Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Community Engagement & Art in The Little City

“Some men see things as they are and ask why…. I dream things that never were and ask why not.” Those eloquent words first made famous by the playwright George Bernard Shaw, have always inspired passion in me. Like many, I first heard them used by Bobby Kennedy in 1968, during a time of political unrest and despair.

It occurred to me that Wilde’s famous words are an apt description of what has happened in our Little City with the opening of ArtSpace Falls Church. Almost a decade ago, when I founded Creative Cauldron to fill what I saw was a gaping hole in opportunities for learning, participation and enjoyment of the arts in Falls Church, there were others that had a similar vision… A vision that the arts should play an integral part in the life of our community.

Tom Gittins started it with the First Friday events featuring monthly exhibits and artists receptions. Falls Church Arts was formed under his guidance and then nurtured under the inspired leadership of former Vice Mayor Marty Meserve and Gina Caceci who served as its first Executive Director. FCA gathered a treasure trove of talented local visual artists as members who regularly exhibit their work under the FCA umbrella.

My vision with Creative Cauldron, was to build an arts organization that embodied collaboration, experimentation and community engagement. Over the years we’ve attracted some extraordinary professional artists: actors, musicians, painters, dancers, etc. who share this vision of what the arts could and should be in our everyday lives. They’ve included people outside our community and also those within, such as Cay Wiant and Bob Morrison who, sadly, passed from us before the vision came to its full fruition.

The Falls Church City Council and City staff also shared this vision. Be it ever so humble at 3,000 square feet, ArtSpace Falls Church still represents a bold commitment and a keen understanding of how the arts contribute the quality of life and the economic vitality of a community. This is where I get to publicly thank Assistant City Manager City Mester personally for all of her tireless work keeping the project moving along.

In our first year in ArtSpace Falls Church, Creative Cauldron and our resident partner, Falls Church Arts, presented an impressive array of performances, classes, camps, and exhibits. A Virginia Commission for the Arts panel called the ambitious scope and quality of what we had accomplished: “simply amazing.” We’ve had many VIP visitors from around the metro area who have marveled at the intimacy and casual atmosphere and many have called it “magical.”

My vision with Creative Cauldron was to build an arts organization that embodied collaboration, experimentation and community engagement.

If you’ve missed all this, don’t despair. Our 2010-2011 season will be even better. Through the end of August you can join us for our “Fourth Wall Cabaret Series” featuring knock out performances by accomplished musical theater professionals, many of whom are Helen Hayes Award winners. This will be followed in September by the opening of “Abstract Expressions,” a juried art exhibit by Falls Church Arts.

Creative Cauldron’s “Learning Theater” productions are anchored by professionals, and also feature exceptional student and community performers. We open in October with a whimsical, post- modern adaptation of Aesop’s Fables. December will bring a remount of “The Christmas Cabin of Carnaween,” an Irish folk tale that the Washington Post extolled as “poignant and bracing.” In March, Oscar Wilde’s classic tale “The Selfish Giant,” will be brought to life. And in June 2011, we will revisit “Tinner Hill: Portraits in Black and White.”

Presented in collaboration with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, “Tinner Hill” was developed from oral histories of the amazing African Americans who played a critical role in the development of Falls Church. It was an eye-opener for many and the standing ovations that it received during its brief run convinced us that we should present it once again next year Thanks to Nikki and Ed Henderson for sharing these inspiring stories.

Music lovers will enjoy our “Play On!” series highlighting talented local musicians, from contemporary to classical. Thanks to a grant from the Arts Council of Fairfax County, in January and February, we will present “Passport to the World,” a series of performances and workshops by musical groups representing traditions from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. In the gallery, Falls Church Arts will mount an exhibit inspired by the theme. You can travel the world without ever leaving our Little City!

Creative Cauldron will continue to offer year round classes for children and adults on-site, and Falls Church Arts will have monthly exhibits. It would be impossible to list everything here in this commentary. We encourage you to log on to our websites for updated information and hope that you will take advantage of this excellent (and affordable) community resource in the coming year.


Laura Hull is the Executive Director of  the non-profit Creative Cauldron, Inc.