Art for a cause — GMU students, Van Metre open “Mason Van Art” exhibit

By Sudha Kamath
George Mason University

Animal portraiture oil paintings by Mason senior Julia Douglas are featured in “Mason Van Art On Main.” Photo by Haley Chung

Animal portraiture oil paintings by Mason senior Julia Douglas are featured in “Mason Van Art On Main.” Photo by Haley Chung

A new three-floor, rotating art exhibit in downtown Fairfax shines a spotlight on the artwork of George Mason University students, while serving as an example of teamwork among George Mason student leaders, colleges and one of the Washington, D.C., area’s largest real estate companies.

“Mason Van Art On Main” is the result of an experiential learning partnership among Mason’s Honors College, College of Visual and Performing Arts and Van Metre Commercial Properties. Its first exhibit debuted on Nov. 20 at Van Metre’s headquarters on 9900 Main St., with artwork featuring royalty, superheroes and feathered friends. The exhibition is open to the public 7 a.m. to 5 p.m, Monday through Friday. Full access is at the third and fourth exhibit space; artwork on the fifth floor is open with permission from Van Metre at the front desk.

About $1,000 worth of artwork has sold so far, with 15 percent of that going back into the Mason Van Art on Main program and Mason student scholarships. Meetings are set up in January with more local businesses to display a similar gallery in their stores/offices, expanding the program.

A Mason sophomore whose artwork carries the name Looksorn displayed black and white photographs of her family’s ice block business in her native Thailand, and vibrant images of the King of Thailand’s birthplace in Massachusetts.

Senior Chad Penner hopes to teach drawing at the college level someday, and the exposure for his artwork via “Mason Van Art On Main” may help him achieve that goal. The senior from Roanoke, Va., is working on a bachelor’s degree in art and visual technology with a concentration in drawing. He submitted 10 works in graphite and charcoal to the exhibit.

“I think it’s great that a portion of the sales will go to fund future exhibitions of student art,” says Penner.

Julia Douglas, a senior working on bachelor’s degrees in poetry and in painting, created animal portraiture oil paintings. She’s also pleased 15 percent of the proceeds from the sale of “Mason Van Art On Main” artwork will support the ongoing exhibit and a scholarship for Mason student artists.

Van Metre also donated $1,500 to launch the project. Kevin Stoy, advisor to Honors College Connects, paired three sophomores with Alisha Kuntzler of Van Metre to plan “Mason Van Art On Main.”

Mai Nguyen, Arsla Arain and Jumoom Ahmed helped create a name for the show, programs and flyers; decorated the showcase; hung the artwork; scheduled catering; and contacted local companies for more help and sponsorships.

Another set of skills

MasonVanArtLogo-196x300“The partnership further strengthens the relationship that Mason has with the local community, while giving students like me exposure to the real world to gain skills and experiences that we would not be able to have in classrooms,” says Nguyen, Honors College Connects’ chief executive officer. Nguyen is majoring in government and international politics and is originally from Vietnam.

“It was another set of skills I could add to my list with experience and growth in terms of leadership, teamwork and community involvement,” says Arain, an applied information technology major who was born in Pakistan and raised in Virginia.

Mason’s School of Art instructor Nikki Brugnoli-Whipkey was instrumental in identifying student art for the gallery.

Honors College dean Zofia Burr and James Laychak, associate vice president of Advancement and Alumni Relations, were also on hand at the exhibit, along with College of Visual and Performing Arts dean Bill Reeder and Mason arts management professor Brian Marcus, associate dean of development and alumni affairs at the College of Visual and Performing Arts. They were joined by some of Van Metre’s leadership: Rick Rabil, Alison Van Metre Paley, W. Brad Gable, Ken Ryan, Ty Hausch and Walt Sheehan.

Kuntzler says Van Metre has a long history with Mason, employing interns and alumni (including Van Metre vice president Denise Harrover, BA ’94), working with University Career Services, donating land for Mason use and collaborating on charity projects.
Write to Sudha Kamath at


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.