Art lovers, you can get anything you want at Judith Olivia HeartSong’s Artists and Makers Studios (A&MS). The 13,000-square-foot space, located in a light industrial area of White Flint, is home to 43 studios in which some 70 mid-career and emerging artists and artisans work in a wide variety of media, as well as three classroom-workshops and five galleries.
HeartSong—a veteran painter and muralist, curator, art resource specialist and arts manager–opened A&MS on March 1, 2015. Resident artists have 24-hour access to their affordable studios, and opportunities to collaborate and network, and show and sell their work. Most important, the executive director said, “Their work and interactions inform each other. The young, vivacious ones, often just out of school, have a different point of view: they still believe that anything is possible, and they remind us of that. And the more established artists offer them advice based on their experience.”
The public is welcome to browse through the space and visit with the artists on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also open to the community are a constant flow of exhibits, by both residents and well-known guest artists; classes and workshops, and lively opening celebrations with music and food. These spirited and social art makers–HeartSong juries their personalities as well as what they produce–enjoy sharing their art and partying with the people who appreciate it.
Emerging resident artist Anne Cherubim especially enjoys having “artist friends in the same building. We can pop into each other’s studios, and see what the other is working on.” And in moments of doubt, Lendeh Sherman has found solace. “When I walk around and see folks working hard and enjoying their practice, I feel motivated to continue pushing through. There is a wide variety of skill levels here and I really enjoy seeing where each artist is in their process as well as how they work through the pain points. It’s a reminder to not only enjoy the process, but to realize the practice reflects where we are within ourselves.”
For resident printmaker and oil painter Elizabeth Sweeney, A&MS is “a place where I could still have a cadre of artists for critiques and input, but where I could also shut my doors and zone into my work without interruption,” she says. “I’m always fascinated by what other artists are doing, and how their process may have application to my practice.” Furthermore, she notes, “As a direct result of these openings, I’ve created a network of important contacts, sold work and had my prints and paintings juried into prestigious exhibits and arts events.”
HeartSong’s long-term connections with established regional artists have been integral to drawing the D.C. metropolitan area’s attention and presence. Many know her from Salon–an artful conversation, a free program she started in 2011 in which presenters talk to artists, writers and arts professionals about the business of art.
Established D.C.-based artists who have exhibited at A&MS have been pleased. “HeartSong pays attention to the art community in the D.C. area, which is fortunate for us,” says Marie Ringwald, who showed her work “in a lovely 16-foot square space last July. …Every time I go out there, I am amazed at the improvements in the space. There is such good energy and support. Judith is a gem, and she has created and is maintaining a vibrant place.” Sondra Arkin, who exhibited in the main gallery in January, observes that HeartSong’s promotion of “cross-pollination among artist groups is such an important part of audience development and artistic expansion. …There is something refreshing and democratic about mixing up artists in different professional phases to expose both the artists and audience to varying work.”
Adam Van Grack and his 6-year-old son Caleb are frequent flyers at A&MS, attending many of its events and openings. The Bethesda attorney said he appreciates the studios’ “breadth of artwork, all mediums, and the high caliber of artists Judith brings in.” An easy 10-minute drive from his Potomac home, A&MS has offered opportunities to transmit his love of the art scene to his son. Caleb, he said, has learned that making art “is more than just crayons and paper…it’s for your own gratification and expression, it can be used to communicate, to tell stories, even to support causes”—like Van Grack’s law firm that was a sponsor of September’s “Quilting for Change” exhibit. Caleb, who sold four or five pieces of his own art that HeartSong allowed him to hang at the studios’ Halloween event, has now expressed interest in upping the ante on his own art: he wants to sculpt with clay.
When resident artist and teacher Glen Kessler, who Van Grack credits with having the best food at the studios’ celebrations, “felt the need to interact more with the local art community, be more visible as an artist and run my art more like the business it truly was becoming,” HeartSong gave him the solution. “It was Judith’s warm smile, infectious laugh, and pie-in-the-sky promises that let me to choose a studio with her,” Kessler says. “I think about what a great decision that was nearly every day.” His art school, The Compass Atelier, “a curriculum-based program of study for small groups,” is based in a “gorgeous, 1,000-square-foot classroom that rivals any in the area for its functionality and aesthetics.” Eighteen A&MS resident artists are among Kessler’s students, and many other residents offer classes and workshops as independent contractors at A&MS.
“We are building something special here: an epicenter of creative thought married with high technical craftsmanship,” Kessler says. The energy and options Heartsong and A&MS are generating are a gift both to the artists and the metropolitan area’s art-loving community, and are likely to keep Montgomery County at its forefront.
Through April 28, Artists & Makers features “Finding My Voice,” a three-gallery Victims’ Rights Art Exhibit of two-dimensional framed paintings, drawings, mixed media and writings, and three-dimensional sculptural art that “express the pain, turmoil, growth, and healing that can follow in the aftermath of violent crime.” In May, two galleries will showcase the Mount Rainier-based Otis Street Arts Project, a diverse group of artists—Sean Hennessey, David Mordini, Jenna North, Alma Selimovic, Liz Lescault, Art Drauglis, Gloria Chapa—that work in the same studio, using a multitude of techniques, disciplines and approaches. In addition, the gallery hall will display “Elements of Nature,” in which Torpedo Factory artists Alison Sigethy and Carol Talkov, who also has a studio at A&MS, explore the concept that absolute unity exists despite nature’s vast diversity, and a Section C mini-solo exhibit, “Coiled State of Being,” resident artist Lendeh Sherman’s multimedia collection inspired by the diversity of Afro-ethnic hair styles, textures and patterns. For more information, visit artistsandmakersstudios.com.