Looking for summer fun that’s social, creative and absolutely free? Artists and Makers Studios in Rockville has a great idea: First Friday.
“My goal is to help people de-stress from their week,” said Judith HeartSong, founder and director of Artists and Makers (A&M), where the galleries are thrown open the first Friday of every month and visitors can enjoy drinks, snacks and music as well as brand-new art exhibits. “We have a lot of people who come from D.C., and they come across the bridge from Virginia — on a Friday!”
And because out-of-towners (and loyal locals) swing by the galleries so faithfully, “We want to feed them, get them some wine and soft drinks, and help them relax.”
According to HeartSong, 300 to 500 guests visit the galleries on First Fridays, depending on the shows. She expects record numbers this summer, bringing in Rockville-based musician Arthur Harrison this Friday to play the theremin, a tonally groovy atmospheric electronic instrument, as well as David Zeiegele, a solo acoustic guitar player. “He wanted a place to play,” recounted HeartSong. “And I just said, ‘We’re the place!’”
For four-and-a-half years, A&M has been the place where art galleries, studios, classrooms and workshop spaces come together to form a supportive environment for artists in just about every medium. With First Fridays, the studios are able to get people into creative spaces and promote the arts.
“It’s one of those things that means a lot to me because it really brings the community together,” said Steven Durow, a glass artist who teaches at Salisbury University. “And there’s something about a sense of community in the world that we live in that we sometimes lack.”
Durow’s show, “Sins of My Fathers,” veers off from his usual glasswork to explore issues of abuse and abandonment, which he experienced growing up. “This body of work was created for a museum out in Colorado,” he explained. “It was an opportunity for me to tell a story, and I figured this was the right time to show this work.” He said he started the project before the rise of the #MeToo cultural movement, but “Sins of My Fathers” has allowed him to share his story and interact with other abuse survivors.
Durow uses glass as an artistic metaphor. “I’ve always been drawn to glass because it’s a material that has qualities no other material does,” he said. “I was never interested in making decorative things with it. I really wanted to use glass as a material for artistic expression.”
Durow noted that glass is “physically very dense but visually very light.”
“The things that happen in our lives — they have weight,” he added. “And even though they’re just memories, not physically in front of us, it doesn’t mean they don’t impact our lives.”
On First Friday, Durow will be on hand at A&M 1, even though he describes himself as an introvert. “I’m more exhausted after a two-hour dinner party than a 15-hour day in the shop,” he laughed. “But I’ve had the most amazing experiences with this work, and interacting with people.”
While Durow is a first-time exhibitor at A&M, photographic artist Bill Lawrence goes back a few years as a member of the Montgomery County Camera Club, which shows there regularly in a gallery of its own. “First Friday is a great chance to meet other artists and do a little networking with them,” said Lawrence, a Bethesda resident whose “Alternative Worlds: Figures in Time” incorporates historic and modern techniques. “For the artists in the studio, it’s a chance to interact with the public, get folks in to see their work.”
Lawrence’s work, especially the prints done utilizing a kallitype process, exudes a languid vibe that suggests summer days and tranquility — a feeling of nature in bloom. “It’s very summery,” he agreed. “Though the tintypes, which are inspired by graveyard angels, are more of a winter vibe.”
His exhibit looks at the human form using modern and vintage photographic processes and subject matter — from wet-plate collodion tintypes that hail from the mid 19th century to late 19th century Victorian graveyard statuary (think Edgar Allan Poe) to the 1920s-style Ziegfeld Follies photography of Alfred Cheney Johnston. He combines romanticized figures with alternative techniques to give his subjects a look that pulls them out of time.
“It gives a look that you just don’t see anywhere else,” he said. “The nude as a subject does very well in the historic processes; the look of the tintypes and the kallitypes basically helps me get the vision I want for the statements I want to make.” And with a First Friday show at A&M 1, he’ll be making those statements to an audience eager to see art.
“It’s easy to get to, there’s reasonable parking, and a fair amount of people come out on First Fridays,” said Lawrence. “It’s always exciting to see who’s going to come through the door.”
To draw them there, HeartSong has curated the shows to be cohesive, juxtaposing Lawrence’s monochromatic photographs and Durow’s muted glass with very colorful, energetic work from Barbara Januszkiewicz, Carol Carey and Kelly Posey to enhance the flow for gallery visitors and create “the perfect June show.”
HeartSong doesn’t stint on the quality of food and drink. “We don’t do dried-out cheese,” she laughed. “We offer terrific food; we put a lot of emphasis on that. People at the end of their workday have a choice of going home or coming to us, and we want them to come.”
And they do, according to Rockville artist Kelly Posey. “What I’m showing is a series I call ‘The Psychedelic Petri Dish Series’ — 15 small paintings in the round — and some larger work. The macrocosm and the microcosm,” said Posey, who teaches art at Richard Montgomery High School and whose show at A&M 2 is called “Psychedelic Environs.”
“Artists like to meet up and show support for one another,” added Posey, and the fact that First Friday at A&M brings together a local crowd as well as art lovers from farther afield makes it that much more exciting.
“Collectors and people who just enjoy looking at art love to go to First Friday because of the party atmosphere,” she said. “It’s totally social, as well as a networking event: we celebrate.”
Artists & Makers Studios 1 and 2 will host First Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 7 at A&M Studios 1, 11810 Parklawn Drive, Suite 210, Rockville, and A&M Studios 2, 12276 Wilkins Ave., Rockville. Admission is free. Call 240-437-9573 or visit www.artistsandmakersstudios.com.