Michelangelo “saw the angel in the marble”. Marc Chagall believed “great art picks up where nature ends.” And Georgia O’Keefe painted flowers “because they are cheaper than models and don’t move”.
Every artist has a unique vision and a unique reason why they create. Art is an expression where literally anything is possible. You’re not limited by words or reality or even talent. It’s a world where everyone is welcome to evoke, represent, transform. So grab your palette and beret and prepare to be inspired, instructed and indulged by the artistic beauty of Fairfax County!
“The main thing is to be moved, to hope, to tremble, to live.” — Auguste Rodin
The best, easiest, and most abundant way to receive inspiration is at art galleries. And a stay in Fairfax County puts you at the doorstep of some of the world’s most famous art destinations. The Phillips Collection boasts Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. The National Gallery of Art displays a Van Gogh self-portrait. And some of the world’s most iconic sculptures and memorials are downtown, sitting outside for everyone to see.
While Washington may have the da Vincis, Picassos, and Kahlos, Fairfax County is filled with fresh, modern and inventive works. The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton is an artist colony housed in a former prison. This creative space lets you interact with some of the region’s most prominent artists. In the Reston area, the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art and the Reston Art Gallery showcase the work of local artists. Nearby in Herndon, Artspace Herndon spotlights artists of all ages and capabilities. In addition, the Vienna Arts Society, The Arts of Great Falls and mosaicArts Gallery all prove that inspiration can be found in galleries small and large throughout the county.
“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” — Andy Warhol
To the artistic eye, there is nothing that is not art. You may see it in "screaming architecture". In nature’s beauty. An old caboose. 267-year-old dovetails. Or even in a big, old, rusty watering can. Everything has inspirational beauty if you know how to look.
From LOVEworks signs to our favorite Instagrammable sites, Fairfax County is filled with eye-catching public art displays you’re free to consider 24/7/365. Reston is known for incorporating art into the culture and the town’s public spaces are filled with murals, statues and sculpture. Mosaic and Tysons are also known for public art throughout their communities. The ArtsFairfax Public Arts Locator will help you locate nearly 200 works of art hidden in plain sight throughout the county.
“Creativity takes courage.” — Henri Matisse
Photo Courtesy of Board and Brush's Facebook
Now that you are properly inspired, it’s time to paint! One of the best (and most fun) ways to put brush to canvas is at a wine and painting event. In which case, the courage Matisse speaks of is liquid. And giggly, giving you a great excuse if your project is not otherwise Matisse-worthy.
Since we’re talking inspiration, there’s no better place to begin than Muse Paintbar in Mosaic. Muse provides everything—from the canvas to the Cabernet Sauvignon—to create a step-by-step painting on canvas. Pinot’s Palette in Herndon also does paint and sip parties, in addition to hosting painting parties at local breweries. Over in Alexandria, Wine & Design throws intoxicating painting parties (in the same shopping center as Unwined, one of the county’s beloved wine bars and shops.) But let’s say you were really hoping to paint a wooden sign instead. Board and Brush in Fairfax is the place to go for wine and signs.
“Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.” — Leonardo da Vinci
So, you’ve seen famous works. You’ve admired local art. You’ve done paint and sip—and have the hangover to prove it. But you’re not done yet. It’s time to get serious about art and maybe take a class. You’re in luck, because Fairfax County has tons of places to go to perfect your stroke.
Check out the Workhouse Arts Center first. With classes in many visual arts, including painting and drawing, you’ll be well taken care of. As a bonus, the center has a museum with stories about civil and voting rights that you’ve never heard before and, now, will never forget. The McLean Project for the Arts, US Arts Center and NY School of Arts all offer classes taught by professional artists. And Fairfax County Parks and Recreation has fine arts programs running throughout the year for every age and skill level.
"We don’t really know where this goes—and I’m not sure we really care.” — Bob Ross
Photo Courtesy of River-Sea Chocolate Factory's Facebook
Let’s say you’re like me. You’ve taken classes. You’ve painted canvases. Yet everything you paint or draw ends up looking like it was done by a three-year-old in the midst of a temper tantrum. My therapist assures me I still have value as a human being. I just need to find another muse.
The truth is, we all have creative talent somewhere. And Fairfax County has loads of options to help you find your inner virtuoso. You can’t screw up chocolate, right? River-Sea Chocolate Factory in Chantilly has DIY chocolate bar making classes that are good enough to eat. If you prefer cake, Cake Time (also in Chantilly) will help you up your decorating game. Fran’s Cake and Candy Supplies offers the best of both worlds in Fairfax. And Culinaria Cooking School in Vienna can help you perfect everything from your knife skills to your bread baking talents. For a more intimate DIY dinner party experience in a mid-century magnificent Hollin Hills home, see what the Judy Harris Cooking School has on the menu this season.
For non-food crafts, Clay Café in Chantilly is a paint-your own pottery studio. And Jimmy Potters Studio & Workshop in Fairfax and Kiln & Co. in Vienna let you throw wet pottery on a wheel like in the movie Ghost. (But without the sexy Patrick Swayze part.) Another fun craft is candle making—Paddywax Candle Bar offers sip and pour candle classes in Reston. NOVA Labs in Fairfax brings on the heavy machinery with wood shop and metalcraft projects. Finally, A/R Workshop in Herndon hosts classes in knitting, sign making, ornaments, door mats, pillow making and more.
One thing all these DIY crafts have in common is that, when you’re done, you have a memento of your Fairfax County experience that will forever bring a smile to your face. When you visit, be sure to also check out our events page lest you miss a favorite annual exhibit or one-time class while you’re here. Don't forget to share your experience on social media using #FXVA or @VisitFairfax and if you’re worried about whether or not you can do art right, Salvador Dali has the ultimate advice, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”