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For 30th year, creativity offers the welcome mat

Portrait painter Bill Mapes of Gaithersburg, a member of the Art League of Germantown, will offer a demonstration at the league’s 30th anniversary gallery show at BlackRock Center for the Arts on Sunday. After retiring from a career in graphic illustration, he joined ALOG to revive his interest in painting. (Art League of Germantown)

When Lynne Oakes moved to Germantown, three decades ago, she had trouble finding other artists to connect with.

“It was a lot of cows, a lot of deer and not a lot of people,” Oakes said. “It felt kind of lonely.”

After placing an ad in the newspaper, Oakes got in touch with a dozen other artists in the area. The group that she formed as a result — the Art League of Germantown, or ALOG — is celebrating its 30th anniversary with an art show and sale this month at the BlackRock Center for the Arts. The group now has about 80 members from across Montgomery County, Oakes said.

The league meets once a month from the fall through the spring at BlackRock. Meetings feature talks on topics such as techniques for working with various media or strategies for promoting your work.

An open, supportive atmosphere has been crucial to the league’s success, Oakes said. BlackRock hosts two ALOG gallery shows a year — one in the fall and one in the spring. Those shows are open to all members, Oakes said, unlike juried shows, in which artists must submit their work for approval.

“I don’t think art is a competition,” Oakes said.

Members say the friendly, welcoming tone of the league has encouraged their creativity.

“That’s been a core premise of the league,” said Bill Mapes of Gaithersburg, a portrait painter who joined the group about eight years ago. “Artists willingly share their knowledge and opinions.”

Mapes found ALOG online when he retired from his career as a graphic illustrator. He wanted to take up painting again. He was pleased to find that at every meeting, the members introduce themselves and describe the media they work in. He immediately knew which artists he needed to talk to about his own work.

“It’s a subtle way to get people a little more comfortable,” Mapes said.

John Duke of Myersville first joined the league as a Montgomery College student in 1989, but he didn’t stay.

He finished college and became a Gaithersburg police officer, then decided to rejoin the group in 2006 after years of painting “in a vacuum” and not getting feedback on his work, he said.

At ALOG, “everyone accepts you,” Duke said. “You can show at the shows, or just hang out with other artists.”

Works by both Mapes and Duke will be on display during the show. Mapes will conduct an oil-painting demonstration at a meet-the-artist reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Oakes, who primarily works in oil paint, won’t have any of her work on display. “I’ll enjoy being a guest and a spectator this time,” she said.

The show, Shades of Spring 2013, will run through Sunday at BlackRock Center for the Arts, at 12901 Town Commons Rd., in Germantown. Work from 47 artists will be featured, displaying a variety of styles and media.


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