If you can enjoy tapas—Spanish cuisine’s answer to appetizers—in the world of food, why not in the realm of art?
This was the driving principle behind the Green Heron Art Center and the River City Grill’s Meet the Artists reception, called “Tapas—A Sampling-Sized Art Exhibit,” at the River City Grill on Wednesday night. Both businesses are located on Radford’s Third Avenue in the downtown area.
The exhibit, though not Spanish-themed, was named “Tapas” because each artist showed a sampling of one to five pieces of their work; displayed were photographs, watercolors and paper collage. Artists included Frank Clark, Bill Ratcliffe, Jason Davis, Sarah Foltz and Rebecca H. Rader of Radford, Dawnita Hall of Fairlawn, Roger Gupta of Blacksburg and Karen Hines of Newbern, some of whom have had solo exhibits at the Green Heron and/or the River City Grill. Their pieces ranged in price from $65 to $475.
Appropriately enough, an actual tapas buffet of fruit, cheese, chips and dips was out for the artists and their would-be patrons. As this was also the Grill’s jazz night, at 6 p.m. guitarist Flip Shoemaker and bassist Neal Wyms set up in a corner of the restaurant and added a mellow tinge to the event, creating a relaxed counterpoint to the sound of rain outside.
The exhibit was a collaboration between the Green Heron, owned by Becky Lattuca, and the River City Grill, owned by Chris and Heather Bell. The restaurant has hung art for sale on its walls before, but not through a third party; after Wednesday, however, the artwork on display there will all be from the Green Heron.
“It’s really exciting. I’m thrilled about it,” said Lattuca of the show. “It’s something that we’ve kind of tossed around before and we never really worked out the logistics and the details. I’m doing the work of getting the artists, I’m hanging the show, I’m taking it down.”
“We’re doing rotating exhibits. Every two months we’re going to change it out,” said Chris Bell. “I had one show that I liked and it was up for eight months, and it wasn’t rotating very much. Becky had opened up, meanwhile, up the street from us, and she’s got contacts with all the artists. We decided it would be a good collaboration. She could have more walls to hang her art on and we wouldn’t have to think about who to show next. It’s a win-win for both of us.”
Lattuca and Bell both agreed that Wednesday nights would be a good time to put on this and future exhibits, as it was less likely to be too crowded, though dinner service was still available as usual. Their judgment appeared correct; the exhibit’s turnout was healthy and several who came for the art stayed to enjoy drinks or dinner.
The artists themselves were pleased with the exhibit.
“It was a nice surprise, because these pieces had been at Becky’s store for a while. It was nice to get a fresh display,” said Rader, a mycologist. Of her watercolors, she said, “It’s nature-inspired. It’s fairly realistic pictures of some of my favorite places.”
“I’m really excited by it, I think it’s a great idea. I like the concept of showing a few artists all together so people can sample different things,” said Davis, who teaches biology at Radford University. “I take a lot of natural scenes,” he said of his photography. “Animals, a lot of bright colors, things in motion.”
“I love it,” said Foltz, who is a grad student in biology at Tech. Her own stark, outdoor scenes are “paper and cloth. I started out just using basically anything that I could recycle out of the house.” Davis and Foltz are also married.
“It’s really nice, I’m impressed,” said Clark, a retired engineer for the government. “I’ve enjoyed photography for a long time.” The pieces on display were of bridges, which he said is his favorite subject.
Lattuca said she’d like to work up more exhibits with other businesses around town for the artists who display and sell their work through her. Of working with the Bells and their restaurant, she said, “I think it’s fantastic. They’ve got plenty of walls, it gives the artists great exposure. People who may not come into a little shop like mine still are being exposed to all sorts of different local art and artists. It’s a great collaboration, and its intent is to benefit us all and the city as a whole. It’s nice to have some excitement, some reason to come to Radford.”
The Tapas exhibit will remain on display until Aug. 31; art displayed at the River City Grill can be purchased at the restaurant.
The River City Grill is located at 103 Third Ave. in Radford and has frequent musical acts and daily dinner specials; for more information call (540) 629-2130 or go to HYPERLINK “http://www.rivercitygrillva.com” www.rivercitygrillva.com.
The Green Heron Art Center is located at 111 Third Ave. in Radford and displays and sells work by local artists and also offers how-to art classes. For more information call (540) 633-ARTS or visit their Facebook page.