The garage of abstract painter Jo Fleming becomes a makeshift exhibition hall during a past Studio Tour. Studio Tour, a self-driving event to meet artists in their home environments, is the signature event of Great Falls Studios, and involves thousands of visitors over a weekend each fall. This year’s tour is October 14 to 16.
Photo by Al Reitan
A former engineer on nuclear submarines is now working in Great Falls as a silversmith. A former editor of an international conservation magazine is building sculptures here. And a former CIA analyst is photographing national monuments against the night skies.
Those are among 116 artists, working in a variety of mediums, who call Great Falls home and are members of a local arts organization called Great Falls Studios GFS. This group has worked for 13 years to transform Great Falls into a cultural center for the visual arts and to help local artists succeed. It is open to any artist who lives or works in Great Falls, and it welcomes new members of the community to join its ranks.
“We have been striving to give our town a heart and a soul by nurturing the creativity of its talented residents,” says Linda Jones, president of GFS. “We do this through a variety of art sales, exhibitions partnering with local businesses, and other events. And we provide services to our members and area residents through a website with an ever-changing virtual exhibition, and through our signature event, an annual Studio Tour.”
The Studio Tour, now in its thirteenth season, has grown to become one of Northern Virginia’s most significant arts events. It is a driving tour through Great Falls to visit artists, many in their home studios. This year’s tour is for three days, Oct.14 to 16, and 57 artists in the group will be taking part. It celebrates local creativity and, in particular the diversity of Great Falls residents.
“Our artists’ community is like a mini-United Nations,” says Jones, a naturalized American citizen who was born in England. “Artist members or former members have hailed from Mexico to Argentina, Scotland to Spain, India to Sri Lanka, Iran to Israel, China to Korea—and beyond. We all learn from each other and get better at our art as a result.”
Painters in the group may specialize in portraiture or landscape, abstract works or art that tells a story. They may use watercolors, acrylics or oils, or a mixture of mediums. They are joined by quilters, woodworkers, photographers, jewelry designers, potters, sculptors, pastel artists, a weaver, and a printmaker, among others. Many are accomplished professionals, trained in top art schools, who have exhibited in major art shows around the country. And several have retired from other careers to embrace pastimes that they love. Others are beginners who have an art gene hidden in their beings.
The group bills itself as a “consortium of artists,” but it is also involved in community service, social activities, programs to build artists’ professionalism, support of art in the schools, and other programs to promote the arts. It is proud of producing a large and diverse body of artwork “Made in Great Falls,” Jones says.
To find out how to join the group, you can visit its website: www.GreatFallsStudios.com. While there, you can look up sample artwork by many of its members or visit the virtual gallery, which changes monthly. Additional information about the upcoming Studio Tour will also be posted on the site.