The colorful, painted benches that recently popped up outside local businesses in the Town of Vienna are marking the 50th anniversary of the Vienna Arts Society.
Purcellville’s painted wine barrel community arts project in 2016 inspired the idea for the “Take a Seat Vienna” public art display, Lu Cousins, the director of the Vienna Arts Society, told Tysons Reporter.
Local businesses sponsored the cost of the Amish-built benches, which each had a roughly $240 price tag, in exchange for having them sit in front of their businesses through October, Cousins said.
Volunteers delivered the benches to the 42 artists, 20 of whom are from the greater Vienna area. “Painting a wooden, slatted bench is completely different from painting an image on a canvas,” Cousins said, adding that the shape and angles of a bench can be tricky to paint.
In addition to the artists, Cousins gave a shoutout to the team of nonartists who helped facilitate transportation of the benches and get permits from the town.
Before their unveiling last weekend, the benches were varnished to help them withstand the weather, she said. The Vienna Arts Society has a map for people who want to take a seat in — or a photo of — all 42 benches.
“They are spectacular works of art,” Cousins said, adding that her personal favorites include Susan Scanlon’s “Simply Dreaming” bench, which features actress Audrey Hepburn in her iconic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” role, and the ones with ocean imagery.
A live auction of the benches on Nov. 2 will raise money for the arts nonprofit’s programs.
“They are all beautiful, and they are all unique,” Cousins said. “We want people to enjoy their community.”
Photos courtesy Vienna Arts Society
The New York School of Arts — formerly Open Art Studio — has a new home in Vienna at 320 Maple Ave E.
The school, founded ten years ago, is focused on individual-based education in art and design with faculty from programs like Brown and Columbia universities.
The studio had previously been located at 225 Mill St NE.
The school programs range from art programs for children to portfolio reviews for students applying to arts programs.
Registration is currently open for the art foundation summer camp, aimed at students in grades 6 through 8. Classes range from $245 for children under two years old to $760 for older students.
Photo via Facebook
Nightlife may be one of Tysons’ weak spots, but local music in the area has a long history — and a wide-open future.
The Fairfax scene is very diverse, drawing on artists who are local to the county as well as those from elsewhere in the greater D.C. area.
Emblematic of that diversity is an upcoming performance on Saturday, March 23 at the VFW post in west Falls Church. Six different acts will be playing music — two punk groups, three rappers representing a variety of styles and an indie rock four-piece.
D.C. is famous for its historical punk scene, with names like Fugazi that defined a sound across the entire country — but much of that scene happened on the southern side of the Potomac. Although not all of its current residents are aware, Northern Virginia has a strong tradition of independent music. In the 1980s and ’90s, most of that tradition was being made in Arlington.
The little county was home to the nationally-successful punk group Minor Threat, whose frontman Ian MacKaye later starred in Fugazi, as well as many other bands. It also boasted the Dischord and Teenbeat record labels and the Positive Force activist group, which was closely associated with the “Riot Grrrl” feminist movement.
These groups were often based out of houses, dotted across Arlington. The county was successful musically because it was cheap and offered easy access to the city — but, unfortunately for the punks, the rest of society caught on.
Today, the median home on the Arlington market is listed at over $700,000, and there aren’t many places left in the county for young musicians living on a shoestring budget. In the words of Positive Force co-founder Mark Andersen, “there was another Arlington that existed, and that was a much more humble Arlington.”
In some ways, Fairfax carries on that tradition. By offering (relatively) affordable performance spaces, a large population of potential audiences and a wide network of musical collaborators, the county has a lot to offer a young musician.
There are some major differences, though: today’s scene isn’t only about punk music. Also, it’s less tied to D.C. than it used to be, and has more potential to define itself as “NOVA” music. It does face some obstacles, though, including the drain of talent and attention to nearby cities like Richmond and Baltimore, and, as in Arlington, the difficulty of coexisting with some of the most desirable residential neighborhoods on the East Coast.
To understand what it’s like to record and perform in Fairfax today, Tysons Reporter spoke with Jason Saul, a melodic rapper native to the area.
Tysons Reporter: First, how did you get to be making music in VA? Are you originally from the area? When did you start rapping, and what’s driven you to the style you use?
Jason Saul: I was born & raised in NOVA. I started writing music when I was 13 but it was never anything super serious… Once I turned 20 I realized there wasn’t anything else that brought me the amount of joy that making music does. So now I’m seeking to make music my career. My style comes from influences of music that I listened to when I was young. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling or making music the correlates with the listener. To me, music is all about feeling. Eventually I started to make more melodic music since that’s what I always gravitated towards.
Tysons Reporter: Second, what should I know about the NOVA scene in general? How does it compare to other scenes around the D.C. area — does it have a particular identity compared to, say, D.C. or Maryland? Is it known for particular styles, or for particular venues? Do you want to stay around here, or, if not, where would you go?
Jason Saul: The NOVA scene is very interesting when it comes to music because I see it as a big question mark on the creative map. No one can really say NOVA has a particular sound, and I think that stems from no one really making it out on to the mainstream platform yet. I know there’s Kali Uchis but that’s just one artist. I respect D.C. a lot because it’s so rich with culture but I would definitely separate NOVA from D.C. just because it really feels like two different worlds. MD in my opinion is known for their raw rapping which is great. It’s up to NOVA to see what we come up with now. I’d love to stay here and I probably will but I also enjoy the weather in the west coast.
Tysons Reporter: Third, it’s pretty cool to see this wide a mix of sounds at a single show. Is that standard, would you say, or is this unusual? If it’s unusual, what helped bring it together this time?
Jason Saul: It’s very exciting to see a show like this going down because it’s bringing different groups of people together. I wouldn’t say it’s the ordinary but it’s definitely going to be a good show and should happen more often. What helped bring it together was the relationships some of us have outside of music, just knowing each other really. This gives the audience and artists a great opportunity to discover some music they never thought they’d listen to.
To listen to some of Fairfax’s local musicians, check out these artists, who will be performing at 6:30pm – 11pm on Saturday, March 23, at the VFW Post #9274 (7118 Shreve Road), just 10 minutes from Tysons on Leesburg Pike. There will be a $5 cover charge, and Respawn Thrift will be selling vintage clothing.
Desperry (NoVA, Hip-hop)
Holographic (NoVA, Hardcore punk bootgaze)
Jason Saul (NoVA, Melodic hip-hop)
Needle (D.C., Grind punk)
Wisteria (MD, Indie rock)
Lil Dynamite (NoVA, first show)
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.
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.
The mural is complete at Vienna Shopping Center, showcasing the DC Metro sites like the cityscapes of Arlington, DC, and Tysons.
— Rappaport (@RappaportCo) January 14, 2019
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
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.
(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 gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
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.
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]
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