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Leslie Holt’s work “Perfect Night” will be on display at Tephra’s satellite gallery in Reston through June (courtesy Tephra ICA)

The Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art is launching an art exhibition featuring D.C.-based artists this week in its satellite gallery.

Restorative Gestures” will bring new work by artists Leslie Holt and Rose Jaffe to the Signature apartments in Reston Town Center from Friday, Feb. 16 through June 23.

According to Tephra ICA, Holt is an artist and educator with teaching experience at the college level for more than 15 years. She is also co-director of Red Dirt Studio, a warehouse studio for independent creative professionals in Mt. Rainier, Maryland.

Her previous work includes “Neuro Blooms,” a project that attempts to use mixed-media art to shed light on mental health conditions. The project has visited organizations and schools in Maryland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

A visual artist, Jaffe’s preferred media include mural painting, printmaking and digital illustration. She previously taught middle and high school art — a career path she dropped after pursuing art full-time.

She has painted more than 30 murals nationally and internationally, including 20 in the District. Her work often explores themes related to “political activism, natural healing, and spiritual grounding” to push for social change, Tephra ICA said in a press release.

Here’s more from Tephra on the work:

Holt’s Brain Stains, draped in the language of clinical technology, use emotionally resonant color palettes, PET scan imagery, and hand stitched text, to create expansive views of mental health conditions. A number of Holt’s works in the exhibition also draw from her personal involvement as a caregiver to her ailing parents at the end of their lives.

In a series of recent monoprints, Rose Jaffe explores her own journey of healing and thriving with stylized figures that fill the page with comfort and ease. The sensuous curves of the bodies along with growing plants and her vibrant use of color–including deep purples, bright greens, and radiant oranges–give these works a sense of jubilance and peace.

Together, the work from the two artists forms a restorative gesture that challenges common narratives of illness and recovery. This exhibition aims to inspire viewers to cultivate compassion for their own interior lives and the varied experiences of others.

The satellite gallery is open from Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located inside the Signature apartments at 11850 Freedom Drive, where Tephra will host an opening reception and artist talk for “Restorative Gestures” on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.

Cars head south on Richmond Highway (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Public art and social spaces will be key to transforming southern Richmond Highway into a community, a panel of local land use experts says.

Last week, the consulting nonprofit Urban Land Institute (ULI) presented recommendations at the Hybla Valley Community Center for how to foster economic growth in the corridor, while preserving its cultural identity through “placemaking.”

Placemaking highlights the unique aspects of a community, including its people and history, which encourages activity and “helps to make the space vibrant,” Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) Executive Director Evan Kaufman told FFXnow in an interview.

“Obviously, you can go to any corporate strip mall across the country, and you’re not really going to find a sense of place,” Kaufman said. “You’ll probably find an Applebee’s, Wendy’s, and Home Depot, which are great. Those provide services, but they’re not really telling a story of the community.”

After spending two days studying four miles of the corridor from Jeff Todd Way to Lockheed Blvd, the assembled panelists proposed creating community spaces for socializing — like parks and event venues — and enhancing the area with public art and more greenery.

The full findings will be detailed in a report that’s expected in the next six to eight weeks, according to the SFDC, which worked with the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development to finance the study.

ULI will also conduct follow-up surveys to track the implementation of the panel’s recommendations.

Designated as a focus area for commercial revitalization since 1986, the Richmond Highway corridor has seen those efforts intensify in recent years, as the county and Virginia Department of Transportation prepare to widen the road and add bus rapid transit service.

With some community members fearing negative impacts from the road widening project in particular on traffic, pedestrian safety and local businesses, the ULI study aims to identify strategies that can stimulate economic growth and improve the area’s quality of life.

In the short term, the consultant’s panelists recommended establishing a visitors center and using signage to guide visitors and residents to businesses affected by construction. Panelists also proposed using landscaping, pop-up activities and murals to beautify shopping plazas and make commercial areas more inviting. Read More

Mason District Supervisor Andres Jimenez (courtesy of Andres Jimenez)

For the first time this century, Fairfax County’s Mason District has a new supervisor.

In his first week since succeeding Penny Gross, who retired in December after 27 years in the position, Andres Jimenez says he has been actively engaging with constituents to tackle issues ranging from transportation to art projects and economic development.

An immigrant from Bogota, Colombia, who has now lived in the Falls Church area for 12 years, Jimenez is the first Latino to represent Mason District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He also works as the executive director of the pay equity campaign Green 2.0 and previously served as an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

Winning a decisive victory last November over independent candidate Terry Modglin with 72% of the vote, Jimenez says that, since taking office on Jan. 1, he has been setting up his various social media channels, launching a new podcast and organizing several public forums across the district.

“I think that smart government is when residents don’t just come to you, it’s when the government — when the supervisor’s office — is going into the community and reaching out to residents…and asking them what is working, what’s not working, because only then can you really begin to make change,” he told FFXnow.

The dates for the public town hall and open house events have not been announced yet. However, Jimenez anticipates key areas will include transportation, housing and economic development.

“We do plan to go out into the communities [and] listen to the residents and make sure that we are prioritizing the needs of Mason District,” he said.

Pedestrian and traffic safety

Top on Jimenez’s agenda is addressing pedestrian and traffic safety concerns in neighborhoods like Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners.

Last year, the community advocacy group Fairfax Families for Safe Streets published a report showing that pedestrian fatalities increased in 2022 as a result of “underfunding for pedestrian-focused projects.”

“Unfortunately, there have been a lot of fatalities when it comes to the pedestrians,” Jimenez said. “…We need to really start working on figuring out not only why is this happening, but how can we solve this problem.”

In 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved $100 million for county-wide pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements that will be allocated to different projects through 2028. About $30.2 million has been allocated to date, according to the county website.

At the moment, the county is reviewing 69 proposed safety projects proposed for Mason District. Each of the projects originated from resident suggestions through a county-led online survey.

Jimenez emphasized his objective is to ensure that money is promptly allocated to projects in Mason District, adding that the money is “desperately needed.”

Jimenez identified a few intersections — such as Leesburg Pike (Route 7) at both Row Street and Columbia Pike — as high priority, focusing more on signal upgrades and other spot improvements than more comprehensive, long-term solutions.

In the coming months, Jimenez noted that he plans to consult with local stakeholder groups, such as the Bailey’s Crossroads 7 Corners Revitalization Corporation, to help identify projects that need immediate attention.

“We’ve already identified several initiatives — obviously Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale — that need help,” he said. “They need signage and they need timers and they need different ways to make sure that pedestrians are safe.”

Read More


A new art initiative is bringing light to Old Town Fairfax, just as winter and the darkest days of the year arrive.

Illuminate Fairfax officially launched last Friday (Dec. 15), but the last and biggest artwork was installed just yesterday (Wednesday), according to Fairfax City Economic Development (FCED).

The economic development office developed the project in conjunction with Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts, the city’s Office of Historic Resources and Department of Parks and Recreation and the Virginia Tourism Agency.

“Our goal is to establish compelling spaces where people can enjoy quality time with their families, indulge in shopping and dining, and socialize with friends,” FCED Director and CEO Christopher Bruno said. “The concept of Illuminate emerged from the vision that Fairfax City can evolve into a beautiful and enjoyable destination — a vibrant community for living, working, and visiting. We want to literally shine a light on that potential.”

The four displays have been placed around the city’s historic downtown to encourage people to walk around and visit key destinations, including Old Town Plaza (3950 University Drive, Suite 211), Old Town Square (3936 Blenheim Blvd), the Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House (10386 Main Street) and the recently opened Commonwealth Brewing Company (10426 Main Street).

Two of the artworks — titled “Joi De Vie” and “Pin Toy Meditation Wall” — come from Fairfax County-based metal artist and sculptor JP Muller, whose work also appeared at Tysons Corner Center in the spring.

Also featured are North Carolina new media artist Robin Vuchnich’s “Swell No. 1,” which combines a light projection and audio recordings to evoke “the forces of nature,” and David Kaufman’s “Fireflies and Heartbeats,” which uses about 1,000 small LED lights to simulate fireflies.

Based in Bethesda, Maryland, Kaufman founded the graphic design app Polygonia Design. Full artist statements and descriptions of the artwork can be found on the Illuminate Fairfax webpage.

The installations will remain in place through much of the winter, with the project ending on Feb. 10.

Public Art Reston selected the artwork “One, Two, Tree” as next year’s installation for Lake Thoreau (courtesy Public Art Reston)

Next year, the Lake Thoreau spillway will feature a nature-inspired public artwork created by South Lakes High School’s STEAM team.

The 10-foot tall installation was designed to embrace Reston’s natural environment with a “modern twist,” according to Public Art Reston. Viewers will see a forest from one perspective and a single tree from the other. Students plan to illuminate flowers fastened to the tree’s branches.

The design was selected by Public Art Reston’s selection committee, which narrowed down submissions to three concepts.

In order to fund the project, the STEAM team is selling calendars that feature nature photography by Reston resident Mary Prochnow. Calendars can be purchased online or in-person at the Reston Museum.

The art club has been creating artwork on the lake spillway since 2014. It is led by South Lakes art teacher and working artist Marco Rando. Projects are supported by Public Art Reston and Reston Association.

This year’s artwork — titled “Rise” — was inspired by Reston’s rapid development.

Sculptor Kendall Buster is bringing the exhibitions “Seed” and “Solstice” to the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston (courtesy Tephra ICA)

A solo exhibition by sculptor and microbiologist Kendall Buster will descend on Reston’s Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art on Dec. 9.

The exhibit, SEED, is presented in conjunction with Buster’s SOLSTICE, which will be on view at The Kreeger Museum in D.C. An opening reception and artist talk will be held at Tephra ICA (12001 Market Street, Suite 103) on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 6-8 p.m.

The exhibits will be on display through Feb. 25.

Both exhibits were curated by Tephra ICA Executive Director Jaynelle Hazard and belong to a series of three shows organized to mark the 50th anniversary of Tephra, a nonprofit previously known as the Greater Reston Arts Center.

In a press release, Tephra says the exhibits are fitting anniversary tributes because they emphasize “the significance of place while examining themes of life, future, and innovation.”

“We’re so pleased for this first-time partnership with The Kreeger Museum, through their guest artist program The Collaborative, to uplift and celebrate the work of D.C. art star Kendall Buster,” Hazard said in a statement. “Tephra ICA deeply values partnership and collaboration to help thoughtfully contextualize an artist’s work in the canon and it’s wonderful to work with institution that shares these values.”

Here’s more from Tephra on Buster’s work:

Trained as a microbiologist, Kendall Buster’s work suggests ideas of budding, merging, and hybridization, using abstract forms and high-tech materials to create objects that expand what we know of natural and made environments. Her practice examines the microscopic and the monumental, from works that allude to intimate, botanical illustrations to architectural drawings to life-size biomorphic vessels. With the gallery often assuming the role of a laboratory, Buster’s work interrogates the edges of free expression and posits new ways of thinking about what can and cannot be expressed.

SEED features a large-scale sculpture called “Radial Spin.” The exhibit — which was last on display in 1997 in Berlin, Germany — has accessible spaces and envelopes the viewer, intending to challenge viewers’ sense of perception.

SOLSTICE features “Model City (Constraint),” which uses “geometric abstraction” and modernist architecture to suggest an “unpopulated cityscape that seems filled with talking shadows.”

Buster received a bachelor’s degree from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in D.C. and a master’s in sculpture from Yale University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at American University’s Katzen Museum and the Kemper Museum in Kansas City.

The exhibit “Choosing to Portage” is currently on display at Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston (photo by Vivian Doering)

More changes may be on the horizon for Reston’s Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, following a brand and name change in recent years.

The institute — which was founded in 1974 as the Greater Reston Arts Center by local artists and residents — is actively fundraising for a new home in Reston as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

“Armed with a clear vision of the type of space we will need to house Tephra ICA for the next 50 years, the funds we raise today will help us begin the design and procurement process when the site for that new home is identified,” Sofia Blom, Tephra’s senior manager of gallery and communications, told FFXnow by email.

The institute has launched a “Tephra ICA at 50” capital campaign to raise $300,000.

According to Blom, Tephra hasn’t determined what it will do with the current space in Reston Town Center once it moves to a new location. The existing facility at 12001 Market Street, Suite 103, is owned by the gallery and was secured 20 years ago through a condition, or proffer, from town center developer Boston Properties.

The current facility requires improvements like exterior signage to prominently identify the space, along with enhanced visibility, accessibility accommodations, and information technology and audio visual upgrades to accommodate digital, film and media artwork, according to Tephra.

“We have been creative in pushing our current facility beyond its limits to present the ambitious exhibitions and programs we have hosted the past several years,” Blom wrote. “But to reach remaining unfulfilled goals, we eventually will need a new and expanded facility that offers capacity/capability we cannot secure in our current space.”

In the long term, Tephra hopes to secure accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, a national organization that provides resources and serves as an advocacy group for museums and their workers.

To achieve that milestone, Tephra ICA will need to get a centralized, 24-hour temperature and humidity control system, UV-filtered window systems and an automated light level system that Blom says are not possible in the current space.

The timeline of the project depends on the outcome of the fundraising campaign. Discussions are underway with developers on securing a possible new space.

“We are currently planting seeds and preparing for the future but we are several years away from moving into a new facility,” Blom said.

MPA Inspires will take place in the McLean Project for the Arts’ planned new space in The Signet (via Google Maps)

The McLean Project for the Arts is going downtown, at least for a weekend, though it hopes to stay longer.

The nonprofit will launch an inaugural “MPA Inspires” celebration of art and jazz on Nov. 18-19 that will also serve as its introduction to a new space at The Signet (6910 Fleetwood Road), a seven-story condominium building with some ground-floor retail space.

Known for now as “MPA Downtown,” the facility is envisioned as a supplement to MPA’s main galleries and offices in the McLean Community Center at 1234 Ingleside Avenue, according to MPA communications director Deb Bissen.

“MPA has been looking for a way to have additional space to provide more arts education opportunities for our community as well as an expanded exhibition and events space,” Bissen told FFXnow.

While the organization isn’t ready to discuss details yet, Bissen confirmed it’s pursuing a space in downtown McLean in place of the arts center that the Fairfax County Park Authority board approved last year last year as an option for future development at Clemyjontri Park.

That proposal — the crux of a revised master plan for the 6317 Georgetown Pike park best known for its disability-inclusive playground — “has now been set aside,” she said.

In addition to being more accessible than Clemyjontri for pedestrians in McLean’s redeveloping downtown, The Signet has a courtyard and Elm Street Park across the street that could support outdoor exhibitions and events, according to Bissen.

“We’re excited about the potential of this idea, and hoping our community of supporters will embrace it as well during this weekend of celebrating MPA’s artistic legacy and our exciting plans to expand our presence within the vibrant D.C. arts community,” she said.

MPA Inspires will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18 with an Art Insights panel and reception featuring art collectors Michael Abrams and Sandra Stewart, art advocate Nancy Hirshbein, and University of Maryland University College Arts Program Director Eric Key.

Following the panel, attendees can get a gallery tour and meet the artists showcased in a new alumni exhibition that will be open for viewing from 2-4 p.m. this Thursday (Nov. 9), Sunday (Nov. 12), Nov. 14 and Nov. 17.

Sunday, Nov. 19 will bring an Art + Soul Jazz Brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to raise funds for MPA’s new space. It will feature live music by saxophonist Langston Hughes II, bass player Chris Hon and guitarist Jan Knutson, along with a Collectors’ Drawing for the more than 60 works donated to the alumni exhibition.

While the panel event is free, the brunch will cost $150 per person, and the 60 tickets available for the drawing are an additional $600, covering the purchase of the artwork. Sponsorships are also being offered, starting at $1,000 for four brunch tickets.

Proceeds will go to “the development of a new MPA Art and Education Center,” the event website says.

“We are thrilled this weekend will bring such a group of dynamic artists, each esteemed alumni of MPA’s exhibition program, together with our warm and engaged community of supporters,” MPA Executive Director Lori Carbonneau said. “…This moment stands as one of the most remarkable milestones in MPA’s 61-year history, and a celebration of our continued leadership in McLean and the wider regional arts scene.”

Image via Google Maps

Eleanor Mahin Thorp’s “Remnants of a Blue Ridge Basement” painting, set to appear in the new exhibit “Metopic Ridge” (courtesy Tephra ICA)

(Updated at 1:45 p.m. on 11/3/2023) The Blue Ridge mountains are the focus of the latest exhibit at the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston.

The exhibit “Metopic Ridge” by Eleanor Mahin Thorp, an artist and educator, features paintings of the mountains that explore stability and change.

An opening reception and artist talk is slated for Friday (Nov. 3) from 6-8 p.m. at Tephra ICA at Signature (11850 Freedom Drive). The exhibit ends on Feb. 4.

Here’s more from Tephra on the scope of the exhibit:

Through her discerning gaze rocks are more than geological entities; Instead, they metamorphose into vessels of history and human connection. Drawing inspiration from the fascinating transformations depicted in Persian miniatures, Thorp traces the hidden figures and forms in the rocks. Her paintings reveal the duality of rocks’ existence as both a firm witness to time and a medium for that which is intangible.

Thorp, who works in Richmond, approaches her work through the lense of Persian animism and constructs images of stone faces by searching for figures in rock. She received master’s degree in fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and is a 2023-2025 visual arts fellow with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

“It is often said that the world is built by the way you see things around you. Thorp’s painting asks us to contemplate the layers of reality that exist beyond the surface – the palpable, the invisible, and the divine,” said Sandy Cheng, 2023 ArtTable curatorial fellow at Tephra ICA and the exhibit’s curator.

The exhibit is being presented in partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Visual Arts Fellowship program.

(Correction: There was no members-only preview for “Metopic Ridge” as initially stated in this article. The exhibit is free and open to the general public.)

The exhibit is located at Tephra’s satellite gallery in the Signature apartment building. Visitors are welcome Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Aerial Candy owner Candy Cantu practices on a lyra at the new Merrifield studio (courtesy Aerial Candy)

An aerial dance studio based in Maryland will swoop across state lines this fall with an expansion into Merrifield.

Aerial Candy is transforming an industrial space at 2801 Merrilee Drive that was being used for storage into a studio where dancers can train with aerial silks, hoops and other specialized equipment.

On track to open in November, the new studio will become the “main” location for Aerial Candy, which currently operates inside Takoma Park’s Dance Exchange, owner Candy Cantu says.

“This is a wonderful location because it’s right off of the highway and I actually live in Virginia,” Cantu told FFXnow. “…I wanted something kind of more central, a little bit more of like a hub where it’s easier to have access to because it’s off 495, it’s off 66, it’s next to the Metro, it’s close to D.C. So, it just is right at that perfect spot.”

Established in 2019, Aerial Candy offers classes for both adults and children 6 and up in what Cantu calls “circus arts,” including aerial hoops and silks — the kinds of acrobatics you might see at Cirque du Soleil.

In fact, Cantu was scheduled to show the new, roughly 2,800-square-foot space to some Cirque du Soleil performers last week in the hopes they may use it for future photoshoots or rehearsals. The circus has been in Tysons since early September with the debut of its new show “ECHO.”

“Because it’s so close to their show, it kind of works as a nice place for them to either do photos or get some extra rehearsal times in,” Cantu said.

In addition to introductory, intermediate and advanced classes on silks and aerial hoops, also known as lyras, the Merrifield studio will likely offer contortion and flexibility training and possibly a static trapeze class, Cantu says. There will also be open gym sessions.

Cantu anticipates that having a second location will expand Aerial Candy to a new client base, but with the kids’ sessions at Takoma Park consistently filled to capacity, some patrons may shift over to Merrifield. Those who purchase a class pass or membership will be able to use them at either location.

As the studio build-out nears completion, including the installation of a mural by artist Christopher Lynch, Cantu says she’s excited to have a location closer to home and provide a creative space in an area where local artists are starting to find a foothold.

“There are some other studios that are slightly similar to what I’m trying to do, but I just think mine is going to be a little bit unique and different, and they’re so far and few in between,” Cantu said. “I’m just really excited about meeting all the people in the area. I’m really excited about building a community. That’s my favorite part.”


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