Galleries gear up for 10th annual art tour 

Who would believe that one of the smallest counties in Virginia could be home to seven art galleries? All of these are holding special exhibits during the 10th annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio and Gallery tour Nov. 1-2, transforming Rappahannock County into an art mecca.

Sponsored by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community (RAAC), the tour draws close to 1,000 art lovers, all of whom pour into town looking for quality art.

“At only $10 for a two-day pass, this is the best buy in town,” said Nancy Raines, chair of the annual tour committee, noting that in addition to the galleries, 17 artists will open their studios to visitors.

The tour is a major fundraising event for RAAC, which also organizes the tour. The money raised goes to support the ongoing arts programs, including the Claudia Mitchell Fund, named after one of the event’s original founders. Every year, the fund provides grants of financial assistance to artists of all ages, especially emerging ones.

And there will be no shortage of attractions. Sperryville, with slightly more than 1,000 residents, is bookended by two arts centers — River District Arts (RDA) to the east, and Oldway Art Center to the west — and offers five galleries to visit.

The oldest of those two is Oldway, which houses Glassworks Gallery, as well as seven rental spaces for art studios and a glassblowing facility.

Created by Eric Kvarnes, a master glassblower with 41 years in the trade, Oldway was once a junkyard. Over the last three decades, Kvarnes has transformed the 26-acre property he acquired from Pete Estes into an art center. The only remnants of its former life are the towers from an abandoned 1934 Ferris wheel, which now support the suspension access bridge over the Thornton River.

“I always had this dream of building an art center where artists could use the strength of a group to enrich our own lives, and to be able to share tools, equipment and knowledge, and teach others the things we know,” said Kvarnes, who describes his center as a work in progress.

The gallery features the works of local artists working in clay, wood and steel, as well as Kvarnes’ own glass creations. Among the artists displaying work are Steve Berry, Mike Saulnier, Straterra, Leif Kvarnes, Patti Brennan, Kenny Johnson and 25 others, most of whom are also local. Kvarnes will also hold glassblowing demonstrations.

The newer RDA complex is home to three galleries: Middle Street Gallery, River District Art Gallery and Old Rag Photography Gallery. It also houses 16 artists in nine studios, an Artisan Market and new Spanish restaurant El Quijote.

During this year’s art tour, River District Arts is hosting the Piedmont Virginian Artist Showcase with art, sculpture and fine craft by 42 juried artists from the Piedmont region of Virginia. The exhibit is sponsored by The Piedmont Virginian magazine.

Over at Middle Street Gallery, the 16 artists of this 30-year-old nonprofit artists cooperative are holding an “all members” show, as is the photography collective of Old Rag Gallery. Works by all six Old Rag members — Francie Schroeder and Geoffrey Archer, Joyce Harman, and Raymond Boc, Jason Howard and Bette Hileman — are on display.

The fifth gallery in Sperryville, Haley Fine Art on Main Street, will feature the work of returning artist Jeanne Drevas, who moved to Oregon but is returning for the tour. The gallery will also host a book signing for “Green Art,” which features Drevas’ art.

Washington’s R.H. Ballard Gallery and Geneva Welch Gallery are also on this year’s tour. In addition, as always, a preview gallery will be set up at the fire hall, tour headquarters, to allow visitors to sample the works of participating artists and start their veritable art “scavenger hunt” over Rappahannock’s bucolic hills.

R.H. Ballard is hosting a special exhibition of “Six Rappahannock Artists,” all of whom work in a variety of mediums. The exhibition includes Thomas Mullany’s figurative drawings, sculpture and oils; Nora Harrington’s plein air landscapes; Vivian de Kosinsky’s recent etchings of Europe and miniatures; Janet Broome’s screen and wire sculptures; and Lisbeth Sabol’s cast bronze and stone sculptures.

Robert H. Ballard, who both owns the gallery and is the co-chair of the studio and gallery tour committee, is also showing his recent acrylic paintings featuring land and sky.

At the Geneva Welch Gallery, visitors can enjoy the paintings of barnyard animals for which she is so popular. Also featured are new tile trays and mugs featuring barred rock roosters, one of her favorites, and a new series on herons which Welch said she “stalked last summer.” Tree ornaments and pet portraits will also be shown, and can be customized with your pet.

This is the second in a series of articles on the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community’s (RAAC) 10th annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour this Nov. 1-2. For more, visit