The hills and by-ways were alive with art lovers last weekend, as the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community held its ninth annual Artists of Rappahannock Open Studio & Gallery Tour. With fabulous fall weather and peak foliage, and a venue of seven galleries and 20 host studios — many with guest artists — to explore, the tour received a record number of visitors on Saturday and an overall figure once again approaching 1,000.
“It was an outstanding success,” said Nancy Raines, who co-chairs the art tour committee with Robert Ballard. “We had close to 700 people on Saturday. Folks were still coming at closing time to buy tickets for the second day.” Participating artists and galleries reported a brisk business in sales as many visitors took home beautiful art pieces, some directly inspired by Rappahannock’s lovely countryside.
Apparently, Sperryville’s salt-kiln potter Susan Dienelt was one such artist-turned-busy-salesperson. Her husband John, “our parking attendant, never got a moments rest,” Dienelt said. “We had so many cars he was directing all day, both days. It was great fun. The leaves were fabulous and so were the crowds.”
Visitors started their tour at the Washington fire hall, which was transformed into a gallery for the event by volunteers under the direction of Ballard, a past museum curator — and seemingly paid off. Approximately $11,000 in sales occurred at the fire hall alone. The temporary exhibition allowed visitors to sample the works of the participating galleries and artists before planning their itinerary and setting off on a veritable scavenger hunt for artists’ studios spread throughout Rappahannock’s hills and the galleries situated in Sperryville and Washington.
“A significant number of people — mostly from our community here, but others who return each year as well from the D.C. area — go straight to their favorite [artists],” said RAAC president Joanne Hilty. Regarding the attendance numbers, which continue to climb slightly each year, Hilty said, the soon-to-be-established “Rappahannock Artisan Trail will hopefully make a difference next year!”
The RAAC event is held annually to showcase the county’s artistic talent. In addition, the tour is used to raise money to support RAAC’s Claudia Mitchell Fund, a memorial dedicated to a past RAAC president and a founder of the art tour, which serves an important project with a mission of providing grants to deserving young artists.