Memories and Musings – On Community Art

Read about Anila Angjeli, principal/founder of ALine Architecture, and how her relationship with Living Legend, Nina Tisara, has developed over the years.

(All photos courtesy of ALine Architecture)
From the Social Butterfly Collection.

Alexandria, VA – Some years ago, Anila Angjeli, principal/founder of ALine Architecture, designed an addition for my home. I asked her back recently to help design a track lighting system for Serenity Place Gallery where I now showcase my mosaic art at home. While catching up on family and activities, she showed me cell phone images of her latest community art projects. I could have lit the entire gallery-to-be with the light shining in her eyes.

Angjeli was quick to credit her business partner Klodian Toto, who works hard on the community projects and makes much of what is done at Aline Architecture possible.

So far, there are six Community Art Projects, starting with Tectonic Plates of Albania, www.rebuildalbania.org/blog, a fundraising effort for the victims of the earthquake that struck Albania in November 2019.

Other community projects in 2020 are Social Butterflies Collection I (in the Milway Meadows neighborhood), Social Butterfly Collection II (in the Villamay neighborhood), Big Fish, the Kaleidoscope Project and, most recently, The Thankful Tree, which was designed by ALine and built by Shawn Bloom, a volunteer board member of the Milway Meadows Civic Association.

Angjeli was quick to credit her business partner Klodian Toto, who works hard on the community projects and makes much of what is done at Aline Architecture possible. And she collaborates with other local small businesses such as Precise Glass and Ladybird Crafts, which donate their time and materials to create and implement these projects.

Each of these innovative projects exemplifies ALine’s commitment to community togetherness. There is not enough space here to describe them well, so please read more about them at www.aline-architecture.com/social-1.

Most of the projects are located in the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax Country, where Angjeli lives and ALine Architecture is located. She serves on the Board of Directors of Milway Meadows Civic Association.

Asked whether suck projects are replicable in other communities, Angjeli said, “Yes, although they need some vision, dedication, preparation of materials, They need to be organized and championed by event directors or street ambassadors who can execute these community exhibits from start to finish.

“It starts with an idea and a message that is appealing and inspiring — a message that people relate to, encouraging creativity, togetherness, and inclusiveness. People are creative. In one way or another, each neighborhood has its community volunteers, an association, board of directors, a social chair, an art director, or an artist. They can adopt this concept and implement it in their community. These events were received well by our community. They were timely and very much desired, as we all were in isolation due to Covid-19. We found a way to express togetherness through art.”

Angjeli was born and raised in Albania. After receiving an architecture degree from the University of Tirana, she and her husband came to this country in 1994. Once her education credentials were accepted by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), she studied for the Architect Registration Examination and is now registered by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

She received her license in 2008 and founded ALine Architecture in 2009. Angjeli is an AIA member (American Institute of Architects) and a designated LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional).

In her not-so-spare time, Angjeli serves on the board of directors for the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce and the Building Code Board of Appeals for the City of Alexandria. If your community wants to try something similar, contact Angjeli at anila@aline-architecture.com.

Musing about the Butterfly Collection, Angjeli recalled that she has painted and designed many butterflies over the years, mostly digitally, creating color transparencies and fluttering effects. When the Covid quarantine started, she promised herself she would paint butterflies but soon realized that working alone, she might not be able to have the collection she envisioned. That led to the idea of a butterfly collection created by different people where each piece would be unique. ALine had a supply of blank canvases from another community art event. Those canvases metamorphosed into the first Social Butterflies exhibit.

With eyes still shining, Angjeli spoke of her dreams of continuing to create unique and engaging community art projects. “We’d love to orchestrate community-sourced public art for people to enjoy.”

Mosaic Artist/Photographer Nina Tisara is the founder of Living Legends of Alexandria.

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