One of the most influential members of the Loudoun’s arts scene has died.
“Tireless,” “enthusiastic,” “passionate,” and “a wonderful friend,” were just some of the tributes paid to Gale Waldron, 70, who died Jan. 8 at her home near Hamilton.
Under her inspiration and guidance, Loudoun’s artists united to form a powerful artistic coalition that attracted more members to see the county as a desirable venue in which to live and work.
She came from a newspaper background, born in New Jersey in 1947 to George and Eileen Kentera. After graduating from Radford College, she worked on Capitol Hill where she met and married Gerry Waldron. They moved, with their daughter Sarah, to Loudoun in 1985.
She was attracted by a number of features—her love of creative and interesting people, the area’s beauty and a stable artistic community. And it was in Loudoun, that she found her calling—devoting herself to “celebrating, supporting and growing the arts in Loudoun County,” as she termed it.
Over a career that spanned more than two decades, she devoted her vision, energy, enthusiasm and love for people to that cause.
Her newspaper background came in useful, launching her own publication—Loudoun Art in 1997. Later, she founded and nurtured Gallery 222; and founded the Loudoun Academy of the Arts Foundation.
“Gale was both a visionary and a doer, a sometimes rare combination,” said photographer Sarah Huntington, her friend and collaborator of 30 years.
They shared a love of history, using the people of Loudoun as their template. Their book, “In Their Own Words,” was successful, with Huntington’s photographs providing the visual images for the vignettes of county life related by Waldron.
Waldron was a tireless organizer and good at “doing all those nitty gritty things that make art happen,” Huntington said.
As president of the Loudoun Arts Council, she revamped the organization’s branding and messaging to encompass a member newsletter, logo and website. She also directed a number of Designer Showhouses from 2003-2007, that raised money and awareness for council and boosted its membership to more than 400.
Another longtime Loudoun artist and friend, Antonia Walker, cited Waldren’s enthusiasm and vibrant manner, and her mentorship of artists.
“She was so interested in artists of all kinds, and in finding new venues for shows,” Walker said. Waldron managed the Gallery 222 on South King Street, which also included classroom space and the King Street Studios, that later evolved into ArtSquare—in a larger space on Cardinal Park Drive.
She was a forerunner to the founding of the Leesburg Public Art Commission, proposing a mural for the downtown that served as a catalyst in establishing guidelines for public art projects. The commission today is strongly involved in bringing art to public spaces.
She was also a mentor for artists. Dana Thompson, who worked closely with Waldron, remembered “her quiet dignity, her style and her smile that would light up a room—and her way of making everyone feel special.”
Thompson first met her around 2000 during the First Friday Gallery Walk events in Leesburg—another project in which Waldron was involved—then joined her at Gallery 222/Loudoun Academy of the Arts on King Street, where she was the school director from 2005 to 2009.
“I’ve never known anyone with so much drive, persistence and determination to promote the arts, especially visual arts in Loudoun and beyond,” Thompson said, calling Waldron her mentor, inspiration and friend.
Potter Richard Busch called Waldron “the happiest person I’ve ever known.” His wife Olwen Woodier noted Waldron’s “fighting spirit to the end.” Even when gravely ill in recent months, she was always upbeat. She was thinking of planting a flower garden. Two days later, they helped lay out black plastic in preparation for next season, erecting a “Gale’s Garden” sign that she could see from the house.
Friends brought her wildflower seeds, and she was excited that composted manure from neighbors would be used to enrich the soil.
Waldron volunteered with the annual Four Seasons of Oatlands Art Show and Sale, Leesburg’s Fall into the Arts Festival, and the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce on Horsing Around Event. She also served on the Western Studio Artists Tour and the Loudoun County Art Advisory Board.
She is survived by her husband Gerry Waldron, her daughter Sarah Waldron of Belfast, ME, and her sister Jean Hendrickson of Chapel Hill, NC. An event to celebrate her life with family and friends will be held at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to Blue Ridge Hospice 333 Cork St. Suite 405, Winchester, VA 22601 or brhospice.org/giving/donate-now.