Enter the Main Street gallery in Kilmarnock and you will discover all sorts of artwork on display. What you won’t see are the many other aspects of the Rappahannock Art League that are significant and may well be of interest to you. You might ask how the Art League could be important to you. Well here are a number of answers.
First and foremost, if you are an artist, an aspiring artist or someone who would like to try your hand at creating art, this is the place on the Northern Neck to explore and learn. Numerous artists with considerable skill and patience, offer workshops at least twice a year. Among the artistic endeavors you might explore are pottery, mosaics, photography, collage, and plein air, abstract and watercolor painting. And this surely doesn’t represent the full list since there are often new workshops added to the program.
Second, if you are a member of the Art League you can participate in the frequent (almost monthly) shows that are mounted in the exhibition gallery. Subjects and categories for these shows vary with some shows juried by outside experts who award cash prizes. A “First Friday” cocktail party and opening launches each show and all members and interested non-members are invited--from 5 to 7 p.m..
Beyond the main exhibition gallery there is plenty of space where artists who have been “juried in” to the gallery place their work for sale. The type of work that adorns the walls or sits in display cases ranges from paintings, original prints, sculpture, photographs, mosaics, pottery, baskets, and jewelry. These artists often change their displays to assure new work on view for regular visitors who come to the new shows and peruse the entire gallery. (Juried artists pay rent for their wall space and also have an obligation to volunteer at the gallery.)
Third, childrens’ art workshops are an important and popular offering. The school year program has been available for over 15 years. The smART workshops, which are “Saturday Morning” art classes are open for up to 12 children. These take place on a monthly basis--every 3rd Saturday. Marilyn Sprouse, the Lancaster Middle School art teacher supervises and teaches these programs. Call the gallery for further information.
In addition to schoolyear workshops there are the Summer Fun Workshops for children. The summer camp classes provide a full range of activities that includes: mosaics, drawing, painting, pen & ink, clay and colored pencil to name a few. The list of classes and dates should be available within the next month, so call or drop by the gallery for particulars.
Fourth, there are monthly forums that take place with very interesting subject matter offered up from experts. These experts may be within our own community, or come from RAL’s association with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Fifth, special interest groups get together once a month in order to allow the artists or aspiring artists to get more practice or share in developing their specific art/craft/skill. This can be seen in such topics as figure drawing, still life work, photography.
Sixth, The Gala which takes place in June is a wonderful fund-raising event. Artists donate works of art worth at least $100 value and ticket holders select a work to take home through a lottery. There is always considerable excitement as the works are selected. Prior to the lottery there’s a party with great hors d’oeuvres, and wine. Monies raised go to support the gallery and also local childrens’ art programs when possible.
Seventh, The Labor Day show has been one of the most significant events in RAL’s history, providing all members the opportunity to show their work. Starting out small the show eventually moved to Rappahannock Westminster Canterbury. And this year the show will come to the RAL Main Street gallery. This will be an excellent show and easy to see.
There are also trips to museums within a day or so drive, sometimes involving an overnight stay. Everything is coordinated to make the trip easy, pleasant and informative.
In addition to all the other programs, there is a small gift shop with more inexpensive items which is ongoing. At Christmas time a holiday shop which consists almost entirely of fine art, jewelry and other special items created by members at very attractive prices. This fills the exhibition gallery for the month of December.
The history of this fine institution began almost 60 years ago and the current status belies how simple the origins were. The building where RAL is now housed was purchased in 2000. This success was due to huge volunteer efforts as well as a sympathetic and supportive members of the public who saw the opportunity for RAL and helped that opportunity become a reality.
Management of this enterprise is handled by a board of directors, comprised of RAL members and members of the community. Within RAL there is the gallery which is managed by members who oversee the day-to-day operations. There is no room in this article to tell the history of how all this came to be. Countless volunteers made all the difference in the evolution and the success. There are books on RAL’s history housed in the office manager’s office.
The core volunteers are those artists who have work on the walls or in the cases—they volunteer on a monthly basis. There are other volunteers, though, who step in and fill the extra time slots and make a huge difference to the organiztion. With the exception of the office manager, Hope Towner, (and a part-time accountant) the balance of activies are handled by a myriad of volunteers. Additional assistance is always needed and all interested parties get training on the gallery and how it functions in order to assure success.
The volunteer efforts can be seen everywhere. The front window displays that change monthly. The first Friday parties with set up, food and wine and thenclean up. The newsletter, the web site. The scheduling of volunteers. The organization of trips. The organization of classes. The organization for the childrens workshops. Writing of grant applications. Many many needs with many offering up their skills. This is a complex organization that relies on volunteers and can always use another set of hands.
RAL and its programs touch many people in the area. Their goal today is to reach out to a larger audience and find more people interested in participating in or supporting the arts. Many opportunities exist for all types of interestes. Please come and join us in supporting the arts and enjoying yourself while doing so. You’ll be most welcome.