Alexandria, VA – On a picture-postcard perfect October Saturday at River Farm, the estate home’s ballroom art gallery was bustling with visitors, both passionate art aficionados and those claiming a horticultural avocation. The historic property, once part of George Washington’s original five farms, named River Farm by our first president himself, is currently the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society. River Farm has been in the news lately because the organization announced that they are putting the 25 acres and mansion overlooking the Potomac River up for sale.
Art on exhibit at River Farm must have a horticultural theme. For the first time in 25 years, paintings by the late artist Otari Shiuk (Shiukashivilli) are on exhibit in several floral studies by this renowned master of the genre.
Otari’s vibrant canvases rival the opulence of the lush gardens beyond the windows, still dazzling with various flora in brightly colored kaleidoscopic bloom. It’s a veritable garden inside the ballroom.
The exhibit opened October 17 with a well-attended reception. Special guests included members of the Otari family and friends. The collection belongs to the artist’s daughter-in-law, Eugenia Otari Chester, whose current husband is a physician treating underprivileged children in Africa and other developing countries. Ms. Chester graciously greeted guests and shared memories of her father-in-law at the opening reception.
In addition to the Otari floral still life and landscape paintings in the ballroom and in the spacious event tent, an eclectic selection of art by area artists was displayed inside the River Farm mansion. Torpedo Factory artist Nathan Leibowitz attended the opening. His diverse works were displayed throughout the main floor and drawing room of the River Farm manse. Local gallery owner Alina Burgova was on hand to discuss Otari’s artwork with hosts Robert and Rosemary Murray, who created an elegant, sophisticated gallery atmosphere, spotlighting the collection with grace and panache. Robert Murray is vice-chair of the AHA board.
The staff at River Farm greets visitors at the mansion’s door with a warm welcome and quick temperature check. Masks are to be worn at all times. Guests are expected to maintain appropriate and safe social distancing inside and out. Admission is free at River Farm. Due to COVID-19, the hours that the house and gardens are open to public have been limited to Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Otari paintings will be on exhibit at River Farm through January 6, 2021. Hurry on down! The leaves have yet to fully turn and fall; the grounds are as jubilant as an Otari canvas. Another reception is scheduled for November 14 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Take advantage of this Eden on the Potomac ASAP, before a sale is announced and finalized.
State Senator Scott Surovell (D-36th), who lives nearby and was married at River Farm, has been advocating for a public purchase of the property by the state or Fairfax County. Other sources have indicated that the National Park Service has its eyes on River Farm. The house and land were originally purchased through a monetary gift by Enid Haupt with the express caveat that it be made available to the public in perpetuity.
River Farm is located at 7931 East Boulevard in the Fairfax County section of Alexandria, just off the GW Parkway, adjacent to a riverfront estate just listed at $60 million. The website is ahsgardening.org/about-river-farm.
Come for the art. Stay for view—while you can. You will thank us later!