Fluvanna art fuels tourism

Contributed  by Ruthann Carr

Could visual arts be a key to Fluvanna County tourism? 

After the success of the ARTS of Fluvanna Studio Tour held on Oct. 15, many think so. 

While the final count isn’t in, hundreds visited 12 artist’s studios from Columbia to Keswick and met with eight artists showing at the Lake Monticello fire house, said Diane Wilkin, one of the organizers. 

“The free, self-guided tour brought awareness to many about the ‘invisible’ artists living and creating in Fluvanna County – some exhibiting elsewhere and not known to our local residents,” Wilkin said. 

Mediums included painting, woodworking, mosaics, Alpaca wool production, jewelry and paper making.

Another organizer, Linda Staiger, said Erika Mitchell was crucial in helping bring light to Fluvanna artists. Mitchell displays more than 65 Fluvanna artists at her Palmyra Village store, Sweet Art Emporium. 

Mitchell, a jewelry maker, demonstrated her art at her shop during the tour.

Staiger helps with the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program and that’s where she met Wilkin and her husband, Jim, who were taking the nine-month course.

A requirement for graduation from FLDP is to work with a team on a project. The Wilkins, Susan Edington, Cathy Tatro, Mike Bernard and Lynn Kennedy decided to work on an art tour. Staiger mentored the team. 

As an FLDP graduate myself, I know how much hard work goes into each project. However, many great ones never get put into practice.

This team had the knowledge, time and foresight to see theirs through. 

Wilkins credits Mitchell and the Fluvanna Art Association with connecting them to their artists.

“As word spread, we started hearing from artists who were not connected with FAA or Sweet Art Emporium, so our email list grew,” Wilkin said. “Ten of the 20 accepted artists were members of FAA. We know of six artists who are new to the area, saw the tour and made connections to FAA.”

My husband Jeff and I are artists and our home was one of the stops on the tour. More than 50 people stopped throughout the day to see our work and watch Jeff demonstrate woodworking techniques. 

One visitor commented on how lovely “this part of the county” is. She said she lived at Lake Monticello for 18 years and never ventured out our way (just a few miles south of the Rt. 15/53 circle.)

Getting people to explore our beautiful county is just one more benefit I see to tours like this one.

Wilkin said visitor buzz was “one of total enjoyment. People shared that it was an education to see all the talent and variety of visual arts being created in the county.”

One of the best comments Wilkin reported was: “I’ve heard we have lots of art here, but to see it and to learn how it’s being done, well, it makes me proud. I want to see more.” 

Wilkin said the group plans on making the ARTS of Fluvanna Studio Tour an annual event. The call for 2023 artists will be posted in early December. For more information go to artsfluvannacounty.com or email the team at artsfluvanna@gmail.com. For more information on the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program, visit fluvannaleadership.org. 

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