Purcellville’s arts scene has become even more colorful over the past month as 32 painted oak wine barrels began appearing around town.
The imaginatively painted barrels resulted from an initiative by the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, coordinated by committee member Michael Oaks.
Oaks said the program was designed as a fun project that would provide a showcase for local artists, highlight the Purcellville area as a tourist destination and draw business to town.
Oaks and his wife, Kim Patterson, contributed the barrels. The artists volunteered their time and talents to paint depictions of Purcellville or rural western Loudoun themes. Businesses paid $200 each to sponsor a barrel. In November, the barrels will be auctioned off at Catoctin Creek Distillery.
Artists chose a varieties of images—including farms, horses, wineries, birds, people, buildings and rural roads—through which to display their creativity and talent.
There are some well-known sites depicted, including Dogwood Farm on Lincoln Road that is the last remaining dairy farm in the county. Artist Nan Bowe’s depiction of a calf feeding from a milk bottle stuck into the barrel is ingenuous. Denise Dittmar’s image of Old Town Purcellville touches on past activities seen around the town. Native American Indian artist René White-Feather, of Bluemont, highlighted the contributions of her culture, using the theme “Sights and Sounds Indians Gave and Left Loudoun.” Her oak barrel is displayed in front of the Dominion Tea shop on North 21st Street.
And the public, artists and business sponsors appear to be loving it all. Oaks said he gets calls about the project every day, as the buzz builds around the often whimsical depictions of western Loudoun life.
Jeff Browning, owner and president of Browning Equipment, is fully supportive of the endeavor. The company sponsored the Corbin Farm barrel, painted by Anita Hurst under the theme of “Farms of Yesteryear.” “At $200, [the sponsorship] is a pretty good value,” Browning said. “To see the arts community flourishing in Purcellville is kind of nice.”
Hurst, who moved from Portland, OR, with her husband to Purcellville eight years ago, brought experience with public art projects. In Oregon she created a 6-foot Mickey Mouse figure as part of Disney’s 75th anniversary celebration.
For this project, Hurst’s imagination was struck by the huge barn at Fields Farm, where her kids attend Mountain View Elementary School. Her piece is an amalgam of Cole Farm, Fields Farm and Corbin Farm—a horse farm near Hamilton which she first saw in a 1912 newspaper photo at the Thomas Balch Library.
Mary Shea Knight, owner of Piper Dan’s Keltic Shoppe at 10 E. Main St., sponsored Dittmar’s version of Old Town Purcellville. She’s familiar with the concept, having participated in a similar endeavor in Massachusetts.
“We did painted sheep; it was a huge success and we raised a lot of money for charity. And it did bring a lot of people in, they came in and shopped in local shops,” she said. And when the sheep were auctioned off, just as the oak barrels will be in the fall, “they went for thousands of dollars,” Shea Knight said, adding a similar result in Purcellville “would be awesome.”
Artist Penny Hauffe created the Woodpecker Wine-Tasting barrel, depicting the bird clinging to the side of the barrel and sipping wine out of the barrel tap.
Hauffe and her husband have long supported and been involved with public art, in Reston and Leesburg, so she’s thrilled to help extend that idea to Purcellville. “I was all in from the first conversation with Michael,” she said, describing the venture as a great way to beautify the town and raise awareness and money for public art. “What’s not to love?”
Her barrel idea grew from a painting Hauffe did of a woodpecker in her exhibit at the Town Hall. She also was an artist-in-residence at North Gate Vineyard, which is sponsoring the barrel—so the idea of woodpeckers helping themselves to a free wine tasting came naturally.
And seen from that broader perspective, the initiative feeds a growing movement in which Purcellville is becoming a major hub for public art in the county.
Liz Jarvis chairs the Purcellville Arts Council, whose mission is to foster art and make Purcellville a community where artists want to live and work. “The rotating art exhibits in the Town Hall shows that the town embraces the concept, which is accessible to everyone,” Jarvis said.
She praised those who have pioneered the rise of public art in Loudoun, including longtime arts community leader Gale Waldron, the Round Hill Arts Center and the Franklin Park Arts Center.
The volume of feedback, both about the oak barrels and the recent Western Loudoun Arts Studio Tour, has been huge. “People are so excited, I’ve heard it everywhere,” Jarvis said. “They want public art. They want to live in a cultural hub.”
Oaks will be distributing promotional cards with a map showing the barrels and artists.