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Bethesda-based art gallery celebrates 25th anniversary

Carol Leadbetter (left) and Grace Peterson, chair Waverly Street Gallery’s silver anniversary celebration.  COURTESY PHOTOCarol Leadbetter (left) and Grace Peterson, chair Waverly Street Gallery’s silver anniversary celebration. COURTESY PHOTO  Though she was always interested in taking pictures, Carol Leadbetter became a professional photographer later in life. That was after a formal course in photography motivated her to earn an associates’ degree at Montgomery College, specializing in portrait photography. Now she does a great deal of what’s called “photographic transfer,” or alternative printing.

“With transfer, each piece is done individually and looks different,” Leadbetter said. “It’s not making 100 copies of the same thing.”

Grace Peterson always loved art; first she became a self-taught oil painter and later worked in stained glass until arthritis kicked in. She then returned to oils, also obtaining a degree from Montgomery College.

Peterson exhibited and entered competitions, but felt the lack of an artist’s “home base.” After Strathmore sent her a list of area art galleries, she found Creative Partners, a precursor of the Waverly Street Gallery.

Leadbetter also found her home base at the Gallery.

The Waverly Street Gallery prides itself on its longevity. Other D.C.-area art galleries have come and gone, but the one in downtown Bethesda is still thriving, as this year during the month of May, the Gallery celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Leadbetter and Peterson are currently working together on a special 25th anniversary exhibit – running from May 6 through June 2. Leadbetter is curator, and Peterson is co-curator.

The Gallery also prides itself on the sense of unity among its members amidst the diversity of their creativity. The members include painters, printmakers, photographers, potters, jewelers, a sculptor and a mobile artist, and creators of wearable art.  Over time, the number of artist members has grown; it currently stands at 21. The organization’s bylaws limited that number to 24.

“But occasionally we put out a call for artists to bring their samples and apply,” said Leadbetter. “They are juried to become members.”

Throughout the year, the Gallery features the work of guest artists as well as of its member artists and offers mini-shows for the exhibition of the work of young and emerging artists. The Gallery provides workshops, artist talks, and a bulletin board of area art events as a service to the local community. 

Aside from creating and paying monthly dues, the members have an additional duty: they help set up exhibits like the special 25th anniversary exhibit.

The celebration will pay tribute not only to the continued existence of the gallery but to the artists who have passed through its doors – with some of them still present. Leadbetter and Peterson have reached out to many of these artists.

“We got a tremendous response,” Leadbetter said. “We received 26 signed contracts and can accept one or two pieces per artist.”

Exhibiting work, of course, is closely linked to the desire to sell their art. However, said Leadbetter, “everything has taken a lull in the arts. People are more conservative with their money, and there’s not as much interest in buying art.”

Regardless, she continued, “Gallery members are proud of the quality of the art we show and sell at Waverly. The quality and prices are not seen anywhere else around.”

Leadbetter and Peterson believe camaraderie among members is strong because so many people are working together – in different fields – to create and promote art. The structure of the Gallery’s governance is also democratic. There is no president or vice-president and board members change every year.

These are limited editions.

The 25th Anniversary Show runs May 6 through June 2. The opening reception takes place on Friday, May 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Artful Sunday Talk takes place May 20 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Waverly Street Gallery is located at 4600 East-West Highway in Bethesda. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 12 p.m to 6 p.m. For more information, call 301-951-9441 or visit www.waverlystreetg.com.  

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