New center in Leesburg 'brings a lot of art together'

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 14, 2010

On Friday morning, Gale Waldron tried to make time for a tour while putting some finishing touches on ArtSquare, a new arts center in Leesburg.

Near an entrance, Waldron, ArtSquare's director, shifted a rug over new floors and moved past a desk temporarily fitted into a bathroom.

She climbed the stairs and looked around. For the first time, the center will have space dedicated solely to children, with a bathroom, storage areas and self-contained sinks.

"Immediately, we knew this could be a children's classroom, and downstairs could be for adults," Waldron said. "I love this building."

Waldron said the decision to move came when the owner of the arts center's former location began planning to turn the building into commercial and retail units. ArtSquare's home is a gritty commercial business center at 12 Cardinal Park Dr. SE off Route 7. The center incorporates Gallery 222, King Street Studios and Loudoun County of the Art's fine-arts classes.

"We worked really hard to brand the place," Waldron said.

Waldron said the center would continue its mission of supporting the visual arts and fostering the region's best-known emerging artists.

On Friday night, artists and art lovers from the community celebrated the opening of the new location with a reception. The center has large classroom areas, 14 artist studios and two gallery spaces with 22-foot-high ceilings.

During the tour, Waldron showed off the various spaces. In the downstairs classroom, students in a pastels class were gearing up for their session. In the gallery space next door, contractors arrived to reposition the lights to make sure they were illuminating the art.

Gallery exhibitions include "Signs of Spring," featuring paintings by Katherine Riedel, an artist from Waterford whose work focuses on country landscapes, barn scenes, cows and chickens. The gallery is also showcasing "My Favorite Things," paintings by Patricia Miller Uchello that are meant to amuse, such as portraits of animals in people clothing.

Inside one of the 14 studio rooms, Sterling artist Ann Noel gave a tour of her space, pointing to the high walls where she had installed many of her richly colored paintings.

"Color is very important to me," she said. "You got to like color or you're not going to like my work."

She reached over to a couple of still-life works: pears in a china bowl and another with a landscape background.

"I call it 'Studio View Out My Window,' " she said.

"Loudoun County has little bits and pieces all over in terms of art," Noel said. "This brings a lot of art together. You never know -- we might just keep on growing here."

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