Emily Conover describes her abstract paintings as an attempt to manipulate space and to construct, deconstruct and rearrange imagery.
So it's fitting, albeit coincidental, that Conover is one of three county artists whose works make up the inaugural show of the gallery at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex. That's because the space itself -- what used to be a wide corridor leading to the complex's classrooms -- deconstructs and reconstructs the standard idea of a hallway by turning it into an art gallery.
"Selected Paintings by Emily Conover, Tinam Valk and Marite Vidales" will be on display at the Learning Center Gallery in Landover through Aug. 30.
Tucked beyond the five-year-old center's sports facilities and pool, the new gallery is part of the Learning Center, which was added to the complex 11/2 years ago. During the renovation, the hallway was enlarged and began to get much more foot traffic. So the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which oversees the complex, deemed it a good place to show art.
To transform the hallway, which leads to computer rooms, administrative offices and rooms used for classes and seminars, the commission installed track lighting and devices for hanging works.
"We thought with more people coming through, this would be a good place to show art," said John Paradiso, exhibition specialist for the commission's Arts and Cultural Heritage Division. "We wanted to add a visual culture to the learning space, because it is for learning," Paradiso said. "Having an art space helps in visual learning and in contemplation and the thing that art just does for the mind," he said.
Compared with other spaces where the county hangs art -- often in reception areas in such places as the County Executive's Office and the commission's Kenilworth Avenue offices -- the Learning Center Gallery is a more comfortable place to view art, Paradiso said.
"Although you need to walk through it to get places, in this space people will really be able to see the work. It really does function primarily as an art gallery," he said.
An added benefit to the location is that it is adjacent to the Town Hall room, a large meeting space that houses the county's Black History Month show each year after its normal run at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center or Harmony Hall Regional Center. Paradiso plans to make sure the Town Hall room is available during opening receptions for the new gallery's two-month-long shows.
The first reception highlighted three local painters who are new to the county slide registry, which has compiled portfolios of about 300 county artists.
"I wanted the new space to show new work," Paradiso said. "All the artists are attractive in their own ways, and they're all very different. They are looking at similar situations but translating onto canvas differently," he said.
The artists create mixed media acrylic paintings on canvas and wood, and their work is linked by its representation of landscape. Much of Conover's work represents machinery in natural settings; Valk's is composed of abstract portraits of nature; and Vidales creates bright landscapes harkening back to her homeland, Costa Rica.
For future exhibitions, Paradiso will rely heavily on the county slide registry to show both new and longtime artists who specialize in a variety of media.
For those whose offices are in the Learning Center wing, they see the new gallery as a bonus in their daily lives.
Kathy Consoli, administrative manager of the center, said: "We just thought this would be an enhancement to what would normally be a corridor leading to classrooms . . . . And we get the benefit of seeing art every day."
"Selected Paintings by Emily Conover, Tinam Valk and Marite Vidales" will be on display at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center, 8001 Sheriff Rd. in Landover, through Aug. 30. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free. 301-583-2430.