the warm fuzzies: wonderkittens 2013.

wonderkitten signLet’s face it. Being a grownup just isn’t as fun as we thought it would be. When we were young, we couldn’t wait to be older… so we could stay up late, or watch a PG movie, or go on a date, or learn to drive. Once we reached those milestones (and all the buzz-killing responsibilities that accompany them), we longed again for our youth, back when no one was really relying on us, when sticks and rocks were far more valuable than money, when we measured time in increments of Sesame Street episodes. THAT was freedom. Remember it?

If you’re having a hard time remembering, I have a remedy. Spend some time with a kid. If you don’t have a kid handy, I have some I can loan you. When you spend time with a kid, you start by teaching them all the amazing, profound things you know. Then at some point, you realize you know nothing, and the child in front of you is the one who has it all figured out. And for a fleeting moment you glimpse the innocence and joy and unfettered love you were born with which has been buried under all your adult baggage. You can’t BE a kid again, but you can be WITH a kid… and that’s like the best of both worlds.

wonderkkitten music2wonderkitten fansThese worlds collided in a beautiful way when Brandy and Denise hatched yet another mind-blowing idea: why not pair up an adult, working artist with a creative youngster, and let them immortalize each other in a portrait? Let the child see what the adult sees, and more importantly, let the adult look once again through the tender eyes of a child. Moments after they thought it, Brandy and Denise set out to do it, and therefore, they did it. Because that’s what happens when those two get together.

wonderkitten ella flowersThey named the portrait show Wonderkittens. It’s goal was to “bridge the gap between the untapped creative mind of a child and a thriving, working, independent artist.” After securing several willing artists and children, Denise and Brandy created an online survey for everyone to complete, which helped them match the kids with compatible artists.
pairsThe artist’s role was to mentor the child, guiding him or her through the process of creating a portrait, adhering to a deadline, respecting craftsmanship, promoting the show, working together, and all else that goes into a collaborative project. The role of the child was to make the artist giggle with wild abandon, forget what time it was for a little while, remember with fondness his or her own childhood, and maybe secretly swing by McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. :)

wonderkitten_-_ wonderkitten____What actually happened was an incredible display of patience and tenderness on both sides. My daughter COULD NOT WAIT for her weekly session with her artist partner — Wednesdays at 7pm at the Dodger. She gratefully, and with more seriousness than I expected, soaked up his every word. He showed her, with unending generosity and kindness, all about pens and ink and paper and different comic styles. Other artists found ways to “get together” even when schedules clashed — through Skype or Facetime or even over the good old phone. One child wanted to create more than one portrait of her artist partner, and that’s just what she did, filling a whole corner of the Larkin gallery all by her cute self!

wonderkitten ___wonderkitten _--_I’m not sure the last time I saw so much cuteness in one place. Larkin Arts hosted the Wonderkittens opening on December’s First Friday. There were snack and drinks (thank you, Kathy Whitten!) kid-friendly music by Nick Melas, interactive art work by our local troupe Artery (Wes Way, you are an awesome human being!), and of course all the portraits.

wonderkitten musicwonderkitten artery1wonderkitten artery4 wonderkitten artery3 wonderkitten artery2The artists were used to seeing their work on a wall… the kids were really thrilled! And there, in that act, the gap was bridged. Perhaps the artists remembered when their art was displayed for others to see for the very first time. Perhaps the children, for the very first time, saw themselves as artists.

wonderkitten lynda_ wonderkitten morgan_ wonderkitten john_ wonderkitten ella_chriswonderkitten denise _ wonderkitten ben_ wonderkitten bree_tripwonderkitten _ wonderkitten __For me personally, I am extremely grateful to the grownups of this community who have not just touched but improved my children’s lives. I am so, so glad I live here. I am so, so glad my children are growing up here, amongst all you lovely people…. especially, these two:
wonderkitten D and B

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

spring loaded: larkin arts.

Like cutting into a head of iceberg lettuce, like riding a bike downhill, like the snap of a beer can opening, like biting into a York peppermint patty. FINALLY. Spring in the valley. A gorgeous, reviving, sunny day. For a moment I noticed it was cold in the shade, but I quickly pushed that sensation away, refusing to acknowledge our lingering winter any longer, and basked in the heat of the warm sidewalk and my steaming cup of coffee. The natural radiance of the day was appropriately punctuated by beautiful and striking works of art generated by our sizable local art community. It couldn’t have been a finer day. Plus, it was nice not to be out in the rain or snow or wearing my clunky boots and my old gray coat.

harrisonburg springtimeA dozen or so local artists set up displays of their work at Larkin Arts’ first ever Art Market, held right there on the Court Square and spilling over into the Denton building parking lot. Even before its official start at noon, folks who were clearly on their way somewhere felt compelled to pause, peruse, and talk with the artists.

Here’s a little snapshot of the artists there that day.

Trip Madison wasn’t actually present, because he was out of town, but his work made it to the market: prints of acrylic and ink on wood and printed on metallic paper. To the left of his table was Daniel Suter and his bearded demons and monsters. I guess they are scary looking creatures, except for their lovely, flowing, feather-drop beards, but one — the purple one — didn’t seem so demonic. He seemed benign, wistful, even sympathetic. I wanted to take him home.

daniel suter larkin artsAround the corner we found Paul Somers displaying multiple photographs, including Polaroids that carry such nostalgia, like stumbling on an old forgotten box of photos in your parents’ attic. Paul shared a table with Chris Fulmer, whose work was also tangibly personal — like photocopies of his journal, for example — and, therefore ironically, free.

artists at marketMorgan Fink displayed prints of her oil paintings and drawings done in pen & ink with colored pencil, and Angus Carter shared an immeasurable variety of work with those who browsed his table. I liked that “What a Fox” fox portrait, and pretty much everything in the box labeled TESTS & DOODLES.

There was also some recycled art work: Andi Senatro of Andi’s Green Art displayed mosaics, guitar picks, and other items made entirely of chopped up Starbucks gift cards, and Kelley Shradley-Horst made all sorts of items from clock and watch parts.

kelli horst clock workBruce Rosenwasser was there; he has a thing for hearts. In fact, last year he sold some 600 hand-carved wooden hearts. He told me how one year he made all these wooden Christmas ornaments in various shapes, and some ladies sifted through the entire inventory and bought all the heart-shaped ones. Now he can’t seem to make enough of them. But he also creates frames, earrings, wall hangings, even portaits, all from locally reclaimed scrap wood.

I really enjoyed Pam Ulmer’s photos — so bright and crisp, some of nature or serene locations, some of interesting historic landmarks, statues, old buildings. Lynda Bostrom’s large display featured drawings, paintings, and graphic designs in subtle colors. Brandy picked up a couple from her:
Lynda Bostrom

works by lynda bostromLast but not least was Denise Allen and her table of drawings and watercolor paintings, hand-made coloring books with a free hand-made, star-shaped crayon (!), and even seed packets, all in brown paper packaging, signifying favorite things. You know what one of my favorite things is? Pretty much anything made by Denise. And Denise herself.

denise allen crayonsHere’s to more beautiful sunny days with beautiful sunny people! Happy spring!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

major artery: larkin arts.

larkin arts ellaRemember when Studio Art Shop was downtown? This was way back when Dave’s Taverna was on Water Street and Main, and Jokers (now the Blue Nile) was the hot spot for local music. Studio Art Shop was located where Oasis Gallery is now… I remember that art store fondly… the smell of paint and canvas, rows of colorful bottles, rainbows of oil pastels, stacks of naked sketch books, jars of never-used brushes with smooth wooden handles, neat paper bags of rabbit skin glue, Gesso, tubs of Gojo. Simply walking in there would inspire even the least artistic of us (like me) to create.

Needing more space, Studio Art Shop expanded to a larger store on Neff Avenue and became the place for art students to purchase supplies each semester. Lamentably, Studio Art Shop closed its doors for good a few years ago.

No doubt Valerie Smith remembers Studio Art Shop, too, and thanks to her, her hubby Scott, Lynda Bostrom, and many other local art supporters, Harrisonburg once again has a full-service art supply store on the Court Square… an apt location in the heart of a city that loves and values art of all kinds.

larkin arts val and scottBut Larkin Arts is not just a source of supplies; it’s also a gallery, a school, and a studio–a place for learning, creating, and displaying art. The store itself carries thousands of products for the new, developing, or veteran artist, and a cozy lounge area where one can sit and sketch or peruse hundreds of art books from their library, all the while listening to albums on the old-school stereo system, from Loggins and Messina to Talking Heads to Fugazi, the Beatles, or even “Latin for Lovers.” :) And, even if you’re not an “artist,” many of their items make lovely, unique gifts for people of all ages and for any occasion, really.

larkin arts1In the space adjacent to the store is the gallery and reception area. Two large, open, bright spaces regularly feature curated, juried, or group exhibitions.

larkin arts denise larkin arts food larkin arts reception2Down the hall to the right are three (three!) classrooms hosting a variety of classes. Every Monday from 6:30 to 8:30pm the public is welcome to attend live figure drawing. Children ages 4 – 12 can attend classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, weaving, and art history. What a great way to spend dark, chilly afternoons, and when the weather is warm and school’s out, kids can attend week-long art classes — even one taught by our own Brandy Somers! — during the 2013 Youth Summer Art Program.

The left side of the hallway houses local artists’ studios. Large, bright, open rooms with closets and plenty of space to haul out your supplies and make a big ole mess.

In the last couple of months, Brandy and I have visited Larkin Arts a number of times. Back in December, we did some Christmas shopping there. More recently, we’ve gone to visit the gallery. Nathan Shearer’s simply framed photographs of LEGOs blew me away. One, I love LEGOs — I even have a LEGO room in my house. Two, the scenes he depicts in the photos are both realistic and imaginative. Three, his attention to detail, posing little LEGO figures in front of less playful backgrounds, getting the scale just right so that the photo is as believable as a portrait. And four, the colors! I wish I could have bought every one of them and hung them all together on a single wall in my house. You couldn’t be unhappy in that space. To see more of Nathan’s photos, please check out Katie Schmidt’s photos, here.

larkin arts nathan s nathan shearer bwThe other exhibit we attended was that of Jade Webber, an artist currently studying at JMU after completing a degree in Fine Art at New Mexico State University. Her large, heavily textured paintings depict the natural world, which is, as she describes it, a blend of “the metaphysical, the supernatural, and the ineffable.” Her work particularly reflects a love of animals, who “remind us that we, too, are animals. We are subject to forces beyond our control.” In this way she underscores how natural art is to the human experience: it springs organically from the artist herself; tools of wood and hair and metal push around hues of the outside world we see every day, resulting in a connection between artist and viewer that is not forced, but… ineffably genuine. You can see Jade’s work at Larkin Arts through the end of February.

jade webber notes jade webber 7 jade webber 5 jade webber 1The kids were with us, of course, and what would an ilovemyburg post be without the antics of children? Let’s see. Bree dropped her cupcake on the floor, icing side down (major tragedy). A couple of the Judy Chops were there to perform (because, let’s face it — all of ’em would have caused a sonic boom-ish catastrophe knocking the artwork right off the walls), and so lots of giggly, dizzying dancing ensued. Scott whipped out some brown Model Magic for the kids to “play with.”

larkin arts cupcake larkin arts blake ella judy chops 3 larkin arts brownAnd Cal left a note on Brandy’s car that said, “Your butt looks really good.” She laughed and acted like it was silly, but I bet she taped that thing to her bathroom mirror. Ha ha!! After she previewed this post, she clarified that it is NOT on her bathroom mirror. It’s on her fridge. :)

Congratulations to Valerie and Scott for opening this Harrisonburg gem. We hope you will visit soon and see why it’s so, so special. It’s yet another reason we love our burg.

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.