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Idylwood Plaza is home to to a new international gallery.

The pop-up Dara Global Arts offers paintings, furniture, ceramics, and gifts at a wide range of price points, and is a gallery driven by social consciousness with particular attention to women’s empowerment. Many of the artists represented are Iraqi: while most Americans only see Iraq as a battleground on the news, Dara Global Arts provides an opportunity to see firsthand the country’s importance as a source of contemporary art.

On a recent visit by Tysons Reporter to the gallery, the directors, Nawara Omary Elliott and Maysoon Al Gbari, were busy setting up. Over the smell of slow-burning incense, freely mixing Arabic and English, the pair revealed more about the gallery, the artists and the challenges and opportunities of opening a pop-up in Tysons.

Omary Elliott has been running Dara out of her basement for years, hosting exhibitions that often filled the space to its capacity. She is motivated by her belief that “art is a peaceful language that can bring awareness” and her dedication to social justice.  That dedication to justice has driven her to collaborate many times with a variety of charities, including Bringing Resources to Aid Womens Shelters, the Iraqi Childrens’ Foundation, and the Downs Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia.

Al Gbari is a professional artist who, upon arriving to the United States, faced a problem shared by many international artists: a lack of opportunities for gallery representation. Many artists come to this country but, lacking a community and behind a language barrier, struggle to make a living selling their work.

Al Gbari and Omary Elliott both grew up in the secular, intellectual, artistic climate of pre-war Iraq and the pair met in Virginia in 2016. They became fast friends, and Omary Elliott’s work as a gallerist blossomed. After a year and a half searching for a suitable space, they are excited to announce the opening of Dara’s first storefront location.

The idea for a pop-up came from Omary Elliott’s frequent visits to New York City, where the practice is popular among gallery directors. When she first brought the idea back to Tysons, it was hard to find support, and property owners often weren’t even familiar with the concept. Over the past 18 months alone, though, she’s witnessed substantial change.

“As Tysons is growing, I noticed that the pop-up term has become more popular,” she said. Even so, it took patience and a very helpful realtor to find a suitable location. Omary Elliott encourages others to consider a similar approach, but cautions them that they’ll need a lot of patience and flexibility.

The Washington Post has previously suggested that pop-up retail could be catalytic for Tysons’ development.

The gallery showcases work by a half-dozen artists, about half of them Iraqi. Omary Elliott didn’t set out to represent Iraqis specifically; in fact, she is constantly searching for new artists to represent, saying “we don’t close the door to anyone who wants to participate.” Rather, the strong showing of Iraqi artists is testament to Iraq’s millenia-long tradition of visual art and Baghdad’s stature before the 2003 invasion as home to the greatest artistic institutions of the Arab world.

Al Gbari’s own art fills much of the exhibition space. Working in several media and several artistic styles, she seems to give us several artists’ worth of paintings and household objects.

“I love to work,” she said. “To be honest, I find myself, my soul, through my work.”

Al Gbari’s art blends figuration, often of women and cities, with a rich symbolic language and bold expanses of color. Some paintings draw deeply upon Arab legends and Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious traditions, connecting them to modern-day social issues. Others literally pop into the third dimension as the shapes of faces jut from the canvas. Yet more speak through simple figures to universal themes of motherhood, love and loss.

Al Gbari’s “Shahrazad’s Tales” is an elegy to Baghdad that draws on the Arabic classic “One Thousand and One Nights.”

That classic relates the stories of a woman, Shahrazad, who must spin a new tale every night to avoid the wrath of a vengeful king. She is a symbol of self-expression, literary beauty and cunning femininity. In Al Gbari’s painting, Shahrazad lies fallen against a field of symbols rich with meaning, struck against the skyline of medieval Baghdad with its churches and mosques — a scene which, Al Gbari tells me, truly was as colorful as it appears. But here, Shahrazad has fallen silent, mourning a city wounded by 21st-century bombs.

Bahir Al Badry’s work is more abstract and is highly textured with shining colors and tight detail. Though his art can be endlessly analyzed for its symbolic content, often drawing upon visual motifs from ancient Mesopotamia, it is also invigorating to the eye. In Omary Elliott ‘s words, it “brings happiness and hope.”

Oliver De La Via is a young Bolivian-American artist whose most recent series, “Numbed Contours,” deals specifically with sexual assault and sexualization on American college campuses. His works are unrestrained, honest and, at times, startlingly ambiguous.

Baha Omary Kikhia has exhibited her work, which is “based upon her concept of the woman as a powerful and inspiring figure,” internationally. Her abstracted, curved figures are highly emotive. They call upon her personal experiences, like her struggle to raise two children as a single mother in 1970s New York City, and international issues, like ISIS’s destruction of precious cultural heritage in her home country of Syria.

Other artists featured in the gallery include Ahmed Ghareeb, a sculptor and painter with a bright, chaotic, abstract style that tends toward expressionism, and Haydar al-Yasiry.

The gallery carries a variety of decorative arts in addition to paintings. The collection includes lamps, wooden boxes, chairs, and large and small tables, as well as a variety of gift-appropriate objects at all price points. The Dubai-based brand Mishmashi makes an appearance with lively, one-of-a-kind cushions from their Flip collection. Al Gbari, a Muslim, hand-paints Christmas ornaments, echoing the secular Iraq of her childhood.

Dara Global Arts accepts commission orders to custom-decorate furniture or to paint a canvas at a specific size and using a specific color palette to match any room. Committed to social good, they are also eager to work with charities of all kinds, and will happily host private charity events and offer 20 percent of proceeds from art sold directly to the charity.

Dara will also host a series of special events, like a solo exhibition reception on Feb. 5. and a Valentine’s Day event on Feb. 15.

On one recent afternoon at the gallery, an interested couple happened to stroll in to view the art on display. One commented that the works were “extremely colorful and vibrant — and for a good cost,” and added, “I love the message that’s attached to it, too!”

Dara Global Arts will be open at in Idylwood Plaza next to the Starbucks 7501 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, until the end of March and possibly beyond. Hours from 10am-7pm daily. Contact 702-582-0804 or [email protected] with inquiries, or see the online store at daraglobalarts.com.

D. Taylor Reich is a freelance journalist who writes about urbanism and development. They are a Fulbright scholar, a 2017 graduate of Brown University and a proud alum of Arlington Public Schools.

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After three months of work, a bare wall behind the Vienna Shopping Center has been turned into a sweeping mural depicting the Tysons skyline and other prominent locations throughout the region.

The project was led by artists Eleanor Doughty, a Vienna native who now lives in Seattle, and Emily Herr, who lives in Richmond. Students from the nearby James Madison High School also lent a hand over a weekend in November.

The project was funded by Rappaport, owners of the shopping center at 180 Maple Avenue. The mural can be viewed at the end of Cottage Street.

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This weekend is the long-awaited return of the McLean Chocolate Festival, returning for its eighth year to the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue).

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Sunday, with attendees encouraged to arrive early for the best selections. Admission is $2 for adults and free for children three or younger.

Credit cards are accepted for admission and by most vendors, but attendees are encouraged to bring cash for faster transactions.

The Chocolate Festival is a fundraiser for the McLean Rotary Club, which redistributes proceeds to various other local organizations. The 2018 festival had over 2,500 attendees and raised over $14,000 to support local charities.

But if you’re not in the mood for chocolate or want to avoid the crowds, here are some other events around the Tysons area this weekend:

Saturday (Jan. 26)

  • Vienna 2019 Legislative Agenda (9:30-11:30 a.m.) — Sen. Chap Petersen and Del. Mark Keam will host a town hall meeting to discuss the latest news out of Richmond at the Town Hall Council Chambers (127 Center Street).
  • Providence Democrats 2019 Welcome Reception (12-2 p.m.) — With the Providence District seat on the Board of Supervisors up for grabs, it promises to be a busy year for local Democrats. A meeting at 8500 Executive Park Ave. in Merrifield tomorrow will be open to the public to help those interested in working on a campaign get connected to their candidate of choice. Food will be provided.
  • Legendary Artist Peter Max at Wentworth Gallery (7-9 p.m.) — The Wentworth Gallery in Tysons Galleria will open a new exhibit of art by Peter Max, an artist known for his psychedelic imagery.

Sunday (Jan. 27)

  • Rosebud Ireland Live at Caboose Commons (12-3 p.m.) Guitarist Rosebud Ireland will be performing at Caboose Commons near the Mosaic District.
  • Military Care Package Event (2-4 p.m.) — Seniors from throughout McLean and surrounding communities are invited out to the Vinson Hall Retirement Community (6251 Old Dominion Dr.) to help students from The Potomac School put together Valentine’s Day care packages for military service members. The event is free and open to the public.
  • Jackson Dean at Jammin Java (7 p.m.) — Country singer and songwriter Jackson Dean will be performing at Jammin Java this weekend. Tickets are $25. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.

Photo via Facebook

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Tysons is far from the cultural wasteland it once was, but there are still challenges ahead as the area develops a creative arts scene.

If Tysons truly hopes to become “America’s Next Great City,” it must become a cultural hub as well as a technological and financial one.

Urban planners across the country use arts districts to bring reinvestment to neighborhoods, and cultural amenities can be a powerful draw to the creative class. However, there are still many obstacles in the way of local artists.

Arts in the area are served by public programs like the $500,000-a-year ARTSFAIRFAX grants, but ARTSFAIRFAX is a county-wide program and its budget is relatively modest for such a large jurisdiction.

High property values can be a major obstacle to those who would rent studio or gallery space. The Katibeh Art Center, which featured works by the Iranian artist Ebrahim Emad, recently closed.

Emad told Tysons Reporter that he’d had to close the gallery in part because of difficulty physically advertising its presence, as he was unable to hang promotional signs — and because his location in a mid-rise office building offered very little pedestrian traffic.

While the Katibeh Art Center has closed, here are some other art galleries open around the area:

  • McLean Project for the Arts (1446 Chain Bridge Rd, McLean) — The McLean Project for the Arts hosts exhibitions, classes for all ages, and special events. The upcoming exhibition, Intention/Invention, will run from January 10 until March 2, with an opening reception on January 12 and an artist talk on January 26, featuring abstract works by two contemporary artists. The Project’s classes cover a wide range of media, and include many classes meant for adults with some artistic background as well as both classes and summer camps for children.
  • MK Gallery (1952 Gallows Rd, Tysons) — This gallery, a Tysons establishment for over 15 years, primarily features artists of Korean nationality or heritage. The current exhibition, on show until January 11, is a double, featuring two exciting artists. The first, B. G. Muhn, a professor of art at Georgetown, organized the first-ever exhibition of North Korean art in the United States. The other, Suh Yongsun, is based in Seoul and uses strong color to depict themes of modern social and political life.
  • Dara Global Arts (7501 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church) — Dara is a small pop-up gallery focused on painters from Syria and other Levantine countries. Featuring “a highly curated collection of original art that reflects the empowerment of artists and their freedom of expression,” it particularly features the work of women.
  • LIK Fine Art (Tysons Galleria, 2001 International Drive) — Peter Lik’s latest of seventeen luxury galleries offers large-format landscape photography.
  • Wentworth Gallery (Tysons Galleria,‎ 1807 International Drive) — This gallery brings the work of internationally-recognized artists to Tysons. A wide variety of painters are represented, from neo-impressionists to pop artists. Wentworth rotates their gallery frequently, bringing a new artist every month for a show and a reception so that patrons have a chance to meet the artist. Every month brings something “new and different.”
  • The Hermitage Gallery (6831 Tennyson Drive, McLean) — Offering both fine art framing and an exhibition gallery, the Hermitage represents a variety of local and international artists.
  • YMM Art Space (8216 Old Courthouse Rd C, Vienna) — YMM is not a gallery, but rather a space of creation and education “dedicated to stimulating the imagination and enhancing the creativity of each and every student.” They “offer classes like fashion design, comics design and origami to students as young as 8, so kids have the opportunity to develop their interests in pretty specific areas,” and there are also classes for younger children and for adults.
  • Tysons Art and Learning (8343 Greensboro Dr, Tysons) — This space offers a wide range of art courses for a variety of ages. Their courses extend to digital arts and to writing, and registration and schedules are flexible.

D. Taylor Reich is a freelance journalist who writes about urbanism and development. They are a Fulbright scholar, a 2017 graduate of Brown University and a proud alum of Arlington Public Schools.

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(Updated 2:30 p.m.) If you’re looking for a last minute holiday gift, the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association’s location in the Mosaic District will be offering (relatively) affordable art until this coming Sunday, Dec. 23.

The ≤500 exhibit features a range of art types with a focus on affordability, all items being priced at or below $500. The artwork in the gallery includes painting, photography, and glass mosaics.

The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

After the ≤500 exhibit closes on Sunday, a new exhibit called “Voyages” will run from Dec. 26 through Jan. 27 and “MicroResidencies” from Jan. 30 through March 3.

The Mosaic gallery is managed by the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association. The Mosaic gallery opened at 105 District Ave in April this year, on a one-year lease, after a short run in November 2017 as a pop-up gallery.

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Morning Notes

Stomping Ground Coming to Tysons Galleria — “Stomping Ground, a coffee shop and biscuit-themed restaurant that after more than three years in business has become the epicenter of Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue, will open a second location inside of the former Isabella Eatery space in Tysons Galleria.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Fairfax Schools on Two Hour Delay — All Fairfax County public schools are opening two hours late due to concerns following yesterday’s snowy weather. School offices and central offices opened on time. [Twitter]

Track Testing for Silver Line Phase II — “Workers constructing Phase II of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project recently rolled out a strange-looking piece of equipment called an Amberg IMS 5000… The tool, which somewhat resembles a yellow scooter, has been employed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority… to survey and assess project data on Phase 2 of the Silver Line.” [VivaTysons]

New Vienna Mural Almost Done — “Despite crummy weather and vehicles and pedestrians passing close by, two artists nearly have completed a panoramic mural of Vienna landmarks on the Vienna Shopping Center’s rear wall.” [InsideNova]

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The following article excerpt is from our content sharing partner, FairfaxNews.com.

Something new and colorful and about 200 feet long is coming to Vienna: A mural will soon be created on the back wall of the Vienna Shopping Center, visible as you travel down Cottage Street.

Artists Eleanor Doughty, a Vienna native who now lives in Seattle, and Emily Herr, who lives in Richmond, plan to start work on the mural, an overview of Town buildings and area landmarks, beginning November 5 and expect that the project will take up to two weeks, depending on weather, to complete.

Student-volunteers from James Madison High School will work alongside the artists from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30-6 p.m. the weekend of November 9-11. Students interested in helping out with the mural, even if only available for an hour or two, should contact Doughty at [email protected]

The town’s newest public art project is being funded by Rappaport, owners of the shopping center at 180 Maple Avenue.

“We love the mural,” says Tiffany Jones, marketing representative for the Vienna Shopping Center. “We love the brightness and color that it’s going to add to the shopping center.”

Read more at FairfaxNews.com

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Painted Benches Coming to Vienna — “In honor of the Vienna Arts Society’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2019, artists from the group will decorate 41 wooden benches that will be placed around the town for six months next year.” [InsideNova]

Free Lyft Rides for Halloween — “Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the 2018 Halloween SoberRide program will be in operation beginning at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27 and continue until 4 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28, as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk holiday.” [McLean Connection, Washington Regional Alcohol Program]

Macy’s Hiring for Holiday Season — “As the Christmas shopping season approaches, Macy’s will be hiring seasonal staff at the two Tysons Corner locations. Hiring events will be held from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18.” [Patch]

Fairfax May Legalize Hedgehogs — “Having a chinchilla, hedgehog or hermit crab in Virginia’s Fairfax County makes you a scofflaw, but that could soon change. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to advertise a public hearing on changes to the definitions of ‘commonly accepted pets’ that can be kept without special, individual permission from zoning authorities.” [WTOP]

VA-TF1 Hurricane Deployment Update — “On October 14th the team was relocated to Jackson County, approximately 40 miles north, northeast of Panama City where they continue to work today. The team is conducting wide-area searches including detailed searches of damaged structures.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

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The MPAartfest is returning to McLean Central Park this Sunday (Oct. 7) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The art show and sale will feature work from nearly 40 visual artists in a variety of media and styles, including woodturning, jewelry and ironwork.

Mini-art galleries will be set up throughout the park featuring artwork and food from local restaurants. The MPAartfest will also feature live music from various genres and educational activities for children.

MPAartfest is an annual event hosted by the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA), attracting an average of 5,000-6,000 visitors each year. This will be MPAartfest’s 12th year.

Admission to the festival is free. Parking will be available at “signed lots throughout McLean” with shuttles running to the MPAartfest.

Photo via McLean Project for the Arts

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