a walk of art: cupid crawl 2018.

burgIMG_1733Valentine’s Day sometimes gets a bad rap. Hailed as a “Hallmark holiday” by cynics around the globe, some people refuse to acknowledge it. School children far and wide begrudgingly drop cheap perforated cardstock Disney-sponsored sentiments into the hands of classmates they hardly know. Or like, for that matter. And for many, the day only serves as a reminder of failed romances. <sigh> I hear you. But six years ago, Valentine’s Day took on a new dimension for Brandy and me. It was the day we started this blog, and since then our focus has been to show all of you how smitten we are with our community and everyone in it. Once we started actively looking for things we loved about our town, we saw them everywhere.

Spend even a short while strolling through Harrisonburg and you’ll see countless manifestations of lasting love. The communion of souls that takes place Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market under the roof of the Turner Pavilion. Sandwich boards lined up along the sidewalks welcoming residents in for some rest and comfort. Welcome Your Neighbor signs proudly displayed in storefront windows. Vibrant murals painted on faded structures to remind them they’re still loved. In Harrisonburg, it’s like every day is Valentine’s Day.

We were thrilled, therefore, that we got to spend this Valentine’s Day celebrating Harrisonburg’s art scene by attending the Cupid Crawl. Hosted by the Arts Council of the Valley and led by local superwoman Laura Thompson, the Cupid Crawl is a delightful stroll to five downtown locations for art, artist talks, and refreshments.

burgIMG_1837.jpgThe Crawl began at the Smith House, home of the Arts Council of the Valley and its two galleries. Executive Director Jenny Burden welcomed guests and spoke about the Advancing the Arts Grants available to organizations, art educators, and artists working in the visual, performing, and literary arts. These grants help expand the arts in our community, to the tune of $350,000 over the last ten years. As guests mingled and nibbled on appetizers, the Harrisonburg Harmonizers treated us to some old fashioned crooning about lasting love, their voices filling the 150-year-old Smith House, a building  loved so much it was moved to its current location on the back of a truck! Before long, it was time to hear from the evening’s featured artists, Frank and Janet Marshman, whose amazing art collection adorned every wall in the place. Having started their collection in 1972, the exhibit showcased 45 years of art representing 21 artists including Paul Strand, Imogene Cunningham, Olivia Parker, Emmet Gowin, Michael A Smith, Sally Mann, and others. Sally Mann, a Lexington, Virginia, native, has an upcoming show in DC of about 100 prints.

burgIMG_1777burgIMG_1784burgIMG_1786burgIMG_1780Frank, who owned the Untitled Gallery of Fine Photographs in the late 70s, talked about his lasting love of print photography and its place in the modern era of digital everything. I loved hearing the Marshmans explain that most of this artwork has been stored in boxes for years; they lovingly dusted off the old prints, had them framed at the Frame Factory, and now here they were, refreshed and alive, hanging on the walls of a restored building. Frank and Janet have spent their lives loving art. As Frank said that evening, “If you don’t support the arts, nobody will.” And just like that, Laura was getting our attention and instructing us to move along to the next location: the Wilson Gallery at Kline May.

burgIMG_1804Appetizers and drinks from Beyond Restaurant Pho and Sushi greeted us, flanked by striking drawings, ceramics, and sculptures by three artists. Despite loving it here in the Shenandoah Valley, Danielle Heckman, an artist from Pennsylvania, still yearns for home. Her artwork represents homesickness and the act of relocating, depicted by what she calls “the containers of moving,” such as the sack of embroidered letters. Somehow the idea of embroidering letters makes the letters more permanent, preserved for ages, objects of lasting love.

burgIMG_1815burgIMG_1829burgIMG_1845burgIMG_1813Mallory Burrell’s “The Migration Series” includes seven drawings depicting animals on a migration caused by habitat destruction: a fox carrying squirrels and butterflies; a bunny whose ears are covered by his passengers — flowers, caterpillars, crickets; a kaleidoscope of butterflies carefully transporting a honeycomb to its new home; everyone doing what they can out of a lasting love for the planet. Shouldn’t we all.

burgIMG_1824burgIMG_1821burgIMG_1820Our third stop, Shenandoah Joe, provided a pick-me-up of coffee and cookies from Bittersweet Bakery and featured artist Natasha D’Souza. Natasha spent a period of time in Bethlehem and the Jordan Valley documenting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory and various human rights violations on the West Bank. She was trained to do this — to use her camera to hold people accountable, to make them “play fair” in war. Her exhibit, “Candid Lessons in Conflict,” depicts elements of an occupation spanning 50 years and includes themes of existence and coexistence, access to worship, demolition and violence, education and children’s rights, and resilience.

burgIMG_1870burgIMG_1862burgIMG_1883burgIMG_1880Heading back out into the night, we hung a right at the corner and walked a couple blocks to Hess Financial. This charming historic building showcased the bright, colorful works of Pam Tittle and Janet Lee Wright in their joint exhibition called “Sweet Stories.” Pam’s works of watercolor, pen & ink, and acrylic are teeming with life. Critters of all assortments plus bread and coffee, pastries and dessert — symbols of life and a life well lived! I couldn’t help but notice how her works hanging on the wall interacted with the delicious pastries and treats from Heritage Bakery and Cafe on the table. Pam and her husband moved here from Maryland in 2010, and that’s when her work as an artist really began. She had her first solo show that year at Clementine, and now she organizes group shows in Harrisonburg regularly. Even more exciting, last year she illustrated a book called Jeremy and the Light (available on Amazon)! All in just eight years! It just goes to show what can grow in a fertile community.

burgIMG_1913burgIMG_1915burgIMG_1923burgIMG_1936Art is a relatively new pursuit for Janet Lee Wright, too. This retired librarian started painting at age 60 with no training. Her works on this evening represented the people and animals she loves. Again I was reminded of lasting love: lasting love in the various stages of plants that she paints and in her time-stopping portraits that last a lifetime. Of particular note is a painting of her parents based on a photo she took in 1962 — her parents have been married more than 70 years!

burgIMG_1958burgIMG_1931burgIMG_1962burgIMG_1965burgIMG_1991At our fifth and final stop, Larkin Arts, we were swiftly handed a “Downtown ‘79” — a night cap of bourbon, sours, and Betwixt cider, garnished with an apple peel — to sip while we viewed stunning pieces of art featured in the Regional Juried Show. The 32 pieces in the show were judged on mastery of technique, execution, presentation, and conceptual realization. More than 150 works were submitted for consideration, and it was no easy task for Paul Somers and Valerie Smith to decide which made the cut. While it’s an arduous process, Paul described it as “sacred” and valuable because it requires the deep contemplation and discussion of the merits of each piece. When done properly, the curation results in a situation where “staring at something that’s not moving” turns into something quite moving.

burgIMG_2025In addition to being an art gallery and store, Larkin Arts is home of Meridian Books and Games, run by Morgan and Vince Paixao. Several artist studios fill the spaces in the rear of the shop, and the store hosts countless classes for students of all ages throughout the year. I could’ve stayed at Larkin all night, and that’s no exaggeration: Valerie told us to stay as long as we wanted. And so even though the art tour officially ended, our Valentine’s Day love buzz did not.

burgIMG_2048burgIMG_2027Thanks to Jenny, Cate, Laura, and these awesome businesses for making the Cupid Crawl possible and for continuing to support creative art initiatives. Stay tuned for lots more from our beloved Arts Council!

~ Bittersweet Bakery, The Golden Pony, Heritage Bakery and Cafe, Beyond Restaurant Pho & Sushi, Wilson Downtown Gallery at Kline May Realty, Shenandoah Joe, Hess Financial, and Larkin Arts ~


Copyright © 2012-18 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words 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.

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.

brandy awesomers: larkin arts youth summer art program.

dry erase board in classroomMy friend is so talented. So talented!!

Brandy Somers works all year as a high school art teacher, photographs their creations, this beautiful city, and adventures with her loved ones and publishes it all on FOUR blogs (or five??), heads up a massive portrait show each year, participates in several art exhibits throughout the year, volunteers, raises children… I aspire to be like her in so many ways. She somehow seamlessly weaves all this into her life — a life full of color and texture, people and love, laughter and light. And last week I was able to see her talent in action as she taught a class at Larkin Arts… about something she does beautifully: weaving.

kids weaving basketsValerie Smith has been heading up this summer art program for years, only now she gets to host it at her own shop. She put out a call to local artists who’d like to teach a week-long class, assembled a fine group of those people, and sort of let them decide what it was they would teach. Then Valerie worked with the artist/teachers to determine appropriate age groups and ordered the necessary supplies. The twenty-six classes run through August 16 and serve kids age six to fourteen.

My kids and I arrived toward the end of her class entitled “Basket Full O’ Fun” — a week-long seminar dedicated to basket weaving, but which turned into much more.

To start each three-hour session, Brandy had students complete a quick sketch (in their self-made sketch books) centered around a particular topic, like “what was your worst injury?”, “draw your scariest moment” and “your biggest accomplishment”, and “what super power would you most like to have?” Answers, in the form of sketches, ranged from stubbed toes to falls from fences and split chins, from scary moms in masks to creepy cardboard cut-outs of Dale Earnhardt, and from super sniffing and shape-shifting to shooting something you want straight out of your hand (in Ella’s case, a bagel and drink). Pretty much everyone agreed that the pouch baskets were their most recent major accomplishment.

kids drawings on wallAfter the sketches, Brandy began the lesson. The week started with making a type of basket called a bean pot. The apt students caught on quickly in weaving these large, sturdy baskets, and in no time, had some gorgeous finished products.girl weaving basket

kids weaving baskets boy holding basket kids holding basketsThe pouch baskets (like a little purse) turned out equally beautiful but were harder to make and required patience and teamwork. Still, the determined students (and teacher) pressed on and completed the job on day three. !!!

group weaving pouch baskets hands making pouch baskets hands making pouch basketsNever fear. This isn’t Brandy’s first rodeo, and although the kids had completed her week-long class in a mere three days, she had more tricks up her sleeve. In fact, she needed sleeves… to make tee shirt rugs using hula hoops as looms. This is where Ella’s super power would have really come in handy. It takes A LOT of tee shirts to make enough strips for five kids to each weave a rug, so what super heroes came to the rescue? Denise and Sean Allen, that’s who. They showed up with a gigantic donation of old tee shirts. Let the shredding begin!

class weaving hula hoop rugskids hula hoopingA well-deserved and much-needed break.

And that awlsome project lasted clear through Friday’s class, when I was there visiting. One student was determined to finish her rug as a father’s day gift. Another’s strips kept getting tangled up. This student’s rug was finished and needed to be tied off, while that student still needed more strips of red fabric. Brandy moved with ease around the room, as she always does, helping everyone, as she always does… never losing patience, always speaking kindly, laughing and enjoying the moment, weaving color and texture and light into their lives, at least for one week.

girl weaving hula hoop rug girl weaving hula hoop rug boy weaving hula hoop ruggirl with hula hoop loom hula hoop rugsBrandy and I have taught at the same school for years, but it’s not often that we see each other during class. It was a real treat to see her in this element, and I mean that sincerely. Any person — young or old — would be lucky to receive her instruction, or her friendship.

There are still weeks and weeks of classes available to your kid this summer. Many of them still have space available, so now’s a good time to get signed up. They’ll be taught by professionals who love their craft and aren’t afraid to show it… just like Brandy.

kids holding final productsCopyright © 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.