Written by Shayda Windle | Photos by Joanne Maisano

There’s no doubt this year has presented its challenges to businesses all over the world, nonprofits and corporations alike. Some have succeeded and pushed through the pandemic with innovative ideas and the use of technology, while others have found themselves struggling to get business back into some kind of “new normal.” 

This month we’re privileged to sit down with Sandy Danielson, executive director of the Artists in Middleburg (AiM), a nonprofit working to provide arts educational opportunities for all, especially the youth, to talk a little bit about how things have changed through the pandemic. 

“Most of our classes have been free since March,” Danielson says. “It’s been a difficult time for most. Our goal was and is to inspire, uplift spirits, and invite all to learn, socialize, and have some fun!” 

AiM has continued reaching out to artists and others about online classes, which Danielson says has “opened doors for many who could not attend classes in the past due to distance, age, or disability.” 

She plans to continue the online services even after the pandemic. AiM was finally able to re-open their doors to the public with protective measures in place shortly after the town entered into Phase 3 of the reopening guidelines. 

Photo on left: “Street Tango,” oil on canvas, 36” x 32,” Alan Rubin. Top right: “Red Flag,” acrylic on canvas, 26” x 48,” Matt Pavone. Bottom right: “And Justice for All,” oil, 24” x 30,” Ligia Inra.

“I’m incredibly excited to say we have two exhibits taking place in October,” Danielson says. “The first, called ‘Red Rules: The Power of Color,’ takes place Sept. 19 – Oct. 18, and the second, ‘Always in Season, Landscapes of the Piedmont,’ will be Oct. 24 – Nov. 22.” 

There are only a few in-person restrictions that visitors must follow. Only two individuals are allowed in at a time, and of course, masks and social distancing are required. AiM will also provide hand sanitizer to anyone before entering the gallery, and names and contact information will be taken and used for contract tracing if needed. 

Some of the classes available in October through Zoom include equine and animal sculpture with Goksin Carey, introduction to drawing with Steve Myles, and pastel still lifes with Ann Wallace. There is no cost to join most of these classes, but donations are always welcome. Contributions support and strengthen the local arts community by increasing vitality, awareness and appreciation of the arts. 

Weekly painting classes with J. Douglas, an international award-winning artist, are available for art enthusiasts of all levels. “You can paint, draw, or just watch on your own — it’s up to you,” Danielson says about the Zoom classes. “Douglas paints in oils, but the technique he teaches and will be sharing, you will be able to use acrylic, watercolor, and even charcoal.”

Left: Sandy Danielson, executive director of the Artists in Middleburg (AiM). Right: “Big Red 2 (tomato),” oil, 30” x 30,” Karen Merkin.

An exciting new program, “Art in the Alley,” will highlight a different local artist each weekend, rain or shine. Artists will be on the sidewalk or in the gallery to meet with patrons, some demonstrating their talents, and work will be available for sale. Proceeds from the sale support the ongoing educational activities at AiM and the artists.

While the pandemic has presented its challenges, with the level of support AiM has been able to provide to local youth through educational programs, there have been some silver linings. AiM normally partners with Claude Thompson Elementary in Marshall to supplement their arts education program, and this year, they quickly raised funds to buy art supplies for each student, even with school being virtual.

AiM was scheduled to host the annual student art exhibits this spring for Foxcroft, Claude Thompson Elementary, the Middleburg Community Charter School, and the Community Music School of the Piedmont, but the show was cancelled due to COVID-19. Danielson is hopeful it will happen in
spring 2021. 

Either way, AiM will continue to do all they can to support arts education in our area, and we encourage art enthusiasts to visit theartistsinmiddleburg.org for more information about upcoming classes and events and latest news at AiM. ML

Published in the October 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.