Clouds, skies, roads, farms, bees. The subject matter of Hope Hanes’ paintings and pastels sounds like a rural idyll. But there’s a hint of urgency to her work as she works with renewed focus to capture a disappearing landscape.
Hanes, one of the driving forces behind the creation of Western Loudoun Artists Studio tour 14 years ago, returns to the tour as a featured artist this year after an 11-year hiatus.
The annual tour takes place Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2 in studios in Leesburg and across western Loudoun.
Hanes, a co-founder and longtime artistic director of the Round Hill Arts Center, worked with Franklin Park Arts Center board member Jeanne Niccolls to get the studio tour rolling in 2005. But Hanes set her own work aside while focusing on raising her two children and teaching elementary school art for Loudoun County Public Schools. Now established in her teaching career and with her two children in high school and college, Hanes has turned back to painting and showing her work on her own terms.
“It’s been really freeing to be able to do some work and not have any expectations of where my artwork is going to be going, in terms of where it’s going to be showing, who’s going to be looking at it or who might want to buy it,” Hanes said. “I’m really in a different place.”
Hanes grew up in Richmond but as a teen and young adult spent summers in western Loudoun with her father, Hillsboro-based woodworker Wally Johnson, and stepmother Carolyn Kruger.
“I grew up helping my dad in his woodshop and going to summer camp and embracing the scenery of Loudoun and the farms and the self sufficiency and the self-sustaining nature of the communities,” Hanes said.
After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a master of arts in teaching in museum education from The George Washington University, Hanes moved with her husband to western Loudoun in the late ’90s. She initially commuted to an art education job at Washington’s National Cathedral. But as traffic got worse and the commute more challenging, Hanes left her DC dream job for a new project close to home. Johnson and Kruger had bought the Old Furniture Factory in Round Hill in the mid-1990s, and Hanes teamed up with her father and stepmother to launch the Round Hill Arts Center in that space in 2000. Hanes was the venue’s artistic director until 2008. The center moved to its new location at Hill High Orchards the following year.
After the arts center, Hanes started her career as an art teacher and now teaches at Sanders Corner Elementary School in Ashburn. Now 49, Hanes has returned to painting and pastel work in the past few years, with a focus on the landscapes around her home near Hillsboro and the beauty of rural Loudoun on both a sweeping and small scale.
“We have this not only beautiful landscape but really, for centuries, very productive and rich landscape,” Hanes said. “When people are prevented from using their land in an agricultural fashion, it turns the history of Loudoun on its head.”
Her series “Over the Horizon” offers several takes on the same rural scene, moving from pastoral to a little darker.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, a sign went up on that parcel of land that it’s going to be a development. I had seen the holes drilled for the wells, and I knew that there was something coming,” Hanes said. “By the time I got to that particular drawing, I was feeling ominous.”
There are also some tongue-in-cheek takes on more contemporary LoCo life: Hanes’ “Commuter Meditation: Love Thy Neighbor” is an impressionist’s take on a familiar Loudoun scene: backed up traffic on a local roadway.
Hanes has also started beekeeping this year, and some of her newer pieces are up-close images of bees in flowers.
While Hanes is thrilled to have her work on the tour again after more than a decade, she’s also impressed with the direction her brainchild has taken over the years.
“It seems like [the studio tour] has gained momentum the way the [Loudoun County] farm tour has. I talk to my students about it and tell them this is a really great opportunity for you and your family to see that the arts are part of the economy in Loudoun, just like they’re part of the economy nationwide, and we need to protect and honor the local seeds of it. I think it’s really come a long way and I’m very happy and proud to be a part of it again.”
The 14th Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour takes place Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the tour, including a complete list of more than 60 participating artists and a map, go to wlast.org.
Visit Hope Hanes and check out her work on WLAST weekend at Mel Croft Pottery, 15676 High Street in Waterford. For more information on Hanes, go to hopehanes.com.