Sunday, November 8, 2009

arts in Virginia

Lorton's Workhouse Arts Center, view of the buildings across the Quad near the front

Workhouse Barracks currently house artists open studios with a central gallery for each.
This view is looking from the outside in towards the Quad.

Fiber Arts display gallery in one of the barrack studio buildings

Since my show with neighbor poet Peter Montgomery opened last Oct. 24th at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center I wanted to get my mother down to see the space and the show. It is open Wed. through Sunday and I was visiting last week so we made a date and went down to explore the new center. It was a nice drive down through the wooded parkway in Prince William County and just over the county line in Fairfax County we pulled up and began the exploration. First we got into the main building where the Associate artists have up displays and the gallery gift shop is open as well as the art supply store. We noticed a nice Art-o-mat® like the one I participated in back in 2001 with Clark Whittington the original man who came up with the idea to turn old cigarette vending machines into art vending machines to bolster young and new collectors. I did some of my most popular prints for the Art-o-mat ® It was fun but way too much work for the money. Exposure was great but the income was not quite worth the pains I developed from mass producing small folding prints, cutting cardboard and stenciling boxes... Still I had fun and if you want to see the prints I did you can find them in my web gallery Artomat page. We saw the first floor and then went up to the Poetic Art show on the second floor and read most of the poems and enjoyed a quiet look over the artworks which varied a great deal from my nude figure watercolor to abstract stenciled paintings, collages, photographs color and black and white and even porcelain sculptures that looked like real books.
From Poetic art we went on to the next exciting feature the artists studios in the barrack buildings that used to be prison quarters. This place has been completely gutted and rebuilt specially to suit artists with bright overall lighting and a central hallway for each artist to display some framed work. A gallery is situated at the front where an artist greets visitors who are free to roam and explore. Mom and I had a great time looking and I discovered the print maker Norma Pfaff who is doing an ongoing series of relief prints of chairs. Something that I have seen before and may try my own had at creating. She wasn't in her studio this day but clearly works there a lot and we met her studio mate Karen a painter who did lovely paintings and watercolors and had a nice talk with her. We also ran into my old class mate from Pratt Institute who lives in that area and is an associate artist, Cedrick Baker. He was also at the opening on the 24th so it was a surprise to find him there again in the middle of the week.
The concrete floors were pretty hard and the only drawback to visiting the Workhouse Arts Center for us. We spent about two hours standing and walking and were very happy to get back in the car for a ride back to Manassas. This place is full of history and the open studio model for this arts center was the Alexandria Art League and the Torpedo Arts Center in Old Town Alexandria, VA. also a historic building. I hope to go back and learn more of the history about the Workhouse where Suffragettes were held after a protest in Washington DC at the Whitehouse for several months and nearly died from rough treatment and starvation back about 90 years ago. Women's struggle to get the vote prevailed but not without suffering and the history is alive here. One whole barrack building at the Workhouse Arts Center is devoted to the history a museum at the far end of the central Quad. That will be my first stop on the next visit. Arts instruction, performances and concerts, readings and creative experiences are happy to change the history of the Workhouse but keep the record strong and straight about how this place got it's name.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I imagine the history of the place adds to the experience for both visitors and the artists who have studios there.