Exhibitions at the Greater Arts Center (GRACE) are always celebrations of art and the contemporary artists who create these works. The current exhibition at the Reston Town Center gallery and arts center has a special added dimension—the anniversary celebration of the 40 years that have made GRACE one of Reston’s and Northern Virginia’s prime cultural institutions.
“40 for 40,” on view now through Nov. 2, traces GRACE’s history and growth through the works of 40 artists who have all exhibited at the gallery over its past four decades.
Selected by Holly Koons McCullough, curator of exhibitions, who visited every artist’s studio when organizing the exhibition (“the most fun I ever had”), the works are extremely diverse—intentionally so.
Never intended as a comprehensive overview of the artists who have exhibited at GRACE, McCullough chose art that “exemplifies the breadth and quality GRACE has championed since its inception” in December of 1973.
At the exhibition’s Sept. 12 opening, McCullough noted, “These are 40 artists who really made a difference here.”
Among the joys of putting together this exhibition, she said, are the gratifying stories that came along with the art. Stories about how a GRACE exhibition boosted a career or significantly changed an artist’s creative process; how the art exhibited enriched supporters, and how students’ experiences at GRACE have forged a lifelong appreciation of art.
“These stories,” according to McCullough, “are the core of GRACE and are the reasons for its continued existence.”
For an arts organization to not only survive but also to thrive for 40 years “is really saying something,” suggested Linda Sullivan, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Fairfax, offering congratulatory remarks at the opening.
Wishing GRACE a “happy birthday,” state Sen. Janet Howell, a longtime Reston resident, echoed Sullivan’s sentiments. “It’s a struggle for every one of our arts organizations to survive and grow, and this one has managed to do it,” she enthused.
Not only is GRACE looking back but it also is energetically looking ahead, said longtime Restonian and GRACE board member, Jim Cleveland, who is spearheading its ambitious new “40 Forward” fundraising campaign.
The campaign’s goal, Cleveland reported, initially was $100,000. Having already exceeded that by $25,000, Cleveland announced he was upping the goal to $250,000.
Mentioning the imminent arrival of Metro, Cleveland said, “this is an incredible time for Reston and GRACE.”
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) presented Damian Sinclair, GRACE executive director, with a Fairfax County proclamation lauding the arts organization as a “real model” for both Reston and the county as a whole.
Among the exhibiting artists celebrating with the crowd, who filled every corner of the gallery, were a number who were key players in creating GRACE.
They included: painter and internationally known stained-glass artist Brenda Belfield, who launched GRACE at Lake Anne Village Center’s Heron House 40 years ago; intuitive painter Judith Forst, who helped define GRACE as an institution while serving as its executive director between 1975-1980 and again between 1990-1995; founding member Connie Slack, a prominent abstract painter who along with Forst helped to launch the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival; and Joan Kelly, a noted acrylic painter known for her vivid use of color, who helped found the GRACE Art program (formerly known as Art in the Schools).
Other longtime, influential GRACE artists and Reston residents whose works are part of the “40 for 40” exhibition are: painter and collage artist Ann Barbieri, whose first GRACE solo show was in the late 1970s; Joanne Bauer, GRACE’s exhibitions director from 2006-2011; multimedia artist Marco Rando, currently an art teacher at South Lakes High School who won his first GRACE art award at age 11; and watercolorist Dana Ann Scheurer, whose boldly colored works are deeply rooted in Reston themes and whose exhibition piece is a finished study for a new wall mural she designed for Reston Town Center.
Looking out at the throng of artists and supporters who personify GRACE’s 40 year history, Holli Ploog, who recently turned over the chairmanship of the GRACE board to Robert Goudie, summed up the mood of the evening.
“This is a very emotional night for all of us,” she said.