Gallery at Iona Brings Celebrated Artists to Tenleytown

Iona Gallery

Iona Senior Services is a locally and nationally recognized leader in aging services and advocacy that serves Tenleytown and the broader metropolitan community. But residents may not be aware that it is also home to an impressive collection of art and art programs. Director of the Gallery at Iona Patricia Dubroof was kind enough to give me tour of Iona and its art collection recently. 

According to Dubroof, the Breckinridge Building at 4125 Albemarle Street was created with art in mind. And meandering through Iona’s headquarters it is clear that artwork is an integral feature of every corner – it adorns hallways, hangs in inviting sitting areas and decorates meeting spaces throughout the building. Visitors are greeted by a light, tranquil, open space at the heart of the main level that features prominently sculptural art in glass cases along the wall, as well as photography, paintings, textiles and mixed media work.

Iona hosts three Artist in Residence exhibits annually, focused on exceptional artists who are 60 years of age or older. During their four-month tenure, these artists showcase their work at Iona, conduct workshops and seminars and take part in a Meet the Artist reception to engage the public around their exhibits. Each show features between 40 and 100 original pieces of art, which are displayed throughout the main floor Gallery at Iona.

The current exhibit, which runs through April 30, features works by W. James Taylor, as well as special guest artist Helen Higgins. Taylor, a painter and printmaker who currently runs Geneva Galleries here in the District, draws inspiration from his experiences growing up in the segregated South to convey his conception of “the past, present and future of the black race.” On his website, Taylor says, “I want my audience to see beyond the so called “Black Artist” label. I want them to first see the vivid colors, composition and beauty of the images, then to recognize its meaning and ponder the many questions associated with the stories they tell of our vast history.”

Higgins, a sculptor who divides her time between Washington, DC and the beaches of North Carolina, focuses her work on spiritual themes and sea motifs.

Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours of Artist in Residence exhibits Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. In addition, staff-guided tours of Iona’s permanent collection, located upstairs within Iona’s offices, are available by appointment. The collection includes a diversity of mediums and features art donated by previous artists in residence, as well as by patrons of Iona. Notable works include paintings by Willem de Looper, a respected DC artist who also served as chief curator at The Phillips Collection, and prolific painter Thomas Kinkade. A catalog of artwork in Iona’s collection, last updated in August 2011, is available online, but to do it justice, you have to see it in person.

Iona’s emphasis on the arts is also reflected in the services it provides its clients. Through the Weinberg Wellness and Arts Center, Iona “cares for and engages people with memory loss, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s, and other chronic conditions.” Art therapy is a core element of the Wellness and Arts Center. A full-time art therapist, trained in counseling and psychotherapy, leads programs designed to support creative communication and memory recall, and provide an outlet for emotional expression and stress management. Between 35 and 50 people participate in Iona’s art programs each week, and many of their works hang on the walls of the Center.

The Gallery at Iona is well worth a visit. And the Meet the Artists reception this Friday, March 21 is a fantastic opportunity to explore the Gallery and chat with the artists who created the works featured there – not to mention there will be wine, music and food to enjoy. Art lovers young and older are invited to attend the reception from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

While you are there, take the time not only to appreciate the amazing works of art, but also to learn about the programs and services Iona provides for seniors, their families and caregivers. And consider volunteering your time with this amazing resource in the heart of Tenleytown – there are many opportunities for friends and neighbors of all ages to get involved.

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Tenleytown is home to talented artists, art galleries and public art. But many residents, including myself, have limited knowledge of these hidden treasures or the stories behind them. As an art lover, I’ve begun to seek out the neighborhood art scene and will be sharing what I uncover. If you are a fan of an artist, work of art or gallery in the neighborhood that you think should be featured on Tenleytown, D.C., send me an email at tenleytowndc@gmail.com.

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