The Artists Are Coming!

The 20th Annual Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival to feature the work of 220 of the nation’s best contemporary fine artists and craftsmen this weekend in Reston.

On May 21 & 22 Reston Town Center will host the 20th Annual Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival presented by the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE). The festival will feature the work of 220 contemporary artists representing a broad range of mediums in 18 categories including 2D & 3D mixed media, decorative fibers, oil and acrylic, printmaking and wearable art.

“It’s a plume in their hat,” says Linda Stanley, co-chair of the event, of the artists who are selected to participate in this juried show. Stanley, who has been involved in the festival for 15 years and who is now in her third year as co-chair, says more than 1,000 artists applied to participate in the event, which annually attracts as many as 50,000 people to Reston and has become one of the largest—and most prestigious—art festivals on the east coast. Artists are selected on the basis of quality, originality and craftsmanship by a panel of nationally recognized experts in the fields of fine art and craft including Melissa Post, curator at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, Carol Sauvion, the director of Freehand, a Los Angeles gallery specializing in functional craft, and David Willard, executive director of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Alexandria-based artist Ann Barbieri who works in acrylic and collage has been showing her work at the festival since it started with just 80 artists in 1991. “It’s so much fun, it’s like a big community party,” says Barbieri who typically brings 16-20 pieces of art with her each year. Barbieri explains that what distinguishes this festival from the others she attends is that festival organizers “are so respectful of the artists and their work.”

Says Stanley: “An artist once told me he’d been on the circuit a while, but that the bigger corporate-run festivals don’t take as much care of the artist. Because our festival is run by an arts organization, we’re extremely sensitive to their needs; we want them to enjoy the event.”

GRACE—founded in 1974—created the festival to support its community-based arts programs, which include Art in the Schools, an arts appreciation program serving over 22,000 kids in schools throughout the Northern Virginia area and a year-round program of visual art exhibitions and lectures. “We are dedicated to making this a wonderful experience for the artist and for the community,” says John Alciati, president and CEO of GRACE. “The whole community of Reston comes out to support this and to make it as good as it is,” explains Alciati who credits a cast of more than 300 volunteers, and 12 committees that work year-round with pulling off the event that earns nearly $30,000 for GRACE each year.

Arlington-based photographer Andrew Zimmermann will be showing his work at the festival for the first time this year. Why show at this festival? Says Zimmermann: “Every local artist I talk to seems to regard the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival as the best festival in this region. I figure it can’t hurt to go with the best!” Zimmermann will be showing work from different periods of his career including from his series “Colorado Summer” and “Colorado Winter.”

The festival this year also includes what Stanley describes as “an amazing entertainment schedule.” In addition to the Children’s Art Tent where kids get to enjoy hands-on art activities—a favorite, says Barbieri, of her own grandchildren—the festival will present performances by six regional performance art and dance companies. UpRooted Dance will present a work titled World Tree that will incorporate a traditional Maypole into their performance. Other performers include Bowen McCauley Dance and the Jane Franklin Dance Company.

Live music is also in the performance line-up and will include blues duo The McTell Brothers and folk singer Dulcie Taylor.

The free event takes place rain or shine. “We pray it won’t rain,” says Alciati, “and that usually works.” But, he adds: “Our biggest worrier is assigned to do rain dances!” Just in case.

For a complete listing of festival activities go to NorthernVirginiaArtsFestival.org

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