A new photo exhibit in Purcellville’s Magnolias at the Mill hasn’t just made the banquet room a bit more colorful, it’s also accentuated the food its patrons dine on each day.
Over the past several months, Dave Levinson, a local designer, photographer and one of three artists who opened the Purcellville Art Gallery in July, installed a permanent photography exhibit in the restaurant, with photos displaying the county’s rural countryside and wildlife. The photos show vineyards, farms and wildlife. Executive Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin said it is a display that reflects Magnolias’ Loudoun-centric menu and a reminder of the places the restaurant’s food comes from—Loudoun farms.
Levinson’s exhibit, which took six months to design and install, includes four enlarged photographs printed on individual canvas panels that each fit perfectly between the banquet room’s wall studs.
There’s an 8-foot photo of a rainbow arching over a barn off Telegraph Springs Road that’s made up of five individual canvas panels, a 6-foot photo of Hillsborough Vineyards made up of three panels, and two smaller photographs of a red fall tree and a goose landing in a Mount Gilead pond.
Levinson said the reception has been more positive than he initially thought.
“I’m getting a lot of wows—that’s always rewarding,” he said. “It’s just something I love doing, I love Loudoun County, I love the beauty out here.”
Aside from the wonder the photos are stirring, Foxx-Nettnin said the exhibit represents the restaurant’s food sources. Magnolias gets its beef from Spring House Farm Store in Hamilton, its lettuce from Endless Summer Harvest in Purcellville, its pork from Sweet Fern Farm in Lovettsville and, more generally, all of its vegetables from Loudoun farms.
Foxx-Nettnin, who’s been working as a chef for more than two decades, said the restaurant partners with 10 local farms regularly, and smaller farms when they can. He said that while buying local produce and meat is better for everyone, it costs about three times the price it normally would to stock the kitchen than when buying from a wholesaler.
As an example, he said Magnolias spends $5.30 per pound of Loudoun-raised ground beef, while it would normally cost about $1.50 per pound to get it from a wholesaler.
In addition to simply purchasing locally grown and raised food, Foxx-Nettnin said Magnolias actually ends up becoming an extension of the farmers it buys from because the staff has a say in which types of food the animals they purchase eat while they’re alive. He said the restaurant also sends its scraps to those farms to feed the pigs it buys.
“The flow of all of it is very circular,” he said.
Foxx-Nettnin said he’d like to see even more of the local farm representation that Levinson has already brought into the restaurant, possibly by installing a photograph showing a farmer looking out into his or her field toward their livestock or produce.
Levinson, who’s been a landscape photographer for about 15 years, said he could make that happen if restaurant owner Shawn Malone approves.
Although Levinson said he has no other photography exhibits planned at the moment, he has performed several installments in the region. The most prominent of those can be seen at the Lululemon yoga clothing store in Merrifield, where he installed 100 feet of printed glass around the building that displays his photos.
His landscape photography can be viewed at loudounlandscapes.com.