Everyone loves the Artists of Rappahannock Open Studio and Gallery Tour, but many people don’t know the longer-term impact this event has on our local art community. The two-day tour next weekend (Nov. 7-8), in its 11th year, annually draws close to 1,000 people, and is organized by a dedicated team of volunteers from the Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community (RAAC).
More than attracting art lovers to the county, net proceeds from the tour have become a major resource for RAAC’s Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund. Claudia Mitchell was a longtime RAAC board president who kick-started the grant program with a generous bequest from her estate. Since 2012, the competitive program has awarded more than $70,000 in grants to 39 local art projects, nonprofit organizations and emerging and established artists. Grants, awarded annually in spring, typically range from $500 to $3,500. Any project in the arts is eligible: visual art, literature, music, film/video, dance, theater and projects combining multiple media. Grants are also made for art programs in the schools, nonprofit arts organizations and other collaborative projects with a community focus.
“In an already flourishing arts community, the Mitchell Arts Fund has added a new dimension by helping and encouraging county artists and arts programming through financial support,” said RAAC’s president, Matthew Black. “These grants are investments in an important natural resource that is vital to the character and health of Rappahannock County. My hope is that the Mitchell Fund will continue to grow thanks to generous contributors to RAAC and to our programs like the art tour.”
This year, 18 Mitchell Fund grants were awarded — four of which went to artists on the art tour. One of these is the new mural that greets visitors entering the RappCats Adoption Center in the old packing shed at Flint Hill. It was designed and painted by 12 students (ages 8 to 14) from local schools, who worked under the tutelage of two artists on the tour — Kerrie Mullany and Darien Reece. The two-month summer project introduced the young artists to the process of creating a mural, while decorating the walls of RappCats to welcome adoptive families to the shelter.
The students first drew a cat that they would later paint on the mural that Mullany and Reece designed, incorporating the student art. “Each student painted her own cat. It was great fun and the students were very enthusiastic. One girl is continuing with art classes,” said Kerrie Mullany, co-owner with husband Tom of the Studio School. The Studio School is on the Art Tour, and visitors are welcome to go next door to see the mural.
Several other 2015 Mitchell Fund grant recipients are directly involved in this year’s Artists of Rappahannock tour. Kevin “KC” Bosch, a longtime Rappahannock resident, is a carpenter turned self-taught poet who started writing poetry eight years ago. While KC has been published in internet-based literary journals, the Mitchell grant allowed him to publish his first solo book of poetry, “Stealing Days.” Bosch is a guest artist at Michael Dennis’ Bookworks Studio in Flint Hill, where he will read poems from his book on Saturday and Sunday. The two artists are also collaborating on a handmade, fine arts edition of KC’s poetry and photographs.
Two other grantees involved in the Nov. 7-8 tour are Virginia Pates, a ceramicist, and Clyde Pates, a landscape painter. Both artists have won numerous awards, many international. Clyde Pates is respected for sculpturally describing the space of a landscape with brush and knife work. Virginia Pates is known for her glazes and for using materials from the local environment, which she uses to create wheel-thrown and altered forms. The work of this artistic couple will be showcased at the R.H. Ballard Gallery in Washington. This gallery, along with six other galleries, is holding special events during the tour.
For more information on the art tour, RAAC, the Mitchell Fund and this year’s grant projects, visit raac.org.
2015 Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund grantees
Child Care and Learning Center
Mountainside Dance Center
Kerrie Mullany and Darien Reece
1000 Faces Mask Theater
RCHS Band Boosters
Paul Reisler/Kid Pan Alley