ArtsIn Z HoodLiving Legends SeriesPhotography

Think Outside the Box, Color Outside the Lines

Alexandria is privileged to be home to numerous organizations with an unwavering can-do spirit, determined to ensure that the show will go on that have continued in supporting the arts!

“Blue Heron,” Nina Tisara’s ode to Huntley Meadows Park. (Photo: Nina Tisara)

Alexandria, VA – Evidence of the new and ever-changing next normal is all around us. Curbside pickup, open alcohol to-go, tented restaurant seating on sidewalks and into the streets, limited admission to stores, movie theaters, restaurants, even doctors’ offices prevail in 2021.

The arts, particularly the performing arts, have witnessed curtailed audience participation, depleted revenue streams, and depressed donor support due to the pandemic’s impact. But Alexandria is privileged to be home to numerous organizations with an unwavering can-do spirit, determined to ensure that the show will go on.

All summer and into the fall, Classical Movements held a concert series, “Sounds of Hope and Harmony,” in The Secret Garden of the Christ Church Rectory on Princess Street. This last summer, the series notably hosted “A Brand New Day,” the first professional choral music performance in the world since COVID-19 quashed live musical events. The concerts continued with “Sounds of Joy and Light” set amid the illuminated, heated boxwood garden for the holidays.

The Gallery at Serenity Place was created by Alexandria artist Nina Tisara as an alternative exhibit space during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Nina Tisara)

After Christmas, the Alexandria Ballet’s 12th annual performance of The Nutcracker featured live-streamed, reduced-cast productions to allow social distancing. Codirector Gennifer Difilippo admitted, “Yes, we’re putting on The Nutcracker in a pandemic. It’s crazy, but we’re doing it!” Proceeds benefitted ArtSpire VA.

Undeterred by revolving museum closures, the local visual art scene carried on.

Despite reduced hours, the Torpedo Factory and the Del Ray Artisans remained open to the public into the new year. But based on coronavirus metrics, The Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum, decided to close for renovations. Unfortunately, this meant that the ongoing exhibit of Nina Tisara’s photo documentation of places of worship in Alexandria would have to go exclusively online, seemingly the last resort of the art world.

Ever the enterprising Living Legends founder and a 2015 Living Legend herself, Nina refused to accept that living in a virtual world is inescapable. She is a photographer, writer, businesswoman, photojournalist, and mosaicist who knows how to make things happen.

Nina opened Tisara Photography with a studio on upper King Street back when it was known as the Wild West of Old Town retail. Len Garon’s mural on the wall of Carol Supplee’s fabulous Imagine Artwear shop is dedicated to the founding members of KiSMET (King Street Metro Enterprising Team), including Nina, Carol, Hobbes the dog, and David Martin of Goldworks. Nina was a photographer for the Alexandria Gazette Packet. She has had her photographs published in the Old Town Crier and countless other periodicals. In the last year, she has created a reminiscences column for the Zebra Press, “Memories and Musings.”

Etched copper artwork by Steven Halperson on exhibit at the Gallery at Serenity Place. (Photo: Steven Halperson for Tisara Photography)

The temporary closure of The Lyceum kickstarted a project that Nina had considered for some time: an arthouse gallery. Turning the living and dining room walls in her Rose Hill home into an actual, not virtual, art gallery took vision, ingenuity, fresh paint, superb lighting, and help from her artist/photographer son Steven Halperson. With a lighting system designed by Anila Angjeli of ALine Architecture and supplied by Alexandria Lighting on North Henry Street, Nina was set to cut the virtual ribbon, welcoming visitors to The Gallery at Serenity Place in time for the holidays.

Nina’s alternative art space excites her. “I could not be more pleased with the results. With exhibit opportunities limited by the pandemic, this is an excellent opportunity,” she said. Nina’s mosaic art and Steven’s etched copper and photographic art are on exhibit now. Nina has been creating imaginative and fine-art mosaics since 2007, when she closed the darkroom door to focus upon her newest passion.

Nina Tisara’s mosaics have been exhibited at the Art League Gallery, Del Ray Artisans Gallery, and the Target Gallery of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Her art was recently the subject of a one-person show at the 7 East Gallery in Woodstock, Virginia. She has had a mosaic work juried into an exhibit at the Virginia Quilting Museum in Harrisonburg.

To schedule a visit to the Gallery at Serenity Place, contact Nina Tisara at [email protected]. You can also view the mosaics at 

ICYMI: Artisans with Disabilities Make the Holidays Meaningful

Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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