from Guatemala, Bolivia, Columbia and El Salvador, more dancing and more food, Wallen said.
“We’ve done a couple events like this in the past, like a Bollywood-themed movie night last November and a Hawaiian themed night in June,” he said.
But that’s not the only thing Wallen has up his sleeve for the next few months.
On Saturday, Nov. 6, the Virginia Storytelling Alliance will once again have a full day of workshops for professional and amateur storytellers.
From 10 a.m.-4: 15 p.m., professional storytellers will lead a series of three workshops, leading novices through the art of telling tales both fiction and nonfiction, Wallen said. The workshops are $25 each and will walk participants through different aspects of storytelling, including stories in and from Spanish-language cultures; adding suspense into stories and the basics of telling stories in a crowd.
This is the second year VASA has chosen the Workhouse for their event, which will conclude with a storytelling concert in which professional storytellers will take the stage, followed by anyone brave enough to try out their own skills.
“Last year, a few people wanted to come up and try telling a story, so we put their names in a hat and pulled them out in order,” Wallen said. “Even though they had never told a story in front of people before, the professionals were telling them how great they did while offering a few pointers.”
Tickets for the concert Saturday night are $10 each, but if someone wanted to participate in the workshops and then stay for the concert, the Workhouse is offering an $80 ticket for the whole day, Wallen said, but that must be purchased by mail, over the phone, or in person at the Workhouse.
AT THE END of November, when the holiday shopping season starts, the Workhouse is offering a different kind of Black Friday outing.
“Instead of going to the crazy, crowded shopping centers, visitors to the Workhouse can enjoy live music, interact with our artists, attend tea tastings and other open houses, enter raffles and shop for gifts and all our studios,” said Workhouse spokeswoman Camela Speer.
Cookies and cider will be available for shoppers on Nov. 26, Speer said, which is the same day that Workhouse Works, the final gallery exhibit of the year, opens in Gallery W-16.
“All Workhouse artists are invited to submit smaller works of art, which could make a perfect holiday gift,” she said. “This event was so fun and popular last year, we are extending the hours this year.” The event will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.