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BUP Hopes Art Studios Bring Vitality To Bethesda Arts Scene

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 1/17/2014, 2:25pm  ET

Bethesda's Judy Gilbert Levey works Friday in the new Studio B artists studio below Wisconsin Avenue Studio B Work of one of Studio B's resident artists One of the three studio spaces in Studio B Work of Studio B artists hangs in the main hallway Studio B, at the Bethesda Crescent building The nearby Arts Under the Avenue display in the Bethesda Metro tunnel

Judy Gilbert Levey has always done her painting from home. Now the Bethesda resident has a studio space whenever she wants just six blocks from it.

Levey is one of the three locals part of the inaugural group of artists in Bethesda Urban Partnership’s Studio B, a 1,200-square foot space in the basement of the Bethesda Crescent building near the Bethesda Metro.

In exchange for renovating its lobby and losing three pieces of commissioned art, building owner Brookfield Properties built the space to BUP’s specifications, donated it to the BUP-managed Arts & Entertainment District and provided $23,000 as reimbursement for lighting upgrades in the nearby Bethesda Metro tunnel that houses BUP’s “Art Under the Avenue” exhibit.

BUP rents out the three studio spaces — one of which is shared by Levey and Chevy Chase artist Linda Bartley Button — for lower than market rate to fund operating costs such as utilities and security.

“We have theaters here. We have art galleries here. There are dance studios. So there’s a lot of places for artists, visual and performing, here,” BUP Director of Marketing Stephanie Coppula said. “The one thing we haven’t had is actual workspace for artists, so it’s great to add that layer.”

Studio B opened Wednesday. It’s located at 7475 Wisconsin Ave. and is in the Bethesda Crescent space closest to the Bethesda Metro pedestrian tunnel.

Levey is primarily an “en plain air” oil painter who does outdoor scenes, landscapes and some still lifes. She’s also the newly elected president of the Edgemoor Citizens Association.

“In terms of the ability to dedicate creative time, this is a new thing for me,” Levey said. “It’s also been really nice that we’ve been open two days and we’ve had people who walk through the tunnel stopping by. They’re curious about the space and they’re curious about the art.”

The studio is accessible for the artists at any time. It’s open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. There is one vacant studio still available for lease.

Cabin John’s Steve Hay focuses on detailed paintings of urban landscapes, though he’s done a ton of work based on scenes at Glen Echo Park.

“There’s vitality that comes from painting and art,” Hay said. “It connects people.”

Levey said it’s too soon to know how Studio B will add to Bethesda’s art scene. She’s looking forward to a day when Bethesda is thought of in the same breath as Alexandria, where the Torpedo Factory Art Center and others have made the Northern Virginia city an important place for local art fans.

“I wish I knew. We haven’t got that yet in Bethesda,” Levey said. “I hope it’s going to make it a place where people are used to visiting studios and galleries.”