The location of Olly Olly is ellusive, but worth looking for.

Once upon a time, Fairfax, Virginia’s art scene was centered around the Adam Lister Gallery on University Drive. Artists from all over Northern Virginia would flock to the gallery, searching for a community to call home. Together, they were able to rediscover art as a communal action, working together, inspiring each other and even educating one another.

In 2013, though, the Adam Lister Gallery closed after four years of business, causing the group that collected there to fall apart, each artist scurrying back to their own personal studio or home.

Just recently, a cultural hub rose from the ashes, named Olly Olly. Founder of Olly Olly Jessica Kallista chose the name to imply that the space serves as a playful beck and call to local artists, suggesting that it’s time to come out from hiding and create together once again.

Olly Olly is a small, intimate art space that is part gallery and part work space. As a collaborative space, the public is able to view artworks on the walls and make their own artworks within the walls as well. With a $25 fee for Art Gym, the gallery provides art materials that include sketchbooks, canvases, paint, markers and more. It’s not uncommon for artists to let others borrow their own materials as well.

Artists like Jason Davis are able to come to Olly Olly and work on paintings or other projects together.
As one of the members of the Adam Lister Gallery’s arts community, Kallista toyed with the idea of opening up a new collaborative art space since its closing. She said that there are a great number of artists in Fairfax and Northern Virginia, but that they’re hidden, and by being hidden, they’re not able to reach their full creative potential.

Kallista said, “I think that there’s art that can only happen when the artists are all together ... There’s a certain kind of playfulness in collaboration and creativity than if you’re just sitting in your studio or in your house, making art.”

She added, “Even if you’re not giving each other ideas explicitly and you’re just sharing the same space ... somehow everything’s going to start clicking.”

Beside artworks in the Olly Olly gallery, Tariq Omar works in his sketchbook.
One local artist named Tariq Omar described what it was like to lose the Adam Lister Gallery, saying, “I was devastated. I stopped drawing.”
He described the process of returning to art without the community as slow and difficult. In a group of artists, he said, “There’s motivation. There’s creativity.”

Now a part of Olly Olly’s arts community, Omar said, “It’s the reincarnation of the Adam Lister Gallery.”

To be a part of this growing community, go online to Olly Olly’s website or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Flip through the slideshow below to see photos from Olly Olly's latest art gallery exhibition opening, "Bodylore".

About Michelle Goldchain

Michelle is a photojournalist who loves to live life by never sitting still. You can find her in art galleries in Dupont Circle, ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan and comedy clubs in Arlington. In her spare time, when she's not typing away at a computer screen, she's probably listening to moody electronic music, watching cat videos or doodling.
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