WINCHESTER — The Shenandoah Arts Council (ShenArts) celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday evening with its first Hearts for the Arts gala at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

Marion Park Lewis, Donald Black, Diana Kincannon, Tracy Marlatt, Julie Read and Kristin Zimet were honored at the event for the contributions to the local arts community.

Founded in 1978, ShenArts supports local arts through programming, instruction and exhibitions. The group has about 80 artist members, including visual artists and musicians, and more than 100 members who are arts patrons.

“They started it with this concept that art is important in our community,” said Anita Shull, arts council president. “The folks that have been here before us have done a lot of work.”

Over the years, the council has initiated and sponsored events such as “First Fridays” on the Loudoun Street Mall and the downtown ArtScape banners project.

For professional artist Roberto Rosas, who has been an artist for decades, ShenArts enables him to reach a wider audience with his paintings than he would be able to do on his own. For amateur artist James Tompkins, who has been painting for 10 months, it’s a way to connect with other artists and take classes to develop his skills.

As part of the gala’s festivities, Rosas was working on a portrait of civil rights leader Angela Davis in the MSV Makerspace.

“[The council] gives me greater exposure,” he said.

Tompkins, who was working on a watercolor of the MSV in the Makerspace, said ShenArts “pulls all the artists in the community together.”

Lisa Sipp, the council’s special events and grants coordinator, said art improves the community’s quality of life.

“Local art is a great experience,” Sipp said. “Art is the expression of the soul.”

Shull said Hearts for the Arts is a fundraiser the council plans to host annually. About 150 tickets were sold at $50 apiece for the event.

Cory Garmen, director of exhibitions at the MSV, said the museum benefits from having a strong, organized community of local artists and art lovers.

“We’re really excited to have gotten the works of council members exhibited in our program,” he said.

— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at ocastiglia@winchesterstar.com

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