The name Jim Sisley is one that is well known in Leesburg circles: Commercial Realtor. Economic Development Commission Chairman. Friends of Leesburg Public Art Vice President. Loudoun County Planning Commissioner. Owner of a combo co-working space/art gallery. And an artist himself.
The marriage of economic development and art for Sisley is no accident. He sees art with the same amazement and wonder he did as a young child whose father would bring him to museums. Twenty five years ago, when he moved to the Washington, DC, area, a visit to the Hirshorn Museum’s sculpture garden made him fully understand “the power of public art.”
“You didn’t have to walk through a door to see it. You could simply walk down the street,” he said. “The beautification was a result of some individual’s planned bit of art—whether it was music, performance art, etc. Somebody had individually expressed it or everybody to see without charge. It was an awakening to the fact that all this stuff existed and it wasn’t by chance or serendipity, it was by someone’s hand.”
And those pieces of public art, whether a sculpture in a garden, a street performance, or a mural, could add to the economic vitality of the area it was in. Government leaders, he said, need to view public art “as an investment in the quality of life of their citizens,” in addition to an attraction tool for visitors, businesses, and more.
He points to the creation of the Loudoun County Artisan Trail, something his gallery manager at Tryst Gallery, Lisa Straut, helped start. Once implemented, the artisan trail can help generate visits within the county from visitors who want to explore many of the county’s special places—whether they be restaurants, galleries, breweries, etc.
“That’s where art meets economic development,” Sisley said.
It is those two passions that have driven his own career and personal pursuits. A painter since childhood, Sisley’s art can be seen throughout his Tryst Gallery, which he opened in his East Market Street co-working space, Simple Office Space, last year. It’s an unusual combination of an art gallery inside a co-working space that hosts 13 offices, in addition to Sisley’s own Paladin Real Estate. It’s a common occurrence, he says, to hear people walk in prepared for a typical office environment and hear them come to a dead stop as they realize they’ve also walked into an art gallery.
Tryst Gallery hosts its own events and rotating art exhibits. The Third Thursdays monthly events have featured book signings from local authors and this month’s event, on March 16, will be a gallery talk about demystifying art and making it more accessible. All the Third Thursday events are catered and thus far have attracted some impressive crowds, Sisley said. He hopes the monthly event will become a “similar juggernaut” to downtown Leesburg’s popular First Friday events.
Sisley hopes to continue to be a part of the conversation, and a driving force, behind the marriage of art and economic development in and around downtown Leesburg, and throughout Loudoun County. He hopes the public art movement burgeoning in Leesburg will be an inspiration to other young ones as it once was to him. It is a love he passed on to his own sons, who are a photographer and screenwriter, respectively.
“We are lifted and made somewhat more graceful by our experience with art,” Sisley said. “It’s that fantastic mind of young people and their lack of fear in creation…that’s really what’s fueled by public art.”
For more information on Tryst Gallery and its upcoming shows, go to trystgallery.com.
Third Thursday at Tryst Gallery
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16
Where: 312 East Market St. Suite F, Leesburg
Gallery owner Jim Sisley will present his vision for Tryst Gallery and how he envisions it changing the dialogue around art in Loudoun County.