By Linda Roberts
Sandy Danielson, executive director of Artists in Middleburg or AiM, pointed around the gallery at its current exhibit, a colorful collection of mixed media featuring the theme “Water, Water Everywhere.”
Tucked in a storefront at 102 W. Washington St. in downtown Middleburg, the gallery has been mounting exhibits for more than three years. Locals recall the location as a former clothing boutique and an Irish crystal shop before that. Its large expanse of a bay window provides the perfect location to display art, which in turn, draws in passersby. The gallery is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
A vibrant component of the Middleburg community, AiM reaches out to youth and adults alike offering themed and juried exhibits each month, classes, opportunities for plein air painting, sculpting instruction and a venue for artists to sell their work. AiM partners with area schools and the National Sporting Library in Middleburg to offer art classes and sponsor student art exhibits.
Danielson walked over to a six-foot long sculpture of a fox at the front of the gallery and explained the collaborative effort behind the sculpture’s creation.
Long a symbolic icon for the Town of Middleburg, the fox came alive in Goksin Carey’s large sculpture that is a project of the Middleburg Arts Council. AiM has housed the sculpture, which is soon to be bronzed, so work on it could continue in a public display and helped promote the fund-raising effort behind its creation. Once complete, it’s likely the fox will find a permanent home at the Middleburg Community Center, Danielson said.
“There is so much talent here,” said Danielson, adding that artists are drawn to this area for its beauty. Artists who exhibit at AiM generally come from a 50-mile radius and each show features the work of 20 to 30 artists. AiM has attracted some 200 artists to its juried exhibitions since its inception as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. “And we are continually attracting new artists,” she added.
As indicated by the National Endowment of the Arts, “American communities are strengthened through the arts.” AiM seeks to join what the NEA describes as “Communities across our nation … leveraging the arts and engaging design to make their communities more livable with enhanced quality of life, increased creative activity, a distinct sense of place, and vibrant local economies that together capitalize on their existing assets.”
Danielson, who is originally from Minnesota, has a long history in the arts, as she worked for the Textile Museum in Washington, DC, for 21 years and also studied photography at the Corcoran School of Art. Locally, she worked for the McGhee Foundation at Farmer’s Delight, an historic property near Middleburg, before taking over the directorship at AiM.
She is supported by a volunteer board of directors including Goksin Carey, Maureen Storey, Sylvia Scherer, Wendy Lind and Kathleen Malone, and assisted in the gallery’s operations by intern and part-time employee Janie Ritter and volunteer Karen Monroe. Artists frequently volunteer to “gallery sit” during the hours AiM is open to the public and it’s not unusual to wander into the gallery and see an artist working at an easel.
AiM is a membership organization, offering various levels of support. Its members are primarily artists, but membership is open to anyone and Danielson notes that “some members just have a philanthropic heart and want to support the work we are doing.” Funding is derived from memberships, classes, grants and a percentage of sales from artwork.
Asked what she would wish for if a magic wand could be waved over the gallery, Danielson answered stable finances, growth of art classes and more involvement with schools and the community. She is also looking for a volunteer program coordinator and board members with fundraising and non-profit legal backgrounds. “Certainly, this is a challenge, but it’s also a labor of love,” she said.
Holding up AiM’s T-shirt with the slogan “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work,” Danielson remarked that AiM is a unique organization. “We are such a part of the community … there isn’t any other organization doing what we are doing.”
Current and Upcoming Exhibitions at AiM
Water, Water Everywhere, Aug. 24 to Sept. 22
The Glories of the Untamed Wildlife Up Close, Sept. 28 to Oct. 27
Opening reception: Sept. 28, GASP: Great Art Small Prices, Nov. 2 – Dec. 31
Opening reception: Nov. 3
AiM plans fundraising dinner on Oct. 20
On Oct. 20, Kevin and Kathleen Malone, owners of the Birkby House in downtown Leesburg, will host AiM’s annual fall fling, this year entitled “Sizzle with AiM.” The evening is open to the public. The fund-raising gala event will feature a six-course elegant meal prepared by the Malones’ Tuscarora Mill Restaurant. Spanish wine and dancing will highlight the evening. For ticket information call 540-687-6600 or go to tuskies.com.