Few people can claim the varied skills and experiences of Falls Church resident Bill Abel.
He is a yoga teacher and student. He builds theater sets and makes picture frames.
He is a Falls Church school crossing guard (for ten years and counting), and he is a self-taught artist who runs an online gallery, Where Art Happens.
The next time you eat at a Falls Church restaurant, you might just see some of his works hanging on the wall since several local eateries have bought Abel’s watercolors. One ran on the cover of a Tysons magazine.
This year Abel sold a painting at the Falls Church artists’ member show.
“I was really happy about that,” he said.
Abel is also happy with his newfound “feeling of freedom” which allows him to paint, practice yoga and contribute.
At Dancing Mind Yoga Studio, Abel preaches what he practices.
He started there as a student, taking a six-week “personal revolution” course, which led to an invitation to teach.
He completed the 200-plus hours of coursework to meet the requirements and now teaches three days a week, including “power hours” at 6 a.m. for those who are really intent on meeting daily goals, like Abel is.
Yoga helped Abel “come out of hiding” and devote himself to his love of painting. The important thing is taking the time to do it.
He shifted from his life’s plateau and “became unstuck.”
“I could decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Abel says. “I fell in love with yoga and how it makes me feel better. It really helps with self-reflection and inquiry.”
With Dancing Mind owner Paula Baake, he set up “Mighty Kids” yoga classes for children ages 5 – 10.
The classes stress healthy habits and active games and “provide something for students who may not necessarily play team sports,” Abel says, although the first Mighty Kids Olympics are set for this summer.
In 2004 Abel and his family were living in Tallahassee, Florida when his then-wife was offered a new job in the D.C. area.
Abel had been a stay-at-home dad for his three children (now ages 17, 20, and 22) in the Sunshine State, important duties he continued when the family moved to Falls Church. They were attracted by the City’s small schools, the trees and quality of life.
In Tallahassee, Abel had started an art school for children and adults, offering more than 22 classes in its first year alone. After one year, however, it closed.
He didn’t know any better not to start the school. No one told him not to do it.
“[I was] someone with no business background,” Abel says. “I wanted to make it a fun place for children and adults to enjoy and make it a place to grow. It was a learning experience,” one which helped lay the groundwork for Mighty Kids.
The Abels’ first home in Falls Church was at the Winter Hill apartments on S. Virginia Avenue, right across the street from Tom Gittins’ Art and Frame shop. It didn’t take long for Abel and Gittins to start talking art. Gittins showed him how to make frames, an expensive part of any artist’s life.
Later, Abel went to work with Laura Connors Hull and Margie Jervis at Creative Cauldron Theater, building sets.
He immersed himself in the local schools as well, serving as a special education team member for Falls Church schools before becoming a crossing guard for Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle, and George Mason High School.
Abel considers himself a “constant learner,” a phrase he frequently uses to describe himself.
“Always be a learner,” he says. “Always be a student.”
At his studio at Art and Frame on West Jefferson, Abel keeps color postcards of the paintings he has sold, which he thumbed through during a recent interview. He showed off an unsold watercolor of a now-defunct restaurant on Park Avenue.
“You can fly in so many different directions,” he says. “Always be learning, growing and contributing, spiritual needs we all share. Giving back is important to me.”
And it supplies personal satisfaction.
“Finding what matters most to you and your heart,” he says, and allowing yourself “the freedom to explore and find your niche is what it’s all about.”
Bill Abel’s MightyKIDS! class is for children aged 5 – 10 and takes place at Dancing Mind, 929 W. Broad St., Monday – Thursday and on Saturday from 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. More information can be found at dancingmind.com.