Jun 8, 2022 Updated Jun 8, 2022
From the murals on the sides of buildings to the opening of the Art of Coffee to art walks, which eventually became First, in recent years, art has been cropping up more and more prominently in Montross. Now, there is yet another feather in the art cap for the town to point towards: The Montross Art Center, which had its grand opening last week.
The Art Center hosts a proverbial dream team of resident and gallery artists, and each one of them brought their A-game for the grand opening. Janice Jones, meanwhile, gave a tour and overview of both the resident and featured artists.
One of the first artists introduced was Anne McCahill, who hails from France and specializes in embroidery. She’s a retired teacher and has resided in Virginia ever since she became a naturalized U.S. Citizen. She is also certified in botanical illustration.
“Everybody loves her works,” Jones stated. “She paints her designs on and then embroiders them. It’s exquisite work.”
“It also keeps arthritis from creeping up on me,” McCahill chimed in cheerfully.
Each of the artists is a master of their various crafts, whether it’s Christiane Sanford’s painting, sculptures, and jewelry, the award-winning photography of Bob Schamerhorn or Orkendell Ford and his paintings. Ford was described by Jones as “the power behind the throne.”
Born in Kentucky, Ford’s military career in the Air Force would take him across the globe, from Spain to Japan and beyond. During his Spain tour of duty, he studied at the University of Maryland under a man by the name of Clarence Shivers, a retired Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. His work has been displayed in several venues, including in New York, Colorado, Virginia, and plenty more.
“I do just about anything,” Ford said during a chat. “I do a lot of ships and boats. I hate doing boring stuff. We’re just trying to get things started here—train the kids how to paint, do new classes and hold lectures on different kinds of art. We’re getting a lot of good feedback here, and I think it’ll work.”
The last of the resident artists to be introduced was Stephen Griffin, a retired art teacher who used to instruct at the University of Mary Washington before retiring in 2008.
There are many other artists in residence at the art center while others put their pieces on display from all over the area. There is work from local artists, such as Phil McKenny and his display of figures from pop culture and baseball history, including the likes of Dean Martin, Don Knotts and Popeye. And, there are pieces from Fredericksburg and Richmond.
The art center’s beginnings
Jones stated that a lot of the credit goes to Montross town manager Patricia Lewis and Mayor Terry Cosgrove.
“They all wanted something like this here in town, and it’s happened,” Griffin went on to state. “We may not be in downtown Montross, but nothing here is very far from there anyway.”
The whole idea came into being about a year ago, when the town of Warsaw approached Ms. Jones and asked her to try to set up something like this in Warsaw. However, that ran into a share of problems.
“We worked on it through the year, but we couldn’t find a place to rent,” Jones explained. “But then, Steve Griffin told Terry Cosgrove about it.”
With Cosgrove on board, the wheels were greased and the art center came to Montross. Instead of dealing with high rent, the center circumvented the issue entirely by buying the property instead.
Ever since opening, the center has proven to be a huge hit with a packed parking lot both on the evening of its grand opening and the day after when First Fridays rolled in.
In addition to displaying art, the center will host numerous classes and other activities as it seeks to become a part of the community.