Sperryville column for March 20

River District renaissance

River District Arts is in the midst of a veritable renaissance — new artists are arriving, a new restaurant is about to open and new teachings are being offered. It’s all about art, and RDA is simply bursting with life, energy and creativity.

Barbara Heile and her “spontaneous process” paintings are now on display at River District Arts.
Barbara Heile and her “spontaneous process” paintings are now on display at River District Arts. Chris Green | Rappahannock News

Recently visiting my good friend and RDA potter Doris Jones — in a studio she shares with Nancy Nord, Sara Adams and Susan Hornbostel — she introduced me to fellow RDA artist Barbara Heile.

I’d heard she offered classes at the Studio School at Mullany’s Art Studios in Flint Hill and was curious and intrigued about her “Spontaneous Process Painting.” Barbara shared with me her artistic passions, as well as her passion for all things German (she double-majored in art and German, the latter celebrating her ancestry). To my utmost delight, the interview was conducted mostly in German.

Enrolling in these spontaneous process classes, students find themselves standing in front of large sheets of stark, white paper, surrounded by bold-colored non-toxic tempera paints. She defines spontaneous painting as “unpredictable, unexpected and inspiring” and remarks that “curiosity is all you need.” Described as “meditation in action,” the process is all about “not knowing,” making one totally free and unencumbered by preconceived notions.

Barbara named several mentors, including Michele Cassou of France, whose mantra she shares: “To create, is to be a little lost.” Barbara’s enthusiasm and exuberance is infectious and she relates that when asked what style of painting she exhibits, she simply smiles and replies, “It’s original.”

For more information on her spontaneous-painting classes, visit the Mullany Studio’s Facebook page.

There are even more new artists on the way, said RDA director Jim Allmon. “Cherl Crews and local artisan Michelle Allman will be joining our vibrant creative community in April. They have rented the studio space on the front side of Middle Street Gallery . . . They have also applied for a grant to install the mural called ‘Earth Allegiance’ that was created by local school children in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Skyline Drive in 2011. The intent is to display the eight-by-15-foot mural outside of their studio facing the entry to Rappahannock Central.”

Cherl Crews, founder of Living Sky Foundation, will join the rest of RDA’s artistans in early April.
Cherl Crews, founder of Living Sky Foundation, will join the rest of RDA’s artistans in early April. Chris Green | Rappahannock News

A mother of four, Cherl was inspired by experiences with the Seminoles and swimming with dolphins to start the Living Sky Foundation. She says Living Sky’s mission is to embrace the spirit through creative expression and hands on learning.

“Our purpose and aim are to establish and foster the growth and development of community-based support by offering workshops for the education and outreach of children, youth and their families. Beginning in May, LSF will host monthly programs and presentations including music and art enrichment and environmental stewardship . . . The Earth Allegiance Mural and the Living Sky Foundation will be a designated location on the newly presented Rappahannock Artisan Trail.”

“We welcome Living Sky Foundation and the great work they do in inspiring the youth of our community!” added Allmon. For more information on LSF, including a calendar of scheduled activities, visit livingsky.org/ls/home.html.


Chris Green
About Chris Green 158 Articles
Chris Green (formerly Chris Doxzen) is an an executive recruiter by profession who enjoys exploring and writing about all things Rappahannock. Friends and neighbors with potential stories for her Sperryville column should email her at chrisdoxzen@gmail.com.