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MPA Hosts Annual ArtFest

Nonprofit recognized by Arts Council, holds annual festival.

Visitors to the McLean Project for the Arts explore the Children’s’ Art Walk, made up of local students’ work at McLean Central Park Sunday, Oct. 14.

Visitors to the McLean Project for the Arts explore the Children’s’ Art Walk, made up of local students’ work at McLean Central Park Sunday, Oct. 14. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— The McLean Project for the Arts celebrated a banner weekend this weekend: they were recognized by the Arts Council of Fairfax County Friday, Oct. 12 and ended the weekend with their annual ArtFest Sunday in McLean Central Park.

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Members of the McLean Project for the arts accept the Arts Education Award from the Arts Council of Fairfax County Friday, Oct. 12.

The Fairfax Arts Council presented the MPA with the Arts Education Award at their awards luncheon, recognizing the nonprofit for their leadership in local arts education, including their ArtsReach program that sends dozens of professional artists to schools and brings students to art galleries.

Gerald Gordon, chair of the council, commended the McLean Project for the Arts for their "superlative arts education, opportunities, experiences and training for youth, students and emerging artists."

ONE SUCH EMERGING ARTIST who came to the MPA 12 years ago is Kathy Brady of McLean. Searching for a hobby as her children got older, she took a class, along with three other local women, to learn painting.

"I had never been involved with art in my life, but I learned to draw, to paint and what was needed to succeed as an artist," Brady said. "I took the classes with three other women, Cherry Baumbusch, Diane Blackwell and Carolina Correa, and 12 years later, all four of us are still doing it, and we host regular exhibits together and we still gather every Thursday at my house."

Brady was one of dozens of artists showing off their work at ArtFest on Sunday, as artists and art lovers converged on McLean Central Park to spend a fall day outdoors.

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From left, Kathy Brady, a former McLean Project for the Arts student, and her former teacher Julie Lansaw both painters, on display at the annual ArtFest Sunday, Oct. 14.

"This is my first time here at ArtFest displaying my work, and it really feels special," said Brady, who works primarily in abstracts. "It feels like I’ve come full circle."

Brady’s booth was right next to painter Julie Lansaw, who taught all four of them so many years ago."

"I think it’s great that they’re all still working together, and it serves as a great example for my current students, I take them to their shows," Lansaw said. "It’s good for my new students to see how the old students are doing."

ELSEWHERE during ArtFest, visitors could not only browse the works of artists, but work on creating their own. A station set on the park’s east side featured models posing and easels set up for would-be artists to start sketching.

"I hadn’t tried much art before except in a class, but it was nice to sit in the beautiful weather and work like a real artist would," said Samantha Parker, 12, of McLean. "It’s harder than it looks to draw someone, even when they’re standing perfectly still."

This is the 50th anniversary of the McLean Project for the Arts, which began as a collective of local artists, and has evolved into the far-reaching organization it is today.

They specifically target at-risk schools and conduct interactive tours of local galleries while connecting the curriculum to subjects like geometry, poetry, history science and math. Since the ArtsReach program began in 2003, 36 schools, including seventeen Title One at-risk schools, participated.

"We try to bring arts into the community, particularly targeting schools and we reach about 3,000 to 4,000 students per year," said Nancy Perry, executive director of the MPA. "For our first 25 years we were run by volunteers, we were a grassroots organization. But with the support of the local arts community, businesses, volunteers, elected officials, the County and much more, we’ve been able to do a lot more and we hope that continues for at least another 50 years."