- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 17, 2006

Appreciating art does not have to be confined to the walls of the National Gallery. Art is all around, particularly in the galleries of Bethesda. An excellent

way for art lovers — both beginning or experienced — to take in the works of local and national artists is to participate in the Bethesda Art Walk.

This free event, sponsored by the Bethesda Urban Partnership, takes place the second Friday of the month. Thirteen downtown Bethesda galleries remain open from 6 to 9 p.m., welcoming visitors with wine, snacks and a chance to meet featured artists. Participants can go at their own pace or take part in a guided tour, which meets at the Bethesda Metro Center during selected months.

“The art walk brings a lot of people through the galleries,” says Lauren Degourse, marketing and communications coordinator for the Bethesda Urban Partnership. “A lot of the galleries hold their exhibit openings in conjunction with the art walk, so it is a good chance to talk to the artists.”

On a recent Friday, about 20 participants took part in the guided tour, which has an added bonus of trolley service for a portion of the route. First stop: the Washington School of Photography on Rugby Avenue. The gallery was celebrating the opening of its “American Landscapes” exhibit. First-place winner Mary Louise Ravese, a nature and travel photographer from Waterford, Va., gave tour participants a brief talk on how she took a photograph titled “Waves of Grain.” The photograph captures North Dakota wheat and pea fields on rolling hills, each hill shimmering with a different hue in the late-day sun.

“An interesting part of this landscape is how the glaciers formed rolling hills,” Ms. Ravese explained to the crowd. “The climate is different at the top and bottom of the hills. I got up on a butte for a better view. This was photographed with the late-afternoon light around last Fourth of July.”

Next stop — more photographs, these from Bethesda photographer Karen Elliott Greisdorf at Gallery Frame Avenue, a tiny gallery tucked into an alley off Cordell Avenue. After that, it was off to the Fraser Gallery on Wisconsin Avenue, where winners of the Bethesda Painting Awards were being honored. Nine regional painters were winners in the second annual competition, which featured a grand prize of $10,000.

The walk is a good chance to see what local galleries carry and also learn about different art genres. Photography displays, contemporary art, textile art, drawings, prints and other media all can be enjoyed. Because exhibits generally change monthly at the galleries, one could go on the art walk several times a year and see different works and meet different artists each time.

Even better, one could use it as either an educational experience or a shopping trip. Most of the works on display are for sale, and prices run the gamut — from a $75 nature photograph to an $8,500 oil painting.

“I find art interesting,” says recent art walk participant Dorothy Lusiniski of Silver Spring. “This is a good way to see all the galleries. You never know; I might even buy something.”

The art walk is open to all ages, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Small children probably will find it tedious — not to mention confining to be in a small gallery with breakable objects. However, for older children — say middle school and high school age — it can be a fun way to learn about the arts. Also, plan to wear comfortable walking shoes and carry an umbrella in case of rain, as taking part in the entire walk covers a lot of ground on the streets of Bethesda.

Even if you choose the self-guided tour, look for the Bethesda Urban Partnership guides as they visit the galleries. They have maps available as well as information about Bethesda’s plethora of restaurants so you can make a complete evening of appreciating art and good food.

When you go:

Location: The Bethesda Art Walk is held at 13 galleries in downtown Bethesda.

Hours: The event is held from 6 to 9 p.m. the second Friday of the month. Art walk dates for 2006 are July 14, Aug. 11, Sept. 8, Oct. 13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8.

Tours: Tours are available in April, May, June, September and October. Meet at the Bethesda Metro Center at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. For a self-guided tour, pick up a map at a Bethesda hotel or look for any of the 13 galleries displaying a Bethesda Art Walk sign.

Admission: Free

Parking: Many pay garages and meters are available around downtown Bethesda.

Notes:

• Wear comfortable clothing, as seeing all 13 galleries involves lots of walking.

• The free Bethesda 8 Trolley can transport participants some of the way. Look for signs and the artistically decorated benches around town to indicate the trolley stops.

More information: 301/215-6660 or www.bethesda.org.

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