Mount Airy creates art in local parks

·3 min read

Sep. 7—Lately, retired art teacher June Cayne feels like painting again.

"Because of Art in the Park, I have been re-inspired," she said.

Art in the Park is a new, free program offered by the Town of Mount Airy. Residents are invited to gather at various local parks, learn about an influential artist and create their own works of art with supplies provided by the town.

"We are trying to offer more frequent, low-key, intimate events throughout the year," parks and events assistant Nancy Hernandez wrote in an email. "The Town already has many wonderful large-scale festivals. So this is a chance to reach other people through activities that are better in smaller groups."

Two events have been held so far, and two more are to come.

Cayne was an early fan.

She moved to town about two years ago from Montgomery County to be closer to family but wasn't able to meet many new people during the pandemic. When Cayne's daughter told her about Art in the Park, she signed up for the first session in July. Cayne spent about 35 years teaching art at Montgomery County Public Schools.

At the first Art in the Park event, participants gathered by a pollinator garden to learn about artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who was known for paintings of flowers. Cayne had so much fun, she returned in August, where artist Alma Thomas was the focus.

"For me, it's such a wonderful social outlet because it's been hard for me to meet people," Cayne said.

The events have attracted a wide range of ages. Cayne, 72, was delighted to meet a 2-year-old girl at one gathering.

Hernandez, who leads the events, said Art in the Park aims to highlight diverse artists "who painted nature in unique ways." The program is not meant to be formal art instruction.

"Instead, I present a little biographical information about the featured artist and we briefly talk about their art styles and techniques," Hernandez wrote. "We look at pictures of their artwork and then participants get a chance to paint. The idea is to try the featured artist's technique or get inspiration from their style to try something new, but participants can paint anything and any way they want."

Hernandez wants participants to feel welcome and free from judgment. She purposely chose artists with styles that are not realistic, so participants would not feel intimidated.

On Sept. 13, Art in the Park will take place at Watkins Park and highlight artist Fernando Llort from El Salvador. His work is characterized by bright colors and simplified shapes and includes symbols of Mayan culture.

On Oct. 11, American abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler will be the focus at Prospect Park. She developed a soak-stain technique to create abstract images on large canvases with thinned paint. Art in the Park guests will have the chance to try a similar technique.

Both events will take place at 10 a.m. All ages are welcome, but children under 14 need to have an adult attend with them. There is a cap of 20 people per session. No drop-ins are permitted. Pre-register at least two days in advance so staff can ensure supplies are available. Call 301-829-1424, ext. 135, and leave your name, phone number and the number of attendees.

"The idea is to provide a friendly, peaceful, more intimate setting where people can enjoy painting together in a beautiful place," Hernandez wrote.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller