- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

It’s the second Saturday in May, and Seventh and Eighth streets SE — a commercial quarter on Capitol Hill — are hopping with browsers, art buffs, shoppers, and people who just like to make a party of this monthly art-oriented event called, appropriately, Second Saturday.

“We try to make it a festive, street-wide event, a community place to meet, where people run into people they know and usually end up going to one of the neighborhood restaurants for dinner,” says Laurie Morin, owner of Hoopla Traders, who is standing beneath a machine that is blowing a barrage of bubbles down Eighth Street.

Second Saturday, begun by the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals four years ago, has become quite a year-round showcase for the area’s businesses. This Saturday’s art walk will include more than 18 shops, galleries and restaurants.

Hoopla Traders features a different artist every month. May’s artist was Ed Soucy, a woodworker and one-time fisherman from Gloucester, Mass., who has his own gallery. This month’s Second Saturday attraction at Hoopla is the work of Washington artist J. Andreda Greene.

Inside the small shop, stuffed animals made by a women’s cooperative in Kenya vie for space with jewelry, blown glass, handcrafted mirrors and other hand-made items. People are filing past Mr. Soucy’s carvings, and many end up around a table spread with wine and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Ms. Morin had planned to serve baked brie, but it’s not quite ready — “it should be oozing,” she says — and manager Aliesha Dennis speeds off in a car to finish baking it in her oven.

“Second Saturday is one of our best sales days of the month,” Ms. Morin says.

• • •

Up the street at NZen, a gallery whose name came to owner Cathy Braxton in a dream, Kenneth Ward is minding the store for the owner as customers browse the silver jewelry, candles and incense.

“Moroccan fig and red currant are popular,” Mr. Ward says of the incense.

Hill residents Brian Maxwell and Judy and Dan Daly are admiring the black-and-white photographs of faces and hands by Alyscia Cunningham and inspecting a programmable clock that spells out the message “Happy Saturday” in tiny red lights.

“We pretty much hit all the places every month,” Mr. Maxwell says.

“My wife supports the arts,” Mr. Daly deadpans.

“I’m not an artist,” Judy Daly explains. “I just come shopping on Second Saturday.”

At the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, around the corner on Seventh Street, a reception for the opening of a juried show is in progress, and artists outnumber the shoppers.

“These monthly juried shows are an opportunity for neighbors and visitors to come out and see what we have to offer — everything from photographs to sculpture to paintings and drawings,” says artist Delila Katzka, who is president of the Capitol Hill Art League.

Mary Bird, a Rosslyn resident wearing a hand-painted jacket bought at a craft fair at Sugarloaf Mountain, is explaining the genesis of her oil painting, “Foothills,” to gallery-goers.

“I spent a week in Yosemite, and it was kind of overwhelming,” she recalls. “Driving back to L.A., the foothills really spoke to me.”

Roberta Glick, who lives in Adams Morgan and looks very artistic with her long black hair and dangling red-glass earrings, is talking about her monotype, titled “Despair,” which depicts a nude, slumped woman.

“She’s contemplating a lot of stuff in her life,” Ms. Glick says. “A monotype is made by a painterly printing process. You make only one print. You paint on a plate and put it through a printing press. I use printers’ ink and acid and come back with a pen to underline.”

Jesse Darnell, a regular attendee at Capitol Hill Art League events who is dressed for the occasion in a navy blazer, shirt and tie, peers over his glasses at a large fabric sculpture titled “Don’t Hide Your Light Under a Bushel,” exclaiming: “Isn’t it wonderful? It’s so full of force, so dramatic.”

Karen Currie, a geriatric social worker by day and a fabric sculptor the rest of the time, explains how she created this and similar works by wrapping strips of material with thread.

“I call them dreads,” she says. “I’ve been exploring fear and dread. I used to sew — it grew out of my love of fabrics.”

Clifford Chieffo, the Georgetown University professor and curator who selected these works out of many more submitted, is about to speak, and attendees hurry to fill their wine glasses and grab some shrimp or quiche or guacamole before the “gallery talk.”

“Let me walk you through what I experience when all these works are presented to me,” begins Mr. Chieffo, a genial, bearded man wearing a hand-painted Chinese tie (“Goodwill, fifty cents,” he says).

“I look at the underlying stuff: How is it put together? Is it unique? Is it creative? It could be a little wacky, off the wall — I’m likely to like that.”

“Wacky” is an adjective Mr. Chieffo applies to David Evelyn’s mixed media assemblage, “Hide and Seek,” but warns: “About these diorama-type things, if I see a doll’s head in it, you’re out. Been there, done that — everybody who goes into this type of art uses dolls’ heads. The little hand coming out of the vertebrae was borderline…”

But for Ellen Cornett’s charcoal of a palm tree in St. Croix, Mr. Chieffo has only praise: “This is just good. Don’t touch it. Don’t breathe on it. It’s perfect.”

• • •

Farther up Seventh Street, near the Eastern Market, Esther Ackerman, owner of the Bird-in-Hand Bookstore & Gallery, and her dog, Lucky, are hosting an opening of prints by Ecuadorean artist Dario Scholis, while Claire Sotherlin and Alan Braley, owners of The Village gallery, and their standard poodle, Winston, preside over a “yard sale” of Flax linen clothing (“some previously owned”) and a showing of Mr. Braley’s watercolor and acrylic paintings.

“I’m a painter of colors and shapes as opposed to a representational painter. I don’t try to copy nature — I paint what I feel. This is my interpretation of Monhegan Island in Maine, where we go for a couple weeks every summer,” says Mr. Braley, pointing to a large three-panel acrylic of bright green water and white surf spewing onto rocks.

Some gallery-hoppers have paused to dine at Marty’s, a restaurant on Eighth Street, which offers a free glass of wine with dinner on Second Saturday. Outdoor diners are being serenaded by Bread and Roses, a feminist chorus which is making the rounds of Second Saturday venues.

We are strong together, and we fight for what is true,

Yes, it’s bread we fight for

But we fight for roses, too.

The rising of the women

Means the rising of us all!

“The song comes out of the labor movement — you have to feed both the body and the spirit,” explains Carol Wheeler, who, like all the singers, is wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a bright red rose. “We’re a non-audition chorus. We all love singing together, and we like standing up saying what you can say in music but can’t otherwise.”

• • •

Music — but with a Latin beat — is also emanating from neighboring Alvear Studio, where Stephanie Troilo is standing outside with two dogs.

“I’m just baby-sitting these dogs — if they bite you it’s not my fault,” she tells visitors. “This couple came by with them and really wanted to go in, so I offered.”

Inside the gallery, which has just expanded into space that used to be a dry cleaner’s, the owners’ dog, a Chihuahua named Lupe, is greeting guests as Ms. Troilo’s mother, Reggie Troilo (“It’s really Regina, but only the nuns called me that.”) talks about her paintings.

“I live in San Antonio. There are always fiestas, and that’s what inspires me. Mexico inspires me with color. You see beautiful women, sensitive and strong. You see Indian people getting off buses wearing turquoise dresses and red rebozos. Why don’t we dress like that?” asks Mrs. Troilo, a short woman with cropped white hair who is wearing a black dress.

“For the past two years, I’ve painted smaller — I have artificial knees and it’s too hard dragging big canvases around — and I found you can be just as creative.”

Pointing to a small painting of a woman on a beach, she explains her artistic process:

“I never know until I put color on canvas what a painting is going to be — that’s why the show is called ‘Serendipity.’ I started out with a wash of earth tones. It’s almost like looking at marble — you see the figure popping out of it.”

As the artist entertains admirers, Hill residents John Woodard and Russ Webber, who are friends of gallery owners Chris Alvear and Francisco Pliego, mix margaritas. Singer Maria Isolina of the Sol y Rumba band sings in deep-throated Spanish, and Norma and Clint Wright, who live on Capitol Hill, take to the floor.

“I’m Cuban — I came out of the womb dancing,” Mrs. Wright says.

“I didn’t,” adds Mr. Wright. “But I was in the Foreign Service for 23 years, and most of my postings were in Latin America, places like Mexico and Venezuela, where you had to dance or be a social outcast.”

“For a gringo, he’s pretty good,” his wife says.

Vic and Debbie Van Cleve, who are both administrators at Gallaudet University, hover over a sumptuous spread lush enough to be a still-life, and talk about why they are regulars at Second Saturday.

“We moved to the Hill from Lanham, Maryland, last June and discovered this,” Mr. Van Cleve says. “It’s lots of fun. You meet your neighbors — you meet people you know. I was here a few months ago and looked across the food table and saw a guy I went to grad school with 30 years ago.”

Mrs. Van Cleve models a silver-and-onyx necklace and bracelet the couple has just purchased and adds happily:

“We come for the fun and the free food and the friends, but we always end up spending money.”

Highlights along the arts trail

Second Saturday focuses mainly on an area south of North Carolina Avenue SE, but anyone who wishes to can roam effortlessly through a much wider area.

Hop a free Old Town Trolley at Union Station, for example, where the VSA Arts Festival (formerly the Very Special Arts Festival; see www.vsartsfestival.org) will feature painting, sculpture and weaving demonstrations all day Saturday.

The trolley will run from 3 to 7 p.m., shuttling past the Capitol and up East Capitol Street, site of the Capitol Hill Sculpture Project, 18 outdoor sculptures in front gardens. The trolley will stop at 301 East Capitol St. SE, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Haskell Center, to drop off anyone who wishes to attend the sculpture show’s opening reception, from 4 to 6 p.m. Then it will proceed to Eighth Street SE, dropping gallery goers at Second Saturday sites.

Off the trolley route and a bit north of the concentration of Second Saturday sites is another Second Saturday location, the Evolve Urban Arts Project in the Marday Building at 815 Maryland Ave. NE (see www.evolvellc.com).

At Evolve on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., strollers can view “Simulacrum,” a new photographic exhibit by one of Washington’s blossoming young artists, 18-year-old Jana Laughlin. Guests can visit with Ms. Laughlin and enjoy a complimentary continental brunch including coffee, juice or mimosas on the rooftop deck.

Here are some of the Capitol Hill highlights to hit Saturday. All are convenient to the Eastern Market Metro station.

@Chart text:1. Eastern Market Metro station (blue and orange lines): Southeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street SE.

2. Anatolia Bazaar: 631 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Turkish rugs, copper, jewelry and more. Ten percent off all items in shop 3-7 p.m. 202/543-7099.

3. Bird-In-Hand Bookstore & Gallery: 323 Seventh St. SE. Celebrates the June birthdays of some of our favorite artists 4-7 p.m. with light refreshments and new books showcasing the art of Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Gauguin, Jim Dine and Philip Guston. 202/543-0744.

4. The Frame Up: 317 Seventh St. SE. Wine, cheese and cookies 5-7 p.m. 202/546-1504.

5. Woven History: 311 Seventh St. SE. Ten percent off all copper items 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 202/543-1705.

6. Capitol Hill Books: 657 C St. SE. 4-7 p.m. Ten percent off all purchases 4-7 p.m. Furthermore, all hardback mysteries, suspense and fiction spy novels from the “Mystery Room” will be sold at 50 percent off during that time. Also available: wine, cheese, crackers, mustard and two types of attitude: happy and happier. 202/543-9021 or www.capitolhillbooks-dc.com.

7. The Village: 705 North Carolina Ave. SE. Special Second Saturday price on watercolor paintings by Alan Braley. 3-6 p.m. 202/546-3040.

8. NZen: 425 Eighth St. SE. Featuring “Images of America: A Photo Journey,” by photographers Jim and Joan Brady. 202/543-8162.

9. Marty’s Restaurant: 527-529 Eighth St. SE. Complimentary glass of wine or dessert with dinner 6-11 p.m. 202/546-4952.

10. Alvear Studio Design & Imports: 705 Eighth St. SE. Opening of an exhibit by mixed media artist Anne Crain, with refreshments and music, 6-10 p.m. 202/546-8434, www.alvearstudio.com.

11. Plaid: 715 Eighth St. SE. Ten percent off all items at this boutique fashion store, where they will serve summer cocktails 4-7 p.m. 202/675-6900, www.plaidstore.com.

12. Hoopla Traders: 733 Eighth St. SE. Opening reception for Washington artist J. Andreda Greene. Fine art, great food and fascinating conversation 6:30-9 p.m. Complimentary glass of wine or dessert with dinner 6-11 p.m. 202/544-3620.

13. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop: 545 Seventh St. SE. Student art exhibit and reception, a show featuring works in all media by adult students enrolled in Arts Workshop classes. Art and food 5-7 p.m. 202/547-6839, www.chaw.org.

14. Results Gallery: At Results, the Gym, 315 G St. SE. Artworks from the Studio Gallery Artists Cooperative, including 60 paintings in oils and acrylics as well as sculpture. Gallery open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. 202/669-4226 or www.fishergallery.com.

15. Hawk ‘n’ Dove: 329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Two-for-one dinner entree (equal or lesser value, $15 maximum), 6-11 p.m. 202/543-3300.

16. Pulp on the Hill: 303 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Stationery, paper goods, candles, cards. Light refreshments and music 7-9 p.m. 202/543-1924.

17. Riverby Books: 417 East Capitol St. SE. Mention “Second Saturday” and receive 10 percent off book purchases. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tea is always served at 4:30 p.m. 202/543-4342.

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