Maryland’s oldest, continuously operating, volunteer-run arts organization tries to meet the needs of all its 700-plus members from 35 states and two Canadian provinces, said Joann Vaughan, who has served as the Maryland Federation of Art’s (MFA) executive director for the past 11 years.
U.S. Naval Commander Charles Holley, Margaret (Farmer) Spann and a group of Annapolis-area artists interested in professional development and exhibition opportunities for Maryland’s creative community founded MFA in 1963.
Some 500 of MFA’s member artists live and work in the state, 200 of them in Anne Arundel County. They are served well at MFA’s Circle Gallery in Annapolis – situated right across the way from the Maryland Statehouse since 1968. Still, Vaughan said, “we look for different venues to meet the needs of members who are not residents as well as get everyone’s interesting, inspiring work out there.”
To that end, juried MFA group exhibitions are on view in two Bethesda Entertainment District galleries this month. “Off the Wall” is at the Waverly Street Gallery and “MFA @ Gallery B” is at Gallery B. Jurors selected works for cash awards and honorable mention. All pieces are available for purchase.
“Off the Wall,” at Waverly through Aug. 3, features three-dimensional free-standing sculptural forms created by 27 artists from across the United States. Waverly, a membership gallery that typically shows contemporary visual artists working in a wide range of media, opened as Creative Partners in 1993 and changed its name in 2007. Vaughan said MFA held a similar show at Waverly two years ago.
Foon Sham, a sculptor and University of Maryland art professor, juried the show. “I am impressed with the variety of works submitted as well as the overall quality,” Foon said. “I was looking for works that have transformed the use of ordinary materials, while there was a fair amount of work that employed traditional sculptural material.”
“The juror selections showed real range, from the fairly traditional to the extremely innovative – ceramics, wood, found objects and even pasta (Rodney Kyle Mayer’s “Elbow Room,” which received honorable mention), Vaughan noted. “And at the reception, Sham was very encouraging to the artists, asking them to push themselves to do better and bigger work.”
“3-D work is a different animal (from other kind of visual art),” she added. “The viewer must look at them from all sides. Nothing hangs on a wall.”
“MFA @ Gallery B” is an MFA members-only show, consisting of work by 32 mostly Maryland artists, is on view through July 27. The nonprofit art space is managed by the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District and Bethesda Urban Partnership. This is MFA’s first show at Gallery B.
Juror Robert Yi is a painter and an academic advisor at the College of Visual & Performing Arts, School of Art in Fairfax, Virginia. Vaughn observed that Yi focused on what each piece communicated. “What does the viewer take away? What is the interaction between artist viewer?”
Yi was impressed by the diverse and skillful art submitted. “I looked for works that reflected an original point of view and created a dialogue between the viewer and the work. At the same time, I felt it equally important to acknowledge those works that showed outstanding craftsmanship combined with aesthetics. I appreciated those works that challenged the conventions of traditional academic art and sought to go beyond and add to the language of contemporary art.”
“MFA @ Gallery B” will be on display through July 27 at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda. Gallery hours are noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Call 301-215-6660 or visit www.bethesda.org.
“Off the Wall” is on view through Aug. 3 at the Waverly Street Gallery, 4600 East-West Highway, #102, Bethesda. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Call 301-951-9441 or visit www.waverlystreetgallery.com.
For information about MFA, visit https://mdfedart.com.