Emerging Merrifield art gallery shows off youth creativity with new exhibition

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.”

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