Art lives in Harrisonburg

Art Council of the Valley offers artists spaces to share their work


Jiayi Li

Ann Leatherwood, Program Manager of the Arts Council of the Valley, describes Chito Padilla’s art, displayed at Smith House Gallery. Padilla’s art was up through the month of July. “We have at least 11 exhibitions each year. We have many more artists than that who apply. Some months, we have two exhibitions if they are compatible,” Leatherwood said.

Harrisonburg’s Arts Council of the Valley (ACV), located in downtown Harrisonburg, Virginia, supports artists through grants, exposure and partnerships. 

“Arts Council of the Valley is sort of the umbrella organization. I mentioned Smith House Galleries, First Fridays, Advancing the Arts Grants. We also work with Public Art and Court Square Theater is another area,” Ann Leatherwood, programs manager of ACV, said

On the first Friday of almost every month, ACV shares artworks to community members at various venues downtown through a program called First Fridays of the Valley. One of ACV’s main venues is their Smith House Galleries, open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In this time, the artists can connect with potential buyers and other artists. The artworks are displayed until the last Friday of the month. Employees spend a few hours the following week to replace the artworks.

“You could walk down South Main Street and see businesses that have gallery spaces. First Fridays of the Valley are a great example. A lot of businesses will host artists that will either have visual, performing or sometimes, literary arts,” Leatherwood said. “To me, that says the community is very vibrant in terms of the arts.”

ACV installs at least 11 exhibitions annually for this program. They promote these exhibitions through their social medias, press releases, website, posters and brochure. From November to December, exhibition space is exclusive to artist members of ACV. Artist members pay a $50 fee for additional benefits. 

“[The artist member exhibition] is a really fun show because you have lots of different mediums and lots of different artists. We had 32 or 33 last year,” Leatherwood said. 

Silas Spears, Jiayi Li

Artist Erin Murray will showcase her plein air paintings at Pale Fire Brewery Co. for the August exhibition. This will not be the first time she participated in this program. This is because [it’s usually a really successful place to show.” 

Artists can submit art proposals through ACV’s website by May 15 to participate in exhibitions the next year. In this proposal, artists are required to provide the exhibition type, title, images, their resume, contact information and artist statement. They also offer internship and volunteering opportunities.