Foxes on the Fence in Middleburg

A Community Effort for a Community Benefit

Story and Photos by Kaitlin Hill

In Middleburg, the explosion of color synonymous with spring is aided by technicolor foxes found up and down East Washington Street, as part of Foxes on the Fence, the town’s beloved event. On display through May 15, the bi-annual exhibit is celebrating its third installment with new artists, a new Middleburg Arts Council Chair, and as always, charitable proceeds destined for a worthy cause. Deb Cadenas and Mary Ann Burns of the Middleburg Arts Council explain how the tradition started and what’s in store this year, and participating artists share the inspiration behind their critter creations. 

“It’s so funny the way it started,” Deb Cadenas, the Foxes on the Fence founder and a Middleburg Arts Councilwoman, shares. “My mom and dad have a house in Cape Cod that we go to every year in July or August. And every year, I would see this most amazing art event called Sharks in the Park. They were Mako sharks that were painted and displayed in Chatham. It was so cute. My husband and I said, ‘We should do this in Middleburg.’” 

With the idea in mind, Cadenas turned to her son to help make the Middleburg concept a reality. “I thought, it’s got to be foxes because Middleburg is all about the fox,” she says. “So, I talked to my son Tyler and he designed the most amazing logo of a fox with a rainbow of colors going through it and we decided we’re going to call it ‘Foxes on the Fence.’” 

Cadenas also sought the assistance of two Middleburg-based groups she knew could get the event up and running. “I was Chairwoman of the Middleburg Arts Council at the time and I brought [the idea] to them,” she says. “I thought this would be a really terrific arts idea to do for the town. And they were on board. But I really needed a larger platform to help me get through the logistics. And I wanted a nonprofit to partner with and the Garden Club was wonderful. They helped me see the vision through. I worked with the president of the Garden Club at the time, Darcy, who was very good with the Bidding for Good site. She was able to handle all those details and work it out so we could make the thing happen.” 

“Foxes Galore,” artist: J. Douglas, sponsor: The Salamander Resort and Spa.

“I try to do something unique every year. So, I pulled a lot of my reference photos of foxes that I had throughout the years. When it came down to it, I couldn’t choose any one, so I decided, I’ll do them all.”  — J. Douglas.

Cadenas and company held the first Foxes on the Fence in 2017, recruiting Middleburg’s professional and amateur artists to deck out the foxes. Local businesses sponsored the pieces in the name of charity. “It was wildly popular in 2017,” Cadenas says. “And then I said, ‘You know what? We should do something a little different. Let’s add the hounds,’ which were terrific.”  

New this year are smaller hare templates, the involvement of Mary Ann Burns of Old Ox Brewery, and new Chair of the Middleburg Arts Council. “Mary Ann has been awesome,” Cadenas says. “She is our new Chair for Middleburg Arts Council, and she is a genius. This woman is so giving of her time with Foxes on the Fence, and that’s a lot of work. My hat’s off to her, because without her, it would have been really difficult to make this happen.”  

“Happy Trails and Happy Tails,” artist: Deb Cadenas, sponsor: Journeymen Saddlers.

“I just loved adding personality to the fox and making it 3D. And it just made sense, working with Journeymen Saddlers, to make my fox use a tack that horse riders are familiar with and fox hunters use. So, I put that into my piece to make it a little unique.” — Deb Cadenas  

In addition to her work ethic, Burns shares Cadenas’ passion for the project. “We have a few new artists this year, which is exciting,” Burns says. “It’s such an interesting group. There are some professional artists, there are amateur artists, and actually a couple of students from some of the schools too. And every time a [piece] came in, I just thought, ‘Wow.’ I think it is such an incredible event. It’s grown over the years, and this being the third one, they’ve done a good job making sure there is always something fresh.”

“Penny for Your Thoughts,” artist: Adina Proffitt, sponsor: BB&T.

“I collect coins and I just thought it was such a great idea, you know, penny for your thoughts on 2020. So, I sat down with all of my pennies and put them into categories of very ugly ones that no one wants, everyday pennies that were sort of ugly, and then all of the shiny ones. And, of course, I had to have the 2020 ones across his head because 2020 had to be in his thoughts.”  — Adina Proffitt

But more than art for the sake of art, the Foxes (and hounds and hares) on The Fence are bid on and the earnings put toward a good cause. This year, Cadenas and Burns teamed up with Punkin Lee at Middleburg Beautification and Preservation Inc.

“It was natural to partner with Punkin and her nonprofit for this year because the money will go right back into the town, which is really what I envisioned happening,” Cadenas says. “I wanted it to go towards keeping Middleburg as beautiful as it is.” Interested parties can submit bids until the auction closes at midnight on May 9, and winning bidders can pick up their creatively colored creature on May 15. To place a bid, visit biddingforgood.com/foxesonthefence

“Hare & There,” artist: Regina Mountcastle, sponsor: Federal Credit Union. 

“My mother [Regina Mountcastle, who sadly passed away on March 5] was very sick, and I knew it would be something that would lift her spirits. I thought this was something she could do to take her mind off of things a little bit. And she came up with the little cufflinks and gold buttons, [the hare] is even wearing a ring and has his little cane. She always really liked animals and humanizing animals. That was sort of the fun of it for her.” — Adina Proffitt

With 2021’s Foxes on the Fence in full swing, Cadenas and Burns reflect on how rewarding the event is, not just for the town, but to them personally. “It is such a wonderful thing to see that artists want to be a part of something bigger and give their time and talent to this project,” Cadenas says. “It’s a joy to see the creative side because no two are alike. Every [piece] is different and every one is special.” 

“I think it’s wonderful working with such a talented group of people both on the arts council and in the community,” Burns adds. And if as an artist, a business, or a bidder, you missed your chance to participate this year, don’t fear. “We’ll continue to do it every other year as long as we have the volunteers to help us make it happen,” Cadenas says. ML

“Home,” artist: Lydia M.E. Schrader, sponsor: Safeway.

“Growing up, Middleburg was like our town. My family lived in Leesburg and my brother went to school in Middleburg, so I was going to Middleburg every day. The trip between Middleburg and Leesburg along Route 15 always felt like home. And after high school, I moved away, and when I would think of home or close my eyes, that is the scenery that comes to me and makes me feel like I am home. I think that it is something built into our DNA. We were created for a place, we have a longing to be home, and I love this idea of what home is and how you can feel the soul yearn for it when you are away from it.” — Lydia M.E. Schrader

“Keep on Chasin’ Peace,” artist: Teresa Duke, sponsor: Middleburg Spring Races.

A friend of mine gave me a Milton Glaser book and he was a great illustrator. He did some iconic pieces, like the cover of a Bob Dylan album. I was looking at that and working with my students on different fonts, and I just had this idea to do something that was very different and colorful. I think because of the last year of collective grief, I wanted to do something that was light and fun. But I also wanted to embed a message in there, that we really need peace, love, unity, and art, all those things that enrich our lives and make them better. I think the pandemic really laid bare so many divisions in our country. So, when I included the word ‘unity’ I wanted that word to look a certain way to convey a certain message. I also wanted to pay homage to Middleburg and the Piedmont, so I included the hippie rider on the horse.”  — Teresa Duke

“Hobby Hare,” artist: Susan Pollard, sponsor: Middleburg Montessori School.

“I think my favorite of [my entries] is for the Montessori school. The hare with a little child riding it. I just had fun doing it, because I couldn’t think of what to do and I had fun coming up with it. The experience has been wonderful because I really got to know downtown, the merchants, the people, the artists and everyone has been so lovely. It’s amazing.”  — Susan Pollard

Published in the May 2021 issue of Middleburg Life.

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