Working in a Barn is Pretty Sweet

8 Aug

Artists Circle's Barn-Based HQ

Nestled in the quiet post-farmland suburbia of North Potomac is Artists Circle’s HQ at the Big Red Barn. From the outside, our offices look like any other Victorian-era barn (well, we’d like to think it’s in a bit better condition than your average 100+ year old barn, anyway). Step inside the barn doors, however, and you’re transported directly into a chic art gallery space featuring work by Artists Circle-represented painters, photographers and sculptors. The barn proper houses some of our bigger sculpture pieces and a rotating exhibit of consigned artwork. Turn to your right and be prepared for an even bigger shock: a two-story glass office facade that cordons off half of the barn. The ground floor houses more gallery space as well as our library of artwork and serves as a staging area for upcoming installations.

Inside the barn doors, you can see the facade of the office space within

Tucked in behind the gallery is a stairway that leads to the upstairs office space. Divided into two halves with wood-floored “bridges”  connecting them and views of the gallery below, the upstairs windows give a great view of the gallery space out in the barn proper. The office’s open floorplan makes for an open, engaging workplace that encourages communication and interaction among the AO staff. The design does an excellent job of marrying modern office and gallery amenities with old school charm. Our high speed computer network and climate-controlled artwork storage sit alongside 100 year old wooden beams and a heaping helping of rustic charm.

View from the first floor gallery space

Artists Circle’s HQ serves as a perfect (although maybe a bit extreme!) case of revitalizing an old space. Plenty of our clients are moving into new spaces or are looking to spruce up their current space, and the gallery here at the barn is an example of what a little art can do. Much of the art that winds up installed on our clients’ walls first spends time on ours, so we often have firsthand experience of how a piece of art is capable of livening up a workspace. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to work in a place that’s got a constant rotation of fantastic art lining its walls and, because we work surrounded by art every day, we’re extra motivated to be on the lookout for fantastic new artists. That motivation then turns into inspiration to have our clients’ spaces look as great as ours!

View from second floor office space

Part of Artists Circle's library of resources


Getting to Know the Artists Circle Crew

8 Aug

We recently noticed that our blog is always full of information about the artists we work with and the projects we’ve done, but doesn’t tell much about who we are. We decided to rectify that situation by profiling each member of the Artists Circle team:

Jack  Devine

Who he is and what he does:      Dear Leader Jack is Artists Circle’s Eternal President and Supreme People’s Principal. He spends a good deal of his time at the helm of the Artists Circle Battlewagon (i.e. an early 90’s Buick station wagon) carting around portfolios full of art to client meetings. He’s the point person with most of our clients and is responsible for our clients deciding to put art (or, more specifically, *our* art) on their walls rather than floral wallpaper or bulletin boards. With years of experience in the field, Jack has an uncanny ability to get clients excited about art and to provide artwork plans that make the most out of any space and nearly any budget.

What he loves:     Jack loves being outdoors at two in the morning. He also loves trying out new beers. Sometimes, he loves these two things at the same time!

What he hates:     Jack’s not at all a fan of littering or macho attitudes.

What he listens to in the car:     Barenaked Ladies, Pogues, John Cash, Florence and the Machine. All played through a righteous boom-box!

Little did you know…:     Previously a beekeeper, Jack has moved up the food chain and is now trying his hand at keeping chickens. Artists Circle is based out of a barn, so it only makes sense.

Katie Giganti

Who she is and what she does:     With dual roles as the Chief Fulfiller of Needs and Manager of Nagging (aka Operations and Project Management), Katie’s role is to keep track of all project/details and make sure all the Artists Circle employees are getting things done.  Project related responsibilities aside, Katie considers her most important role to ensure the coffee supplies remain in stock.

What she loves:     Her two dogs Kobie and Layla, web comics, geocaching, and chocolate milkshakes.

What she hates:     Coconut, people who inch their cars forward during a red light at an intersection, and people who think email is some sort of instant messaging program.

What she listens to in the car:     98 Rock Morning Show, Pandora (currently on the ‘J Roddy Walston and the Business’ station), and goofy stuff like B-52’s or Spin Doctors.

Little did you know…:    Katie is a Closet Gearhead.  Determined to destroy the stereotype that women can’t fix cars, Katie can often be found changing her car’s oil, brake pads, or battery.  Her next project: helping her husband rebuild their Jeep Wrangler’s transmission (side note: Katie learned to drive stick in the Jeep, which is likely why the transmission needs to be fixed… oops).

Jim Coursey

Who he is and what he does:     Jim is Artists Circle’s jack-of-all-trades (wait…I guess Jack is the jack-of-all-trades, so that make Jim the Jim-of-all-trades). When he’s not providing support for the rest of the team on projects, he’s usually trying to keep Artists Circle’s inventory in order or running our vast marketing empire (or writing blog posts about himself in third person, which is very strange…).

What he loves:     Good beer, loud music, deep woods and nerdy books. He is the proud owner of a parchment map of Middle Earth, which speaks volumes about him. He much prefers the winter to the summer.

What he hates:     People who don’t use turn signals, humidity and the sound of alarm clocks in the morning.

What he listens to in the car:      Death metal, black metal, thrash metal, doom metal. HEAVY METAL. If it’s got “metal” in the genre name, it’s probably good! Running Wild is the best driving music in the history of the world, as far as Jim’s concerned.

Little did you know…:     When not listening to music, Jim’s usually making it. He plays guitar and bass and tries to play drums. He’s in a death metal band with his brother and records his own post-rock/ambient music at home.  He also has more tropical fish than most people would consider socially acceptable.

Sharon Buchanan

Who she is and what she does:     As founder of Artists Circle, the company is Sharon’s baby, all grown up and making its way in the world. Like any parent, though, Sharon knows best when it comes to the company’s goings-on. She uses her unparalleled knowledge of the art world to continue to keep the Artists Circle roster fresh and engaging and her sprawling network of contacts always gives us new leads and new projects. Sharon is always available to celebrate the successes of Artists Circle and its team.

What she loves:     In her own words, “I like reaching the top of a mountain when hiking & knowing that the ole gray mare can still pull the hill, but I love most the journey, with its fields of wildflowers, forests and ferns.”

What she hates:     Mosquitoes and their bite.

What she listens to in the car:     On Saturdays she likes to listen to Click and Clack, The Car Guys, sometimes Diane Rehm floats her boat, or Spanish learning tapes.  Then her granddaughters get in the car and it’s all Taylor Swift.  On her time it’s Phil Collins, David Gray, Carly Simon and Laura Pausini.

Little did you know…:    While on the Crossroads Africa program in 1963, my group of 10 young adults met with a Zanzibar dissident leader in shrouds of night at his house on that island – he soon after became vice president of Tanzania (Tanganika & Zanzibar merged in a coup).  Then I went back to Oklahoma and nobody had ever heard of the place.

Alan Simensky

Who he is and what he does:     Accountant by day and artist by night, Al is responsible for making sure that every time we hear a knock on the door we can assume it’s the FedEx guy and not the IRS. As the Overseer of Payroll Operations, Al is the person responsible for spreading the love around at Artists Circle.

What he loves:     When there is a lot of love to spread around.

What he hates:     When there isn’t so much love to spread around.

What he listens to in the car:     Less than Jake, Offspring, Reel Big Fish, Catch 22, Iron Maiden, Symphony X, Rush, Howard Stern.

Little did you know…:     Al has a scar on his left hand is from pulling nuns and school children from overturned, burning schoolbus on the New Jersey Turnpike in the late 80’s.

Stephanie Gleichsner

Who she is and what she does:     An alumni of Artists Circle’s full-time team, Stephanie has returned in a project management/consulting role. Her years of experience working with clients and artists alike here in the office now means that she’s got what it takes to work on projects from the comfort of her own home (and car, and client offices, and at Underground…ok, maybe telecommuting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!).

What she loves:     Stephanie loves volunteering because she’s able to participate in a wide variety of fulfilling activities, from modeling, face painting, art auctions, etc…

What she hates:     Stephanie dislikes the cold and much prefers hot weather. This summer has been right up her alley!

What she listens to in the car:     All radio stations, with the exception of country.

Little did you know…:      “I haven’t owned a television in over three years.  I’m an active person and not at home often.  I know which friends like the shows I like, so they record the shows and I come over and have dinner & tv nights.  At the very least, I can watch my shows online.”

Skip Plati

Who he is and what he does:     Skip is an Artists Circle installer extraordinaire. He thinks of his work as the job “no one else wants to do,” but he loves what he does. When he’s not running all over town installing art, Skip can usually be found at Underground working with his family. Skip is also Artists Circle’s moral support, his cheery disposition keeping us going even when the going gets tough.

What he loves:     Skip loves the look on a child’s face when they openly show love and joy.

What he hates:     “I dislike all the governments and powerful people of the world that don’t care about the people who need caring for (and there are many who do need caring for!).”

What he listens to in the car:     Skip listens to all the tools in the back of his van clatter and clink away to all music genres.

Little did you know…:     “One of my favorite moments in life was a snowy day when I looked at the close knit evergreen boughs alternately intertwining and the wonderful idea came to me, ‘I could climb one of those trees and from the top lay down and roll from the branch of one tree to the next and back again until I fell back to the snow covered ground.’ It was a wonderful experience. There’s something special about surrendering to nature!”

Clifford Wheeler

Who he is and what he does:     Part of the Artists Circle installation team, Art Installer Clifford “hangs around” (town) trying to keep out of working folk’s way. “Hangs around”… get it?

What he loves:     Clifford loves when the artwork is all properly hung and the client is tickled pink.

What he hates:     He hates when the client isn’t tickled pink. He also dislikes traffic…ok, he HATES traffic!

What he listens to in the car:     When he’s  in the van, and not listening to traffic, he likes NPR and PFW (Pacifica).

Little did you know…:     I once actually won a ski club race; the mountain turned to ice, and everyone else wiped out. Last one standing sort of thing. Before that, my claim to fame was winning a watermelon in a bingo game when I was 9. I’m not sure if I should tell anyone this, but as I approach 60, I find that I have developed a passion for collecting paperweights. Never could I have imagined that. I thought that hobbies like that were for folks that have long been ‘put out to pasture’!”

Rob and Del Plati

Who they and what they do:     Rob and Del Plati are the master framers at our frame shop. With years of experience in fine art framing, Rob and Del can frame just about anything. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig, but if Rob and Del frame a pig, it’s art.

What they love:     Rob and Del love framing so much that they actually frame pictures of frames.

What they hate:     Technology of any kind. We’re still pestering Rob to get a telephone, as sending telegrams every time we need to tell them something is getting a little old. They also tend to send us their invoices via Pony Express, which we didn’t even know was still a thing.

What they listen to in the car:     Rob listens only to Baroque Italian opera and can usually be found singing along to his favorite movements. Del is a big fan of mid-90’s gangsta rap and has a 1,000-watt subwoofer in her trunk.

Little did you know…:     In a 2010 study, MIT scientists actually determined, after thousands of hours of data crunching, that the Plati family is, in fact, the Nicest Family on the Planet. Just talking to them, they said, has the effect of putting just about anyone into a mood of contentment and lust for life.

White Flint at the North Bethesda Market

14 Jun

Jim Sanborn’s sculpture often serves a document of a particular event in history that had far-reaching ramifications for humankind. Pieces like Terrestrial Physics and, especially, Atomic Time serve as confrontational, awe-inspiring and perhaps even frightening reminders of great strides forward in scientific progress during the middle of the last century, but Sanborn’s new work at JBG’s North Bethesda Market in White Flint, Alluvium, is more subtle but no less documentarian in its approach.

We here at Artists Circle are proud to have had the chance to work with Mr. Sanborn and JBG to create such a powerful and indeed, beautiful piece of public art at the North Bethesda Market.

Alluvium Installation

Jim Sanborn installing Alluvium

Taking its name from the white “flint” (i.e. quartz) so common in Central Maryland, the area today is most well known for its shopping mall and Metro station, with the North Bethesda Market already proving itself to be a popular destination. However, development necessarily alters the landscape and shapes the environment into something more suitable for our needs. Oftentimes the change is so dramatic that any trace of the previous, natural environment is completely wiped away. Alluvium, with its waterfalls that recall Great falls and quartz-rich granite that echoes the quartz one would surely find deep below the surface of the paseo on which the sculpture sits,  reveals its allusions to the geography of the region as one sits and contemplates its elements.

Alluvium serves as an excellent example of how public art can be constructed at new development sites in such a way as to document the history of the place where it is built and to celebrate that natural heritage. However, with its machine-cut lettering and industrial-scale copper sheeting, the foundation of the piece is itself engineered by modern man rather than carved by centuries of erosion and geological activity, inextricably linking it with the development it is a part of.

Alluvium Unveiled

The Unveiling of Alluvium

Read more about Alluvium, including commentary on the piece and the project by Sanborn himself, in this recent article in The Washington Post.

Artist Profile: Jim Sanborn

14 Jun

Though Maryland sculptor Jim Sanborn’s monumental landscape-incorporating public art might be most talked about due to its cryptic nature, its striking appearance and natural integration into what would otherwise be mundane outdoor spaces gives his work a resonance with the viewer that reaches far deeper than the word-of-mouth murmurs might lead you to expect. Combining industrial-scale fabricated sheets of metal such as copper or bronze and the monolithic landscapes of concrete and stone courtyards and building facades with natural elements such as boulders and running water, Sanborn’s public art is a potent lesson in the oft-missed opportunity to bridge the gap between the modern, manufactured world of civilization with the ancient and untamed wilderness.

The Cyrillic Projector

The Cyrllic Projector

Perhaps what separates humanity most obviously from nature is written language. It allows us to communicate across vast spaces as well as make records so that whatever it is we might have to say can be discovered by future generations. Sanborn’s public work capitalizes on the power of the written word to use it as the glue that binds together the artificial and natural elements of his sculpture. Carved through the metal sheets and into the face of the surrounding surfaces, sunlight by day and internal projectors by night cause Sanborn’s text to wash over elements both natural and man-made, unifying them. Sanborn’s writings include languages both ancient and modern and, in the case of his most famous work, Kryptos, encoded meaning that might not reveal itself for centuries.



While Sanborn’s public works famously make use of the languages of humanity, his indoor installations tend to focus on the languages of the natural world as discovered by physicists. Works like Terrestrial Physics combine the aesthetic principles of sculpture with the functionality of scientific apparatus, in this case a reproduction of the Van de Graaf generators used by American scientists to confirm the possibility of nuclear fission, a series of events that kicked off the Manhattan Project and the advent of functional nuclear reactions. Like his outdoor sculpture, works like Terrestrial Physics put the relationships between humanity, nature and the passage of time and history on full display. Whether blurring the lines between sculpture and monumental document or between art and physics, Sanborn’s work is sure to catch the eyes and imaginations of both the aesthetically hungry and the intellectually curious for millennia to come.

Terrestrial Physics

Terrestrial Physics

Artists Circle Roars Back at the 2011 NAIOP Bus Tour

11 Apr

Every year, NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, hosts a bus tour and trade show in the Washington D.C. area featuring commercial properties and other real estate opportunities.  Of course, this is a golden opportunity for Artists Circle to showcase our services to potential clients who may be looking for professional art services in their properties (or future projects).

This year's Bus Tour's theme is "Roaring Back"

Artists Circle will have a booth set up at the trade show with information about our services and members of our staff will be available for any questions about who we are and what we do. We’re in the business of making going to work something to look forward to, and our presence at the NAIOP Bus Tour trade show will be no exception to this attitude, so expect fun at the Artists Circle booth!

Artist Profile: Angie Seckinger

11 Apr

Flora of all sorts have long been the subjects of artists, from traditional still life paintings of vased flowers on tabletops to documentary-style landscape photographs of the untamed wilderness of the forest. A common thread in much of these pieces is that the subject is the plant. We are meant to appreciate the stunning beauty of the whole flower or the majesty of nature of the sort you might read about in a Faulkner story or see in a Hudson River School painting.

Angie Seckinger eschews the representational in her macroscopic plant photography, instead using the plants as a source of color and texture that wrings pure emotion from the viewer. By putting the minute details of the plant into sharp focus and preventing the viewer from seeing the subject in any sort of context (the backgrounds of the images are obscured by the haze of being extremely out of focus), the result isn’t so much a “picture of a plant” but rather a snapshot of detail nested within a swath of color.

Angie describes her photographic process as “exploratory,” probing the plant life around her home with her macro-lens equipped digital camera until a particular combination of shape, color and contrast strikes her fancy. We think her work closes the book on any argument about the ability of photography to work as a truly creative artistic tool, as there is little in common between Angie’s photographs and our own ability to experience nature.

Because of the extraordinary sharpness of the foreground and the wonderful abstraction of the out-of-focus background, Angie’s work holds up brilliantly when blown up into very large image sizes, including mural-sized pieces. Check out our posting about our Kaiser Permanente installation for an example of how stunning Angie’s work can be on this scale.

Artists Circle Provides Art for Kaiser Permanente’s New Capitol Hill Space

11 Apr

While any space can benefit from the addition of great art, we are especially grateful to have the opportunity to work in so many buildings with fantastic architecture that demand a unique approach be taken with the art in the space. Kaiser Permanente’s new medial office building on Capitol Hill is a perfect example of such a space and we were very excited to have the chance to flex our creative muscles with this project. Working closely with the client, we decided that the best approach was to use a mixture of a variety of media and styles rather than sticking with an assortment of a single type of art. The mixture of paintings, photography, wall mounted ceramic and glass sculpture and prints on plexiglass and bamboo panels provide a rich variety while the three-dimensional nature of many of the pieces adds depth to the space.

Angie Seckinger’s macrophotographic murals provide extremely detailed close-ups of plants and leaves and were a perfect fit for the spaces behind reception area desks. Their intense depth-of-field lends a great deal of drama to what might otherwise be a rather mundane-seeming feature of the building.


Glass and ceramic mosaic wall pieces by Barbara Galazzo and Janine Sopp provided a perfect solution for a difficult space: a long, gently curved wall that would prohibit the use of wall-mounted pieces on paper, canvas or other two-dimensional media. Barbara and Janine’s mosaics interact with the lighting, casting colored shadows on the wall and on each other as they are set at different distances from the surface. This installation effectively turns the entire wall into a huge curved canvas.

John Watson’s stunning details of leaves are a perfect fit for printing on large panels of sustainable bamboo. This unique presentation brings the piece out some distance from the wall and allows for a more natural look without the artificial cropping effect that can result from using a more traditional frame. The result is a much more organic approach to art installation that reflects the subjects of the pieces as well as the materials used in their construction.

The work of these three artists is just a sampling of the wealth of variety to be found in Kaiser’s new art collection. Not only is the art itself quite diverse, but the artists tapped for the project range from hand-picked local talents to artists from all over the country selected because we felt their work would be a perfect fit for the building. We’re very pleased with the results and are happy to say that the folks at Kaiser are, too! We think that the art chosen for the space goes a long way to scrub away any last traces of the “clinical” feel that can oftentimes make hospitals and doctors’ offices seem so unwelcoming, instead providing a sense of warmth and openness that we hope makes the space that much more pleasant for the staff to work in and for patients to experience during their visits to the facility.

Special thanks to Hye Jin Kim for her wonderful photographs of the installed pieces.

Washington Photography by Artists Circle Launches

16 Mar

Here at Artists Circle we’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of photographers who specialize in capturing the spirit of Washington D.C. on film (or memory cards, as the case may be!). Many of our clients have gravitated toward imagery of the city as it is a locale ripe with iconic architecture and a unique cultural and physical landscape. It only seemed like the right thing to do, then, to have supply meet demand head on. Born from this epiphany is Washington Photography by Artists Circle Fine Art, a web-based collection of DC photography curated by the staff here at Artists Circle.

wdcphoto homepage

Washington Photography by Artists Circle Fine Art

Though all of our photographers use the environs of Washington D.C. as their subjects, the variety of styles and moods contained in the work of the ten photographers we’ve chosen is something to behold. The gallery is broken down into three categories for ease of browsing: black and white, color and sepia tone photography, but you’ll find a great deal of diversity even within those groupings. Even particular subjects can take on wildly different appearances depending on who’s taking the picture!

For example, compare this photograph of the Capitol building by Colin Winterbottom:

…to this photograph of the same building by Pamela Viola:

Apart from the galleries of photographs available for purchase, you can also view a gallery of installation photos of photographs of Washington D.C. as installed by Artists Circle. You’ll also find bios of all of the included photographers as well as a page with ordering information for photographs in the collection. While you’re visiting, please sign the guestbook and let us know what you think of our new site!

Behind the Scenes: Artist Peter Kitchell’s Process

23 Feb

When time or proximity allow, we are lucky enough to make studio visits, which allow us to go “behind the scenes” and assess the quality and craftsmanship invested into each piece of art.  Sometimes we wish we could share this experience with our clients because it often gives a whole new perspective and appreciation for the final product.  Well, today you are lucky enough to get a peek at one artist’s studio, Peter Kitchell, who just finished these pieces for one of our projects (stay tuned for a separate post with more project photos).

GMAC: Round Two!

10 Feb

A good portion of our new projects are brought to us by repeat clients.  Why?  Not to boastfully give ourselves a big pat on the back, but it’s because we did a great job the first time around!

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC for those of us who are averse to tongue twisters) is one of those repeat clients.  In 2007 we outfitted their Tysons Corner office with a collection of fun, colorful pieces.  When they were ready for a move to Reston Town Center a few months ago, they called on Artists Circle once again to assist with art for their new, Fox Architects design space.  Funky green chairs and a calming 2-story waterfall attest to GMAC’s concern for employee satisfaction.  The artwork selected by the GMAC team also reflects this mission; a bright, enlivened collection of prints adds to the bright, cheerful environment.