Fourteen Montgomery County artists—who work in paint, wood, glass, mixed media, photography and jewelry–are among the 165 jury-selected to participate in the fifth annual A-RTS at Rockville Town Square Fine Art Festival on May 6 and 7. Live music and artisanal foods will enhance the outdoor gallery experience.
“There will be works of art of interest and appeal to everyone–from the budding collector to the art aficionado,” said Robin Markowitz, the festival’s director. An art jeweler who has shown her own work at East Coast juried arts festivals for 25 years, Markowitz has run the Bethesda Row Arts Festival on behalf of its producer Bob Deutsch (President and CEO of DTA Global) for the past nine years.
Since the Bethesda Row festival occurs in the fall, Markowitz said, “It was a natural progression to talk about a spring art festival … Federal Realty Investment Trust (owner of both properties and a show sponsor) wanted us to bring that same quality of art and craftsmanship to Rockville.”
“Rockville Town Square is a great place to host this event. The merchant and resident support is amazing,” said Markowitz, who noted that the A-RTS “has grown in both reputation and patron attendance over the past four years.”
A new panel of three jurors is chosen for every festival. “We ask these art professionals to judge the work of each artist for artistic excellence and presentation,” said Markowitz. “This is a blind jury system; jurors do not know the artist’s name or location. Each juror scores the entire applicant pool; we combine all three scores and invite those artists (who are) at the top of the list.”
Some artists return each year, such as Paul Hurwitz of Rockville for whom this is the third consecutive festival. The woodworking artist said it’s the only one he does because “it is a local show for me, which greatly simplifies the logistics of participation.” And, he said, the festival “has always been very well-organized, well-managed and well-attended.” As Hurwitz holds “a full-time job to feed my family,”—he’s a program manager in a medical school’s psychiatry department—time is limited. “My art is my hobby to feed my soul.”
Woodworking has been Hurwitz’s hobby for more than 25 years. He works in his “basement shop, or as I call it, my laboratory because I experiment with different types of woods and designs” that he gets from lumber mills in Pennsylvania. “I sort through their lumber inventory in search of domestic and exotic hardwoods with unusual grain patterns and varying colors. I don’t use any stains so all the colors of my woods are natural. Many of my designs incorporate multiple different hardwoods, often of contrasting colors and grain patterns. I use only clear finishes that bring out the natural beauty of the wood grains and colors. Every piece I design and build is one-of-a-kind.”
Silver Spring painter Vincent Hughes will return to the festival for a third time. “Having taken part in other regional art festivals, I am impressed by how well organized this one is,” he said. “The Rockville Town Square is a wonderful, spacious location, so even though thousands of people attend during the course of the two-day show, it never feels too crowded.” Hughes will share his oil and watercolor landscapes of coastal vistas and the Italian countryside, most painted en plein air. The festival’s “bright, outdoor setting has proved to be an excellent venue for showing” such work.
Digital painter and installation artist Liliane Blom of Rockville has done the festival many times–“first when it was run by the City of Rockville and later as it became the A-RTS festival.” She enjoys the “very high caliber of artists,” and deems the event “a great way to show your work in the local community and meet your neighbors.” This time, Blom will feature pieces from her “Pink–A Cherry Blossom Fantasy” series and installation.
Mosaic artist Ali Mirsky of Ashton believes she took part in the festival “the very first year. My experience was very positive. It was a very well organized and juried show. I had a great deal of interest in my work and felt a connection to the other artists that were also presenting.” Her focus is “the creation of one-of-a-kind, contemporary pieces for both private and public spaces,” which she makes “by cutting up little pieces of glass and gluing them all by hand and by myself.”
What distinguishes Mirsky’s work, “for starters, (is that) I am typically the only mosaic artist at these festivals.” Beyond the art shows in which she takes part, she creates “large-scale public art and community murals as well as custom-made fine art mosaics.” At the Rockville event, she will show some of her fine art mosaics as well as a new line of “sand casted bird baths” and “a bunch of little mosaic owls that are pretty whimsical and fun, as well as more affordable.”
And then there will be first-timers like mixed-media artist Ronni Jolles, who is new to both the state and the show. “I have recently moved from Virginia to Maryland (Chevy Chase) and by participating in this show, I’m hoping to share both my work and my unique art form to Marylanders.”
“‘Painting with Paper’ is the best way to express what I do,” Jolles said. “Paper from all over the world (as Nepal, Thailand, Egypt, Japan, Italy, India, and Mexico–to name a few) is cut, torn and layered to create uniquely textured scenes. Acrylic paints and sealants are then used on top of the papers to add more variation in the color, to bring out the textures, and to protect the paper.
Her medium, Jolles explained, “allows me to create work with a sculptural quality that I couldn’t achieve with paint. I’ve created this art form myself, and I enjoy teaching workshops (at VisArts) in my art form.” For A-RTS, she plans to show small and large original pieces as well as giclee prints and cards of her original works.
Markowitz offered two additional favorites, one returning and one new: “Jeffrey Oh (of Olney) is a fantastic woodworker; he is from China, but has lived in the U.S. a long time. His work (craft furniture) is a rare combination of Asian influence and modern design. (Gaithersburg artist) Hannah Sanford’s paintings are fabulous. I don’t know her personally, but I love her work.”
The fifth annual A-RTS at Rockville Town Square Fine Art Festival will be held Saturday, May 6, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, May 7, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, at Rockville Town Square, 200 East Middle Lane, Rockville, and on the surrounding streets (Maryland Avenue, Middle Street and Gibbs Street). Streets are closed to traffic for the festival. Admission is free. Call 301-637-5684 or visit http://www.a-rts.org. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.