Art Newz & Eventz

The Port City Art Scene: It’s Party, Party, Party!

See Mia Marin’s punny A Pair of Pears on exhibit at the Del Ray Artisans Gallery in the Power of Two show through March 30, 2024. (Photo: Mia Marin)

Alexandria, VA – February is a seemingly incessant celebration, from Groundhog Day to the Presidents Day parade. The art party to end all art parties, the Patron’s Show, occurs every Presidents Day holiday weekend Sunday at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (TFAC). And it’s been artfully soirée-ON! for 56 years.

Hosted by the Art League, artwork by Art League School faculty, students, exhibitors, Torpedo Factory studio artists, TFAC alums, benefactors, and renowned local visual artists has been donated to the Patron’s Show each year since 1968. The 2024 Patron’s Show raised $150,000 in February to support the Art League.

The Patron’s Show offered the finest works collectively representing the unbound talents of the Torpedo Factory Art Association roster of longtime, dedicated studio artists, educators,  volunteers, and regular exhibitors. Several works were donated by the late Beverly Ryan, a beloved third-floor studio artist whose work ranged from eloquent figural representation to powerful abstraction and an intriguing drone obsession series.

Decisions…Decisions! Whether by old-school paper Patron’s Show artwork list or too-cool-for-school Art Thief App, choosing wisely is serious work! (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

Torpedo Factory founder and former Alexandria State Delegate Marian Van Landingham donated a few of her iconic canvases. Several very fortunate ticket holders went home with stunning work created by longtime TFAC studio artist Mirella Belshe, who has retired, surrendering her diverting, eclectic studio gallery that had been greeting guests to the art center for decades. Gifted in all media, Mirella donated a Giacometti-esque elegantly silhouetted bronze sculpture and two supersized homages to Gauguin. In addition to Mirella’s after-Gauguin canvases, some of the most extraordinary work channeled Degas, Matisse, and Picasso. There were two nods to Picasso’s iconic masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Alexandria Living Legends founder and a Living Legend herself, photographer turned mosaicist Nina Tisara contributed one of her coveted creations. Torpedo Factory visitor favorite Lisa Schumaier’s divine mixed-media sculptural contribution of a tulle-tutued ballerina a la Tim Burton would make Degas smile out loud. And what would an Art League Patron’s Show be without the phenomenal skill of Wendy Donahoe’s mystifying pencil mastery?

You don’t need to wait another year or spend $250 to engage in the Alexandria Art soirée scene. The following week, there is an online post-party auction where you can bid on unpicked and unclaimed art, hoping for an even bigger steal starting at $45.

Speaking of fun and affordable, all the art spaces in Alexandria host opening and sometimes closing open-house receptions. Nepenthe Gallery hosts free weekly wine and cheese receptions with the exhibiting artists presenting informative art talks. Their pop-up space in Old Town above the Wine Gallery at 108 North St. Asaph Street is now a permanent exhibit space. Stay tuned for artful and informative happenings to come. This month, to celebrate the big news, the outstanding work of two Alexandria artists, abstract expressionist Judy Heiser and conceptual realist Jennifer Lian, is on exhibit. This Nepenthe Old Town debut exhibit runs from March 2 through April 14, 2024.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to win the Gauguin or Picasso homages at the Patron’s Show, Mariella Belitsa’s Girl with the Red Flower and Untitled are remarkable works, part of the Wonder Women exhibit of International Artwork by Women at Galactic Panther. (Photos: Kelly MacConomy)

Tried and true Alexandria art spaces are an invaluable asset in the cultural vibrancy of our historic yet progressive city. You can’t get more progressive than the Galactic Panther Gallery on Upper King Street. Receptions and events at Galactic Panther are now a very reasonable $10-15 a ticket, with music events running at $25. March events include Mixed Bag: Queercore Artists Showcase on March 2, ESP’s InterGalactic Open Mic at Galactic Panther every Sunday, and live musical entertainment each weekend. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

The art at Galactic Panther ranges from Picasso, the OG progressive, to urban urbane. Sales proceeds go to charities, so you pay it forward when investing in art at Galactic Panther. All while having the time of your life! Check it out. You’ll thank us later!

For 32 years, Del Ray Artisans has hosted monthly exhibit receptions on first Fridays. They are free and all are welcome. During First Thursdays in Del Ray, the gallery is open late for sneak-peek previews of the latest exhibit with planned activities from April to September. The new March exhibit is called The Power of Two and is curated by the husband-and-wife team of Karen and TJ Feeley.

Old Town being ALX art central, there’s always an exhibit soirée somewhere. Check the Target Gallery and Art League Gallery websites for a calendar of events. Printmaker’s Inc. schedules opening and closing receptions for their artist-spotlight shows. Next up is the relief printmaking of John Gosling with an exhibit titled Landscapes, Townscapes, and Peoplescapes, running March 1 – April 29, 2024. There is a reception on March 10 from 2-4 pm. Exposures Gallery’s second-floor photography studio space regularly hosts new exhibit opening receptions. So does contemporary Ottoman miniaturist Sermin Ciddi in Studio 328 on the third floor.

Nina Tisara is as legendary as the Torpedo Factory. She exhibits in the Art League Gallery and at Del Ray Artisans with frequent pop-up exhibits around town, including the Huntley Meadows Visitor Center, the Lyceum, and the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church gallery. Nina’s mosaics will be on exhibit with Steven Halperson’s photography at the historic Green Springs Park house from March 5 to April 28. The free reception is on Sunday, March 10, from 1-3 pm.

Principle Gallery opens its doors one Friday each month, celebrating the work of their realist painters, serving libations and light apps with artists in attendance. Principle Gallery receptions are open to the public at no cost. It’s a great way to get to know the premier Old Town art scene.

And don’t forget to check out the art in the Athenaeum on Prince Street. The stellar work of Australian color-field artist Christine Ruksenas-Burton is on exhibit until March 31 and is not to be missed. Evocative of the linear abstractions of Washington Color School legend Gene Davis, she has exhibited at Art Expo NY, Art Basel Miami, the Santa Fe and Dallas Art Expos, and around the DMV.

Veteran Torpedo Factory multi-talented artist Mirella Belshe’s superlative After Gaughan, Oil went home to one VERY Lucky Patron Show Ticket Holder. (Photo: The Art League)

Julian Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon, both notable artists, once explained, “When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul…a small piece of someone else’s life.”

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Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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