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As long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so too will Historic Vienna, Inc. in its efforts to document the experiences of Vienna residents and businesses.

Operator of the town’s Freeman Store and Museum, Historic Vienna has been collecting stories of local history since 1976, but the nonprofit corporation launched its COVID-19 oral history project back in the fall of 2020.

Some of the collected stories are already available on the organization’s website, but with the virus’ recent resurgence, new stories emerge every day that could be worth preserving for posterity.

“This pandemic has been, and continues to be, a historic and important time in our history,” said Patti Bentley, project manager for Historic Vienna’s Oral History Committee. “The goal of this particular project is to capture how Vienna residents, businesses and organizations have been affected by, reacted to, and coped with the COVID pandemic.”

Bentley says the stories they have received have ranged from heartbreaking to heartwarming. People have shared how they have struggled to keep businesses afloat, dealt with isolation, learned new skills, and taken advantage of unexpected family time.

There are also stories from local organizations and businesses, such as Vienna Foodies, Rustic Love, Clarity’s, Vienna Inn, Caboose Brewery, Bards Alley, and the Vienna Business Association. Town of Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert and former Mayer Laurie DiRocco have made contributions to the archives as well.

Historic Vienna has no end date in mind for the project right now, especially with COVID-19 cases rising again, so the oral history committee plans to continue creating questionnaires and collecting stories as long as it’s relevant.

Interested Vienna residents and businesses can still submit new stories.

“There continues to be an opportunity for people to fill out the second questionnaire and/or to submit their personal story in written or video form, poems, pictures, etc,” Bentley said by email. “We encourage anyone with a pandemic story to tell to please share your story with us.”

Whenever the pandemic does end, the Freeman Store and Museum will display an exhibit of the printed submissions, photos, video interviews, and questionnaire results for the public to reflect on.

“We want this record on our website and in our archives, for current and future residents and historians to access,” Bentley wrote. “In 5 years, 10 years, 100 years those interested will be able to see what this time looked like and felt like in Vienna. It is part of today’s experiences and tomorrow’s history.”

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Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts launched an immersive, GPS-enabled public art exhibit today that aims to merge the musical and natural worlds.

Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK is a soundscape experience designed by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid to enhance the experience of walking through Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

“As winter melts into spring, I find myself at long last filled with optimism,” Reid said. “Re-framing parks musically has been a wonderful challenge, and Wolf Trap is a perfect setting for this piece.”

Guests can access Reid’s music, which was composed specifically for Wolf Trap’s landscape, through a free app that triggers different soundscapes as they move along the mile-long route through the trails and woods around the national park. There are also musical “Easter eggs” hidden around the park for guests to find on their walk.

Performed by musicians in the SOUNDWALK Ensemble, including Reid on a synthesizer, the music changes based on the path and pace that each individual takes, so no two experiences are the same.

Wolf Trap Foundation President and CEO Arvind Manocha says the nonprofit co-commissioned the project to welcome patrons back to Wolf Trap “for their first musical experience in over a year.”

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we wanted to give our community a special opportunity to experience the beauty of music and nature in a safe and socially distanced manner and to re-engage with Wolf Trap as we, with the National Park Service, celebrate the coming of summer,” Manocha said.

SOUNDWALK was also commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in association with The Fairmount Park Conservancy and Britt Festival Orchestra.

Wolf Trap partnered with the National Park Service and Visit Fairfax, Fairfax County’s official tourism organization, for the project and received some local funding from the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

The installation will be open to the public for free from sunrise to sunset through Sept. 6.

Wolf Trap National Park will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Filene Center this year, but plans for the upcoming summer season have not been announced yet. Live, in-person performances have been on hold since spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though the park has offered some virtual shows throughout the past year.

Photo via Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts/Facebook

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The Oral History Committee of Historic Vienna, Inc. is documenting residents’ memories of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee is asking town residents and businesses to submit representations of the way they were affected by, coped with, or reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stories can explore anything “you think is important to be remembered about this unprecedented time in history,” according to the “COVID Impressions” project webpage.

Possible topics include experiences with unemployment or virtual schools and the impact of the pandemic on relationships with friends or pets. Submissions can take the form of different mediums, including a short text description, a photograph, a poem, or a piece of art.

The collection will be presented on the Historic Vienna, Inc. website and preserved in the archives.

“Together the reflections we gather will capture a variety of our Vienna residents’ experiences,” the committee says.

For their submissions to be accepted, residents must fill out a release form. Submissions may be anonymous if desired but the release form still needs to be submitted.

Historic Vienna, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to preserving the Town of Vienna’s history by hosting public events, supporting the preservation of historic properties, and operating the Freeman Store and Museum, which is currently open during limited hours with strict health protocols in place.

According to its “Vienna Stories” website, Historic Vienna has been preserving local history through recorded interviews since it was established in 1976. Most recently, it launched a new initiative to collect oral histories from longtime area residents in 2013.

Transcripts and videos can be found on the nonprofit’s blog and YouTube channel.

Submissions for the COVID-19 stories exhibit and the accompanying release form can be sent to the oral history committee at [email protected]

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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The McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) is debuting its first online exhibit this week. 

Called “SHIFT,” the exhibit will open on Wednesday, July 15, with an online reception from 7-8 p.m. The exhibit will explore concepts of change or exchange in the paradigm, position, dreams, environment, perspective and more.

“So much has changed in our world in the last few months, in ways both personal, political and global,” Nancy Sausser, MPA’s director of exhibitions, said.

The exhibit, juried by Henry Thaggert and Sarah Tanguy, will feature 48 artists from the mid-Atlantic region, according to a statement from the group. The works displayed in the exhibit were chosen from more than 250 submissions, according to Sausser. 

Artists were asked to answer the question, “How has your world been affected by this ‘SHIFT’ in our lives?”

The exhibition will be available from July 15-Aug. 27.

Photo courtesy McLean Project for the Arts

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Local students will soon get to see their art displayed in two gallery shows this month.

McLean Project for the Arts plans to host youth art shows for students in elementary, middle and high schools in the McLean and Langley school pyramids.

The show for McLean pyramid students is set to run from Thursday (March 5) to next Saturday (March 14). An opening exhibition reception will be held on Thursday (March 5) from 4:30-6 p.m.

Then, students in the Langley pyramid will have their art displayed from March 19-April 1. A reception is set for Thursday, March 19, from 4:30-6 p.m.

People can see the art at the Emerson and Atrium galleries (1234 Ingleside Avenue), which are open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Photo via McLean Project for the Arts 

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The 1960s are making a comeback at Historic Vienna’s upcoming time-traveling exhibit.

People can check out the exhibit starting Sunday (March 1). Historic Vienna is set to host a grand opening celebration a week later, on March 8 from 2-4 p.m., according to the website.

The exhibit will be located at the Freeman Store & Museum (131 Church Street NE) and will include a U-2 pilot suit worn by Lt. Col. Sam Crouse, vintage toys and movie posters from films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” the event page said.

More serious topics such as segregation, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement will also be addressed at the museum, according to the website.

“HVI encourages visitors to add a personal — and local — touch to the exhibit by sharing their story,” the webpage said, adding that people will be able to post on a message board about their own experiences surrounding the decade.

Typically, the Freeman Store & Museum is open from noon to 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday.

Photo via Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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The McLean Project for the Arts will unveil its latest exhibition on Thursday (Dec. 5).

The latest set of art will feature Eve Stockton with “Origin Stories” in the Emerson Gallery and “Replay and Reshuffle” by Kyujin Lee in the Atrium Gallery, which are both located at the McLean Community Center.

The works will be available for public viewing beginning Thursday at a reception from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue). Attendees may RSVP if they wish to attend the opening event.

Born in Ohio and now an Alexandria resident, Stockton is known for her wooden prints and stone sculptures, while Lee chooses paint as a primary medium, according to the events page.

“Her prints are nature/science-based and have been exhibited at the National Academy of Science,” according to her website.

Lee was born in South Korea and is now based in D.C. Lee’s works have been displayed across the country, according to the artist’s website.

“Lee draws on the world of fairy tale to compose paintings exploring dreams, identity and personal transformation,” according to a press release from MPA.

Admission to the gallery is free, and the works will be on display until Feb. 29, 2020.

Images courtesy McLean Project for the Arts 

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With summer nearing an end and days getting shorter, a new art exhibit in Vienna is focusing on shadows.

Titled “Shadows,” the exhibit opened earlier this week at the Vienna Arts Center (243 Church Street NW, Suite 100 LL).

Lu Cousins, the director of the Vienna Arts Society, told Tysons Reporter that the exhibit will run through October.

Artist Bob Magneson is set to come to a meeting next Thursday (Sept. 12) to demonstrate his application techniques for Impressionistic and post-Impressionistic paintings.

Events at the center are free and open to the public.

The art center is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Image courtesy Vienna Arts Society

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Updated 11 a.m. — The lavish McLean home where much of Alexi Balmasov’s art is currently on display is a pretty far cry from the Siberian village it came from. But there’s a fairytale-like quality to both the cottage home a stone’s throw from downtown McLean and the pastoral scenes of Russia inside.

Local art seller Ruzanna Danielian is inviting the public to her home at 1178 Randolph Road for a gallery exhibition on Sunday, June 23 from 1-7 p.m. Drinks will be provided and Danielian said the public is invited to meet interesting people and enjoy good artwork.

“This is a passion for me,” said Danielian. “I choose [to display] what I fall in love with.”

Danielian said she got into the gallery scene by choosing art to display between books at a store she managed in Moscow. While Danielian said at first it was just art to fill in the gaps, she said customers began to take more and more notice of the artwork and soon curating artwork became her career.

In McLean, Danielian said she got started hosting galleries when she put some on display for a friend, but now Danielian says she makes it her mission to find lesser known artists from places and cultures people in the area may not be familiar.

Inside her McLean home, the walls are covered in a carefully curated selection of art from Balmasov, from still-lifes around the kitchen to scenes from rural Siberia along the hallway. It’s a selection Danielian said took her a year of traveling and careful selection to put together.

Danielian said what drew her to Balmasov’s artwork was the unique approach to layers. Oils, acrylics and other paints are all mixed one on top of the other in a single eight or 10-hour session, giving the pieces a unique sense of depth. The styles range from more surreal and impressionistic to realism.

The prices range from $300 pieces sold without frames to larger ones just under $2,000.

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