What started 19 years ago as a promotional event sponsored by a realty company has burgeoned, like Bethesda itself, into a nationally recognized celebration of art, crafts, music, food and community. Mark your calendar for the Bethesda Row Arts Festival, a free admission, rain-or-shine outdoor event that will bring 190 artists across a wide range of media to Bethesda Row on Oct.15, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Oct. 16, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Unlike many open-air art shows, the Bethesda Row Arts Festival is juried. Each artist has been selected by a panel for outstanding creativity, innovation and execution of original work in ceramics, digital art, drawing, fiber, glass, graphics/printmaking, jewelry, metalwork, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, wood or mixed media.
“There is truly something for everyone,” said festival director Robin Markowitz. For those intimidated by the idea–and price tag–of buying art, she offered some advice: “Most [artists] have lower-cost starter pieces, as well as those pieces more suited for collectors. These are professional artists who want to see their work in your home, or see you wear it.”
This is Markowitz’s ninth year with the festival. Since the start, she has seen the media become more diverse. “It’s not just art that hangs on the wall. You’ll find furniture, sculpture and so much more,” she said. She also pointed out that as Bethesda’s downtown has grown, it has acquired better “bones” for the festival–new parking garages, a wealth of restaurants and improved traffic control. All these elements make the event easier to navigate, which may account for the increasing number of families at the festival in recent years.
Artists will travel to Bethesda from some 30 states and Canada to share their work. Among them are four Montgomery County-based standouts. Festival-goers will meet them in person, since “it’s a requirement that all artists sit with their work,” Markowitz said.
Jeffrey Oh of Olney works in wood sourced from various corners of the U.S. Markowitz said he began his craft making doors and expanded into unique pieces of furniture and whimsical small items, like serving boards. “As an artist who creates high-end pieces, it is important to show work in high-end shows like Bethesda Row Arts Festival,” Oh said, adding, “I am excited to meet local arts lovers and share three brand new furniture pieces at this year’s festival.”
Terry Pool, a jewelry maker from Silver Spring, brings his two-dimensional sketches to life in wearable art so people can make “art a part of everyday life.” He uses sterling silver, copper, pearl, brass and gemstones to realize his visions. “I’m thrilled to be a part of such a prestigious art show,” Pool said. His hope is for people “to connect with [his] work.”
Joseph English of Washington Grove works as a silk-screen printmaker, combining intense colors and flat ink to create serigraphs of places familiar and far-flung. He has a large following locally and nationally, and has received commissions from area businesses like Giant and EuroMotors. “Over 44 years, I have received the most support and encouragement from patrons in the Bethesda area,” English said. “Because of this, I always look forward to debuting my newest work [here]. When you display your work in Bethesda over a weekend festival, you can expect thousands and thousands of people to see your work. This, and the fact that you are interacting directly with your customers, is incredibly exciting.”
Alex Keto, a digital fine arts photographer from Bethesda, is entirely self-taught, although he learned a great deal on-the-job as a news reporter in East Tennessee. He devises proprietary techniques that can be seen in images across his five main categories: urban landscapes, collages, black and whites, landscapes and reflections. For him, “Choosing what artwork to include is probably the toughest aspect of the festival. I’m constantly working on new photos and digital art, so I want to bring fresh work to the viewers.”
Six local musical acts will round out the festival. The Rick Whitehead Duo, Seth Kibel & Bay Jazz Project and Colonel Josh take the stage at the corner of Elm Street and Woodmont on Saturday. Todd Baker and Andy Brown, Julie Mack and Justin Trawick perform on Sunday.
The Bethesda Row Arts Festival and its participating artists have partnered with NIH Children’s Charities to direct dollars raised on donated works to the Children’s Inn, Special Love/Camp Fantastic and Friends of the Clinical Center. Bethesda Row is located on Woodmont and Bethesda avenues, Elm Street and Bethesda Lane, east of Arlington Road. Visit www.bethesdarowarts.org or call 301-637-5684. Click here to view this event on CultureSpotMC.