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The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is considering a pilot program to support more murals in its commercial revitalization areas.

The pilot program, called Paint It! Fairfax, was introduced at a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors economic initiatives committee meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 19).

If approved, the program would allocate $400,000 to complete at least two murals in the county’s Commercial Revitalization Districts (CRD) and Commercial Revitalization areas (CRA).

Richmond Highway would receive $85,000, with the rest spread out between the other CRDs and CRAs in Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners, Lake Anne, Lincolnia, McLean, Merrifield and Springfield, according to Jenee Padmore, a planner with the Department of Planning and Development’s Office of Community Revitalization.

Murals would remain on the property for at least five years, and artists would agree to repair the mural if it’s defaced or vandalized for a minimum of five years.

The program would begin with site identification and an agreement with the property owner, followed by calls for submission. The artist and committee would then work to finalize a concept to be presented to the community for input, followed by approval from the program director.

A Site and Artist Selection Committee would manage the program.

Elizabeth Hagg, deputy director of the community revitalization office, said that the program was developed at the board’s direction.

“If the board should confirm that this proposal is on target, our intention would be to come back to the board to seek funding through the economic reserve fund,” Hagg told the committee.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity encouraged staff to leverage students and community members to create and design the murals.

Overall, the board said they were supportive of the program. Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, for example, noted that the addition of a mural at The Boro in Tysons is a significant asset. Some developers choose to install murals without specific direction from the county.

“I’m just in awe of it every single time. And I’ve looked at it so many different times,” Lusk said.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik encouraged staff to consider adjusting the program timeline so that community input was prioritized earlier in the process.

“My big concern about this is the order,” she said.

McLean Community Center (file photo)

The newest exhibition curated by the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) is all about painting.

The local arts organization will launch the 14th iteration of “(Not) Strictly Painting” — its biennial showcase of work from artists based in the Mid-Atlantic region — with an opening reception from 7-9 p.m. tonight (Thursday).

According to MPA, the exhibit will highlight the “depth and breadth” of paintings and other pieces that are somehow related to painting from 50 different artists. It’s being juried by Tim Brown, director of the D.C.-based nonprofit art gallery IA&A at Hillyer.

“Now in it’s 14th incarnation, (Not) Strictly Painting will exhibit works by some of the most interesting and innovative artists currently active in the Mid-Atlantic region,” Nancy Sausser, MPA’s director of exhibitions and curator, said.

Recurring every two years, (Not) Strictly Painting last returned in September 2021, when MPA was still capping its galleries at six visitors at a time to encourage social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Located in the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue), the organization’s Atrium Gallery is open during the community center’s operating hours, and the Emerson Gallery is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

In addition to tonight’s opening reception, MPA will celebrate the new exhibition with an in-person artist talk at 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Artists featured in the current iteration of (Not) Strictly Painting include:

Maremi Andreozzi, Sondra Arkin, MK Bailey, Julia Bloom, Maria Brito, Nikki Brugnoli, Tory Cowles, Pamela Crockett, Delna Dastur, Anna Davis, Thomas Drymon, Gayle Friedman, Genie Ghim, Jane Godfrey, Pat Goslee, Reni Gower, Freya Grand, Lou Haney, Amelia Hankin, Tom Hill, Andrew Hladky, Leslie Holt, Sabiha Iqbal, Barbara Januszkiewicz, Wayson Jones, Joanne Kent, Pamela Keravuori, Chee Kung, Ruth Lozner, Matthew Malone, Nicole Maloof, Nipun Manda, Sasha-Loriene McClain, Begona Morton, Olivia Niuman, Cory Oberndorfer, Sookkyung Park, Judith Pratt, Sharon Robinson, Violet Simulation, Kanika Sircar, Marsha Staiger, Ann Stoddard, Monica Stroik, Terry Thompson, Roderick Turner, Jessica van Brakle, Ashley Joi Whitley, Sharon Wolpoff, and Debra Wright.

The exhibition will be on display through Nov. 11.

Artists Salvatore Pirrone and Miriam Gusevich have been selected to design Fairfax County’s COVID-19 memorial (courtesy ArtsFairfax)

Fairfax County is envisioning its forthcoming COVID-19 memorial as a space for reflection — something that’s been difficult to come by since the pandemic upended life temporarily for some and more permanently for others.

The concept comes from artists Miriam Gusevich and Salvatore Pirrone, who have been chosen to design and build the memorial, ArtsFairfax announced Monday (Aug. 21).

“We need memorial spaces and artworks to help us appreciate the bonds we share as human beings,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said. “With such artworks, engagement invites us to learn from our pain and redouble our efforts to lift up each other every day, not just in emergencies.”

A nonprofit designated as the county’s official arts agency, ArtsFairfax and the Fairfax County Arts Committee selected Gusevich and Pirrone unanimously after putting out an open call for artists earlier this year.

According to ArtsFairfax, the pair proposed “a tall and slender memorial” called “Circles of Memory” that will “protect a contemplative space” in honor of local residents who have died from COVID-19, along with the health care workers, first responders and others involved in the county’s emergency response.

The memorial will be installed in front of the county’s Public Safety Headquarters and Herrity Building at 12055 Government Center Parkway.

“The monument will be comprised of a 27-foot tall hollow concrete cone, divided by a break in the center and topped with an oculus from which to view the sky. Visitors will be invited to sit inside the structure and on the surrounding benches,” ArtsFairfax said.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff in February 2022 to start planning for a memorial that will symbolize the pandemic’s impact on the local community.

Since then, Covid has ceased to be designated as an official public health emergency both locally and nationally, but the disease continues to spread, albeit at lower levels of severity than in previous years. As of yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax Health District had recorded 273,842 cases, 5,403 hospitalizations and 1,794 deaths, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

The county’s memorial will create a communal space for visitors to acknowledge those losses.

“We hope to provide an environment that will bring people together,” Pirrone said. “The memorial strives to be a place of reverence for the lives lost and the people who honor them.”

The design will be finalized after the artists conduct a full site review, according to ArtsFairfax Director of Communications Allison Mui.

The agency says the project will take “several months to complete,” including opportunities for members of the public to meet the artists, discuss the design concepts and “share experiences.”

“Art does not cure, yet it can help us heal. Creativity can offer renewal; through it we can nurture faith in the future,” Gusevich said.

Here’s more on Gusevich and Pirrone from the press release: Read More

The “Choosing to Portage” exhibit features the work of five artists (courtesy Ashley M. Freeby)

A new exhibit at the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston delves into the metaphor of portage — the act of carrying a boat or goods over land between two bodies of water.

Created by five artists — Ashley Freeby, Noella Garcia, Jeff Huckleberry, Jackie Milad and Michael Rakowitz — the exhibit “Choosing to Portage” will open on Sept. 8 with an artist talk from 6-8 p.m. It’s the second in a series of three exhibitions that mark the institute’s 50th anniversary.

According to Tephra, the included artworks investigate issues like the “absurdities of white masculinity, the erasure of indigenous cultures, police killings of Black men, the visibility of Iraqi culture in the US, the ravages of war, and the need for public acts of grieving.”

“The featured artists wield agency as they navigate the turbulent waters of contemporary identity,” Tephra wrote in a press release. “In doing so, they forge paths for us to embrace the complexity of cultural heritage and embody our collective inheritance as simultaneously burden, responsibility, and empowerment.”

Here’s more from the institute on what’s in the exhibit:

In material and imagery, the artworks index the lived experience of cultural heritage. Gallery visitors will first encounter a meticulously made quilt of bold pink, black, white, and blue squares made by Ashley M. Freeby’s grandmother; and around the corner is Freeby’ Attempt #1 to Remake Grandma’s Square Quilt in which the squares do not quite line up. Imported jars of date syrup – some full some empty – and a glass cutting board emblazoned with a logo using the colors of the Iraqi flag are among the objects set on a table as part of Michael Rakowitz’s Enemies and Kitchens installation.

Other objects are in vitrines, such as Noelle Garcia’s Revolver (Cowboy Gun), a beaded recreation of the classic gun in sparkly silver and lavender glass beads, drawing critical attention to how Western museums, in the legacy of colonization, have represented indigenous cultures.

Photo documentation selected from Jeff Huckleberry’s performances over the last 20 years, show the artist toiling with the “tools of the trade”: lumber, power tools, cheap beer, coffee grounds, and paint.

With jewel tones, bright yellows, pinks, and lush greens, and even some rainbows, the vivid colors in Choosing to Portage provide a sense of vitality and persistence to the work of building a better world out of the one we have inherited.

The exhibit is on display through Nov. 18. It will be accompanied by “a diverse set of public lectures and workshops,” including an indigenous beading workshop led by Noelle Garcia and a closing performance by artist Jeff Huckleberry.

Located in Suite 103 at 12001 Market Street in Reston Town Center, the institute is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


At mosaicARTs, creative expression is the ultimate path to fulfillment. But the chance to win a gift card worth $1,000 isn’t a bad secondary perk.

That is what’ll be at stake for the 25 young artists showcased in the Merrifield gallery’s new exhibition, “Arts Make Children Powerful,” which opened yesterday (Wednesday) ahead of a formal reception from 4-6:30 p.m. this Saturday (Aug. 5).

In addition to talks by the artists and live music, the opening reception will feature a People’s Choice Awards contest where attendees can cast votes for their favorite piece. Winners will get gift cards that can be used for arts supplies or the gallery’s art programs, including workshops and happy creative hours.

“I feel the art has such a power itself,” gallery co-owner Van Nguyen said. “At the same time, all 25 artists…here, they will get a free gift card from mosaicARTs. I just want to encourage them.”

An artist who specializes in sculpture and works full-time as a graphic designer, Nguyen opened mosaicARTs with her sister Lynh — a painter — in late 2022, replacing Auntie Te’s consignment shop at 2931-B Eskridge Road near the Mosaic District.

Nguyen says they decided to start a gallery of their own after she finished a six-year residency at the Arlington Arts Center and noticed a lack of work and exhibition space for artists in Fairfax County — a deficit that has also come to the county’s attention.

Armed with firsthand knowledge of the challenges that artists face trying to make a living, Nguyen wants mosaicARTs to be a place where artists of all backgrounds and levels of experience can find support and a sense of community.

The scope of each show varies, bringing in local, national and even international artists. But Nguyen is particularly interested in assisting people who aren’t established, whether they’re young — like the 6 to 20-year-olds whose work is now being featured — or the older adults she met while working for the National Council on Aging.

“Arts Make Children Powerful” had no overarching theme, so participating students could pursue any idea and medium they wanted. The results range from paintings of flowers and animals to abstract mosaics, a ceramic pizza, and an Edward Hopper-esque, three-dimensional diorama of a diner at night.

“They have a power to create, to express themselves, to make decisions [on] what they’re going to do with their own piece,” Nguyen said. “…That’s just powerful, you know, and they say…this is me. This is my art. I feel so happy when they have a voice for themselves.”

While it primarily focuses on visual art, mosaicARTs supports other kinds of art as well, hosting musicians or poetry readings at every opening reception. Nguyen says they hope to allow video installations in the future, but the gallery would likely need more space.

She’s also working to expand the gallery’s outreach efforts, including potentially connecting with local senior centers.

Ultimately, she hopes mosaicARTs will help usher in a more robust and expansive artistic community in the Fairfax area. Her vision has already won the backing of Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who recently visited the gallery and promoted its new exhibit on her social media platforms.

“You see the need for that,” Nguyen said. “People [are] hungry to participate, to be a part [of a community], and I’m like, if we can build this, if we want to have that beautiful environment surrounded with the art, we have to start at some point.”

ArtsFairfax’s Public Art Locator maps installations around Fairfax County, such as “Wooden Horse” at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

ArtsFairfax wants you to help it keep track of all the public art popping up around Fairfax County.

The county’s designated, nonprofit local arts agency recently launched an online Public Arts Locator to identify and map out murals, sculptures and other installations placed in the community, either permanently or on a temporary basis.

The app currently shows 94 works of art, including a few that fall outside the county’s borders in Arlington and Manassas. It can be searched by location and different categories of art, such as murals or street fixtures.

Monitored by the nonprofit’s staff, the app is free for anyone to use and includes a survey where people can submit the address, images and descriptions of works of art that they’ve seen.

“If the artwork is available in a public setting and accessible day and night, we want it captured in this inventory,” said Lisa Mariam, ArtsFairfax’s senior director of grants and services and project lead for the Public Art Locator.

The locator was developed by ArtsFairfax and the county’s Department of Information Technology using aerial imagery, map layers and other geographic information systems data. It was designed by GIS analyst Chip Galloway, according to a July 13 press release.

ArtsFairfax says the locator was created in conjunction with its ongoing development of a public art master plan, which will serve as a “blueprint” for the county as it evaluates existing works and plans for future ones.

The app’s launch came on the heels of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors accepting a master art plan focused on facilities. Both that plan and the one on public art are being guided by the Fairfax County Arts Committee, which consists of both county staff and volunteers.

“The ArtsFairfax Public Art Locator will be a critical planning tool as we continue work on the County’s Public Art Master Plan,” ArtsFairfax president and CEO Linda Sullivan said. “By crowd-sourcing public art in our community, this inventory will help us identify where there are gaps and greater needs for community enhancement and creative placemaking.”

The theater will go dark on July 31 (courtesy Walking Shadows Theatre)

A virtual theater launched by South Lakes High School alumni is officially closing its curtains.

Walking Shadow Readers Theatre announced the company’s closure in an email on Monday (July 17). The company closed due to lack of capacity, a team member said.

The theater will officially go dark on July 31.

“When we began during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, our aim was to help keep theatre alive while the world shut down,” Walking Shadow Readers wrote in the announcement. “With your support, our virtual platform proved to be a resounding success, more than we imagined! The successes we’ve experienced make it that much more difficult to announce we have decided this past 2022-2023 season was our last.”

The model was established in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. It kicked off in June 2020 as a casual reunion of South Lakes drama alumni before organizing virtual readings and performances.

The theater celebrated its first season with a One Acts Festival, which featured eight short plays in the summer of 2021. The program was streamed on YouTube.

Since it was founded, the theater presented developmental readings of 26 new plays — some of which became published works or were presented in person once theaters reopened. It offered new and up-and-coming playwrights a chance to have their work reviewed and experienced.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to help establish and participate in this new theatrical medium these past three years,” the company wrote. “Working with playwrights as their stories evolve, and hearing artists give voice to the characters the world has yet to meet, has been an incredible adventure.”

The team thanks its playwrights, guest artists and audience members for their support. In a response to a request for information to FFXnow, the team declined comment.

Capital One Hall in Tysons, one of Fairfax County’s newest arts venues (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Fairfax County has a new plan that could help inform arts venue development in the county for the next 20 years.

Adopted unanimously by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday (July 11), the 49-page Fairfax County Master Arts Plan: Facilities includes an inventory of the county’s arts venues, an examination of gaps in resources, options for funding new facilities and more.

Members of the county board said that, in the past, they have lacked some key information when trying to establish arts facilities.

“We were kind of operating under good guidance, but largely in the dark in terms of some of the technical components and what makes sense and where you do these in the county and in what types of communities, and so the work that the task force has done is amazing,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.

The facilities plan takes into account the county’s strategic plan, adopted in October 2021. For example, its formulation involved “inclusive engagement,” which the facilities plan says was among the drivers of the strategic plan.

“Extensive analytical data was collected through interviews and personal discussion with a wide range of arts and community leaders, as well as residents of both majority and minority ethnic or racial makeup,” the facilities plan reads.

The facilities plan also aligns with One Fairfax, which is the county government and school board’s racial and social equity policy.

“Equity and diversity goals should be paramount in the development of venues that will support arts activities from ethnically diverse perspectives and approaches,” the plan reads.

Among the plan’s recommendations is an expansion of “support facilities,” which could include vacant buildings converted for temporary arts use and storage facilities for costumes, props and scenery.

A consultant’s study conducted in 2019 as part of the plan found that cost is the top consideration for local arts organizations when they decide what venues to use, leading many to go outside of the county or utilize facilities like churches and community centers that aren’t designed for the arts.

Marketing organizations, venues and specific events is also a challenge, tending to be “cost-labor-time intensive and drastically underfunded.”

Following Capital One Hall’s opening in Tysons in 2021, new venues have been proposed for Fairfax City, Reston, Falls Church City, Chantilly, and the Herndon area, among other sites.

The report also outlines funding possibilities for capital projects, including bond referendums, an entertainment tax and private donations.

The facilities plan came out of work by the Master Arts Plan Task Force, which formed in 2009. Before the board adopted the  plan Tuesday, it passed a resolution recognizing the task force “for their achievements.” Members of the task force, including chair Leila Gordon, attended the meeting.

Gordon gave a presentation about the plan to the board’s economic initiatives committee in March. Even as the board accepted the plan at Tuesday’s meeting, members and Gordon noted the plan’s status as a “living document.”

“Now we have a solid plan for supporting the wonderful array of arts venues already available in Fairfax County as well as to realize the venues of the future that will continue to provide encouragement to artists and welcoming spaces for all to enjoy,” Gordon said at the meeting. “This is a living plan designed to achieve our goals while responding to change.”

The fox was chosen as the icon for Reston (Photo via Tracie Griffith Tso)

Who let the fox in? Restonians did after they selected the furry creature as the community’s official icon.

In survey results announced today (Friday), the animal prevailed over two other options — a heron and woodpecker — for a project between Friends of Reston, Public Art Reston and Reston Association.

A poll took place in May and garnered more than 2,800 votes. Local artists Tracie Griffith Tso, Ben Morse and Dana Scheurer designed the proposed icons.

RA says the fox will be fabricated into replicable cast sculptures that will be painted by local artists in the coming months. Through a public auction, the replicas will then be auctioned off. Funds will be used to support local public art projects.

Thank you to our wonderful community partners, artists, and residents who made the first phase of the Icon Project a success,” RA wrote in a statement. “Friends of Reston, Reston Association, and Public Art Reston look forward to working together on the continuation of this initiative.” 


A new magnatile-like structure now floats atop Lake Thoreau’s spillway in Reston.

The public art installation by South Lakes High School’s Science Technology Engineering Art Math (STEAM) club was installed in late June. Called “Rise,” the artwork was inspired by the rapid development of Reston.

The artwork represents the growth of Reston’s population and the rise of high-rises and other infrastructure, “abstractly” representing the community’s goals of “reaching new heights in progress, innovation and diversity,” the club said in a statement.

When Robert E. Simon, Jr. bought the land to develop Reston, it was rural farmland without access to downtown Washington, D.C. Simon dreamed of turning his planned community into a modern suburban utopia for residents and commuters alike. His dream would be realized decades later with the construction of Route 267, the Dulles Toll Road. Since then, Reston has grown from a nationally renowned, but relatively small, planned community, into a hotspot for international corporations and contemporary housing developments. Nevertheless, Reston retains its core values and remains an intertwined, multi-faceted place to live, a place like nowhere else. Rise represents the growing success of Reston, one that was founded on humble beginnings.

This is the club’s 11th year, with several artworks installed on the spillway since its founding. The group is led by advisor and SLHS art teacher Marco Rando in partnership with Public Art Reston and Reston Association.

This year’s artwork is also sponsored by the Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association, Mary and David Prochnow, Red’s Table restaurant, and supporters of the STEAM Team’s calendar fundraiser.

Rando said the installation was completed earlier than expected.

“This is more than just a work of art,” Rando said. “Its essential element is layers of collaborative relationships between STEAM students, Reston Association, Public Art Reston, and the community, who for the first individuals to pass by, provided major positive feedback. One such woman always loves to see bright colors on the art works, adding how well it accentuates Reston’s greenery.”

RISE is expected to remain afloat for the better part of the year.


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