Kelli Schollard-Sincock Creates Prison Arts Program for City of Alexandria and Fairfax County

Jordan Wright
July 16, 2018
for the Alexandria Times 

When Forensic Sketch Artist Kelli Schollard-Sincock, who holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Washington and completed the BFA program in Printmaking from George Mason, was thinking about how she could make an impact in her community, she recalled a casual comment a friend made during a lecture at Lorton the two women attended.  The talk featured prisoners’ art the guards had collected either through barter or outright payment and she was duly impressed by the caliber of the work.  Her friend said, “You should do that,” meaning teach art within the prisons.  The offhand remark didn’t really register with her until she read a report that the new administration planned to cut funding for the arts.  She felt it was a call to action.

Taking the bull by the horns, she approached Lt. Marybeth Plaskus at the Alexandria Detention Center and asked if they had a need for a prison arts program.  Plaskus gave her the nod, and the first class was held in February 2017.  “We started from scratch with one classroom that was immediately filled with about 25 male students.  That was such positive reinforcement for me.  They were always thankful I was there,” she says.  Since its inception the program has not only been hugely popular, but it has grown rapidly and now includes classes for women at the Fairfax facility.

Piggybacking on her success at the Alexandria prison, she then reached out to the Fairfax County Detention Center and began her arts program there in August 2017.  She now teaches there twice a week plus one day a week in Alexandria.  Yet there is still more demand.  Schollard-Sincock’s goal is to hire more teachers to fill the many requests for additional classes.

Kelli Schollard-Sincock teaching at the Fairfax County Detention Center

Initially the challenge was to find art supplies which are not funded by state or local counties.  She had to get creative.  Well, that’s what artists do.  Right?  In a stroke of good fortune, she discovered the ‘Buy Nothing Project’, an online sharing organization for free items that operates locally through Facebook.  There she put out a call for art supplies and had such a positive response that for four weeks she drove all over the county gathering an immense amount of materials.

Photo from Alexandria County Detention Center Prison Art Program courtesy of Kelli Schollard-Sincock

Del Ray Artisans heard about her classes and thought they could help.  The gallery’s Fundraising Director Joe T. Franklin, Jr. and Acting President Drew Cariaso wanted to learn about the program and have her give a talk to their members.  Member artists were so impressed with her outreach program that they held a fundraiser including an in-house drive for materials.  “People have really taken ownership of the program,” she adds.  Subsequently the gallery has been instrumental in helping her set up a non-profit to be called ‘Inspiration Matterz’ which will allow her to expand the program with the help of additional art teachers.  She credits Program Directors Lenora Murphy and Latanya Ervin at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center with keeping her program ongoing and her husband Austin and son Gregory for their support and encouragement.

Photo from Fairfax County Detention Center Prison Art Program courtesy of Kelli Schollard-Sincock

Schollard-Sincock chooses the subjects that are executed in a variety of mediums.  “Men and women respond totally differently to the programs.  My intention is to teach tangible skills not just doing crafts.  My very first student was an older gentleman.  He told me, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.  The best you’re going to get out of me are stick figures.” She says he really clicked when he started painting and is now painting photorealistic drawings.  “He is like the case study of why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

Over the past year she has seen a huge change in their attitude.  “It’s empowering to learn that you have developed a skill.  The biggest thing in these classes is getting them to trust me and not give up.”

Director of the Target Gallery at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, Leslie Mounaime, reached out to her and offered their site for a show.  On Friday, July 20th, Del Ray Artisans will host the opening night reception for “Off The Grid” in the Torpedo Factory’s Site 2 Community Gallery showcasing 49 framed drawings from Schollard-Sincock’s prison art program.  The opening reception is from 7-9pm. The show runs through August 31st.

Kelli Schollard-Sincock’s own work can be found on her website www.KelliSincock.com.

How to Go to the Dogs Tastefully

February 5, 2015
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill

This year’s Washington Humane Society’s annual Sugar & Champagne Affair was a fabulous event for dogs and dog lovers. Once again guests and their beloved canines filled the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center with all manner of things sweet, sparkly and even savory. After all, we must have a balanced diet. For the 14th straight year many of our area’s preeminent chefs showed off their talents to benefit the Society and pay tribute to their Field Services team who last year responded to over 18,000 calls to help animals in need.

Guests gather in the atrium

Guests gather in the atrium

This delicious event that puts the “fun” back in fundraiser, was conceived by Ellen Kassoff Gray. Ellen, who serves as chairwoman of the host committee, co-hosted the posh event along with husband and uber chef Todd Gray. Together the DC power couple own Equinox Restaurant, while Todd doubles his chef duties as Culinary Director of the Salamander Resort & Spa in the tony horse country of Middleburg, VA.

As always many of the attendees were of the adorable canine sort. Pooches of all stripes, some dressed to the nines and others au naturel, strutted their stuff to the delight of the guests.

Liz Sara, Founder of Best Marketing, LLC with Crystal) // Kristine Saja’s, Quinn, adopted from the Washington Humane Society and pretty in pink

Liz Sara, Founder of Best Marketing, LLC with Crystal) // Kristine Saja’s, Quinn, adopted from the Washington Humane Society and pretty in pink

The main event was a reception in the atrium featuring scrumptious desserts. Event sponsors TCMA, Volkswagen, Equinox, Salamander Hotels & Resorts, The Sugar Association, Olde Towne Pet Resort, Social Light and Chef’s Roll were supported by media sponsors Zohar Rom's Portfolio, The Virginia Maryland Dog, NOVADog Magazine, Travelzoo, Bisnow, Yelp and The Hill.

Tidbits and libations from dozens of restaurants, bars and bakeries came from The Source by Wolfgang PuckPoste Modern Brasserie, Plume, Baklava Couture, Shake Shack, Sticky Fingers Bakery, Society Fair, The Hamilton, Bastille, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Lilly Magilly’s Cupcakery, Occidental, Bearnaise, Co Co. Sala, The Dairy Godmother, Dolci Gelati, Brasserie Beck and a host of other well-known spots. A VIP room offered savory tastings and craft cocktails. New this year was the “Exclusive Experience” a chance for a limited number of guests to learn how to make desserts, create specialty cocktails and watch unusual demonstrations such as how to make “dip-n-dots” using liquid nitrogen.

Salamander Resort Public Relations Manager Vanessa Casas serves seared tuna and accompaniments

Salamander Resort Public Relations Manager Vanessa Casas serves seared tuna and accompaniments

 

Sweet Potato and Anise pastries from Slate Wine Bar and Bistro // Marinated shrimp from Richard Sandoval’s new Mango Tree restaurant

Sweet Potato and Anise pastries from Slate Wine Bar and Bistro // Marinated shrimp from Richard Sandoval’s new Mango Tree restaurant

One of the most memorable pastry displays was designed by the kitchen staff of the International Trade Center whose talented crew is known for creating miniature dessert masterpieces. They deserved to take a “bowwow” for their pâte à choux Animal Park that perfectly fit the evening’s theme. Using the versatile, classic French pastry dough, best known to most dessert lovers as the crusty part of the éclair, they fashioned a “Puff Poodle,” “Choux aux Kitty,” “Vanilla Pooch Puff” and lots more pup-themed treats.

Pate a Choux display // Choux aux Kitty pastries

Pate a Choux display // Choux aux Kitty pastries

Be sure to keep a slot open on your calendar for the 2016 Sugar & Champagne Affair. It’s a worthy cause and a rollicking good time for you and your four-legged friends.

Photo credit - Cary Pollak

Human Rights Campaign’s “Chefs For Equality” Evening Scores Big with DC Chefs and Their Fans

Jordan Wright
September 25, 2014
Photo credit - Jordan Wright
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

 

Event Chair David Hagedorn in lime green tie

Event Chair David Hagedorn in lime green tie

When Washington Post food writer David Hagedorn is doing the asking, big name chefs and restaurateurs respond.  Though we didn’t see her there, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who married David and his partner, Michael Widomski, last fall, are on his speed dial.

The noted cookbook author chaired the Human Rights Campaign LGBT “Chefs For Equality” evening of food and fun Tuesday night at the Ritz-Carlton West End in one of the most delicious events of the season.  Two hundred chefs and their crews, plus some of the city’s top mixologists (if you hate that moniker, move along) prepared tastings for the guests who were dazzled by splashy drag queens, assorted pols and a ballroom filled with damned good looking men and their gal pals.

VIP Table Setting

VIP  table settings

Some of the most scrumptious bites came courtesy of Todd Gray and Chris Edwards  of Salamander Resort & Spa (the concord grape jelly made from a neighbor’s vines was to die for); Michelle and Christophe Poteaux of Bastille whose foie gras mousse was topped with pear confit and toasted hazelnuts; Tim Ma of Water & Wall and Maple Avenue who served an Asian Chicken Soup; and Brian Noyes of Red Truck Bakery whose Chocolate Moonshine Cake (a Mason jar filled with the local firewater from Belmont Distillery) was a mouthful of pillowy, boozy chocolate cake.

(Left to Right) Brian Noyes - Tim Ma - Brent Sick Del Frisco's Grille

(Left to Right) Brian Noyes of Red Truck Bakery - Tim Ma of Water & Wall - Brent Sick Del Frisco's Grille

We also noshed on nibbles and sips from K. N. Vinod of Indique Heights, Mitch Berliner of MeatCrafters, Jamie Leeds of Hank’s Oyster Bar, Gina Chersevani of Buffalo & Bergen, Aaron McCloud of CedarRis Lacoste of RIS, Tarver King of The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Jeff Faile of Neighborhood Restaurant Group and David Guas of Bayou Bakery whose American Grilledshow is on the Travel Channel.

(Left to Right) Aaron McCloud of Cedar - Michael Abt of Le Diplomate - Michael Friedman of The Red Hen

(Left to Right) Aaron McCloud of Cedar - Brinn Sinnott of Le Diplomate - Michael Friedman of The Red Hen

Salt & Sundry provided swag bags for the VIPs who sat together at tables lavishly decorated by their individual hosts.  Their specialty dinners were prepared by uber-chefs Robert Wiedmaier (Marcel’s), Michel Richard (Central Michel Richard), Patrick O’Connell (The Inn at Little Washington), Frank Ruta (now baking with Mark Furstenberg at Bread Furst), Peter Chang (soon to open in Bethesda) Tony Conte (The Oval Room), Scott Drewno (The Source), Jeremiah Langhorne (formerly of McCrady’s soon to open a DC outpost), and Fabio Trabocchi (Fiola and Casa Luca).

(Left to Right) Felicia Beefeater aka A. J. Dronkers with Jordan Wright - Todd Gray and Chris Edwards with team from Salamander - Gus DiMillo and Jeff Tunks of Passion Food Hospitality

(Left to Right) Felicia Beefeater aka A. J. Dronkers with Jordan Wright - Todd Gray and Chris Edwards with team from Salamander - Gus DiMillo and Jeff Tunks of Passion Food Hospitality

But it was all one big happy family there to celebrate this year’s Gay Rights successes and to push for Marriage Equality in Virginia.  Star power came courtesy of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe who wooed the joyful crowd with his promise of support for gay marriage in the “Virginia is for Lovers” state.

Bryan Sorrentino's cake from Charm City Cakes

Bryan Sorrentino's cake from Charm City Cakes

Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna Comes to National Harbor

Jordan Wright
July 7, 2014
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

In a few weeks National Harbor will host Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna, a production loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Amaluna is a fusion of the words ama, which refers to “mother” in many languages, and luna, which signifies “moon” - a symbol of femininity evoking both the mother-daughter relationship and the idea of goddess and protector of the planet.  Amaluna is also the name of the mysterious island where the story unfolds.

Water Bowel CWP

Water Bowel CWP

In this groundbreaking show that celebrates the work and voice of women, the audience is transported to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses, Amazon warriors and Valkyries and guided by the cycles of the moon.  Performed by a cast of 70% female artists, the story recreates an exotic female mythology of half-human, half-animal characters expressed through original compositions, dance and extreme acrobatics.

Goddess

Goddess

Rachel Lancaster, who previously worked on Corteo, brings her savvy to the show as a trained dancer with a theatre background.  She is excited that Amaluna is her first show as Artistic Director.  “All of our shows are so different.  In Amaluna we have used newer technology for the aerial events, something we didn’t have before.  The whole big top comes alive.  The most exciting aspect of this show is the physical and emotional power of the woman.  It’s really unique and features an all-female nine-piece band. It even has the only uneven bar act in the world.  It is incredibly beautiful with a different esoteric sense from other Cirque shows.”

Teeterboard

Teeterboard

Set in an island forest it tells the story of Miranda’s coming of age, using symbols and themes from Greek mythology.  Hera, the Greek Goddess of women, is expressed by a peacock feather decoration that refers to the legend of the bird’s protective eyes in its tail. The eyes are said to watch over women in all stages of their lives.

Tony Award-winning Director, Diane Paulus (Pippin – 2013) directs the amazing cast.  Her impressive theatre background reflects her position as Artistic Director at A.R.T. at Harvard University.  This year Paulus was recognized on TIME Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world and Variety named her among its “2014 Trailblazing Women in Entertainment”.  “I didn’t want to build a ‘women’s agenda’ show,” she has said.  “I wanted to create a show with women at the center of it – something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines.”

Ama Prospera Miranda

Ama Prospera Miranda

I met with cast member Iuliia Mykhailova, a petite contortionist with muscles of steel, who plays Miranda - a leading role that requires her to be on stage throughout the show.  Discovered at a circus college in her hometown of Kiev, the twenty-nine-year old Ukrainian has performed in three other Cirque productions including Ovo, Kooza and Varekai.  In a recent interview she talked about her focus in performing her intricate and daring feats.  “We do ten shows per week so I really have to concentrate.  It’s easy to get distracted and slip…and I have.”  Dressed in one of her four costumes, a fitted cropped jacket with miniscule bloomers to match, the pony-tailed brunette described how the garments are constructed to accommodate the artists.  “If a sleeve constricts the arm movements, they make openings in the shoulders to allow more freedom of motion.”

Manipulation

Manipulation

I was fascinated to learn that Mykhailova travels with her young daughter, as do many of the artists.  While on the road, children are educated in on-site classrooms where programs are multi-level and multi-cultural to accommodate the myriad of nationalities, and languages, represented.  “There are around 30 children that travel with us.  We have teachers and school programs for them,” she remarked.

Images courtesy of Cirque de Soleil

Amaluna opens under National Harbor’s blue and yellow big top on July 31st.  For tickets and information visit www.CirquedeSoleil.com/Amaluna.

 

THE 2014 SUGAR AND CHAMPAGNE AFFAIR WAS A SPARKLING SUCCESS

February 20, 2014
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill

Earlier this month DC’s “Sugar and Champagne Affair” welcomed hundreds of guests who raised cane to benefit the Washington Humane Society.  The much-anticipated event held in the Ronald Reagan Building draws both owners and their precious pets to a canine-themed gala.  And it’s all for a good cause. Now that’s something to celebrate!

The glamorous fundraiser is the creation of Ellen Kassoff Gray.  She and her top toque husband, Todd Gray, who is the Executive Chef at the venerable Equinox restaurant, Todd Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran Gallery, and the kitchen at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA were co-hosts of the event.

Thirteen years ago Ellen correctly surmised that the local restaurant community and particularly many of the area’s talented pastry chefs would be happy to help her promote the cause of animal welfare, an issue she is passionate about.  Ellen again served as Host Committee Chairwoman bringing along her two handsome German Shepherds to meet and greet guests and canine celebs, while Todd could be seen preparing and serving tastings of some of his specialties.

All types of pooches from tiny-as-a-teacup Chihuahuas to massive Marmaduke-sized dogs accompanied their owners to the festivities - many elaborately dressed up or sporting festively colored fur for the occasion.  Doris Pasternak was accompanied by her rescue Poodle, Chilly, who has his own blog chillydogblog.com. And Dixie Eng and Julia Jacobus brought their Goldendoodles who regale their fans at GroovyGoldendoodles.com.

Kim and Mike Roberts' English Bulldog, Ovie, sporting Alexander Ovechin's #8 jersey

Kim and Mike Roberts' English Bulldog, Ovie, sporting Alexander Ovechin's #8 jersey

Smaller canine cuties included Kim and Mike Roberts’ English Bulldog, Ovie, who showed up wearing a replica of Washington Capitals' hockey star’s Alex Ovechkin’s jersey.  Kimberly Hammond’s Chihuahua-mix Todd, who has come a long way from being rescued after an oil spill, wore a mini-tuxedo.

Kimberley Hammond's Chihuahua-mix, Todd, in evening wear

Kimberley Hammond's Chihuahua-mix, Todd, in evening wear

Almost eighty area chefs and wineries created a memorable feast.  There were oysters and sushi along with other savory preparations, but the biggest draw of the evening was the sweet treats baked by some of our area’s most talented pastry chefs - from Taberna del Alabardero and their pretty pink and white confections with tufts of freshly made cotton candy, to Baklava Couture’s individual pastries with cinnamon walnut or pistachio fillings.

Doggie treats from Olde Towne Pet Resort

Doggie treats from Olde Towne Pet Resort

In keeping with the evening’s theme, the Olde Towne Pet Resort placed doggie treats in bowls as well as champagne flutes.  Some of these morsels looked so good two-legged guests were hard-pressed to keep their paws off.  And while Poste Moderne Brasserie offered homemade biscuits for pets, their owners could indulge in a version of s’mores with chocolate marshmallow confections on graham cracker crusts.

Salamander Resort & Spa's Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves winning cake.

Salamander Resort & Spa's Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves winning cake.

Guests eagerly awaited the highlight of the evening - a cake competition featuring the amazing artistry of our local pastry chefs.  The spectacular winning entry was a cake made to look like a champagne bottle beside a pug licking its chops.  Created by Salamander Resort & Spa’s Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves and Amy Tucker, the stunning confection was made with hand-painted and sculpted devil’s food cake and fondant that looked way too good to eat.  Another whimsical creation was a velvety green sofa with a naughty dog trying to hide himself under a cushion.  Pastry Chef Lauren Petri of The Hamilton who designed the clever cake, added a particularly humorous and challenging touch of a partially unraveled roll of toilet paper at the foot of the couch.

The Washington Humane Society relies on fundraisers such as the “Sugar and Champagne Affair” to continue their work protecting the animals of our region.  Last year WHS Field Officers responded to over 17,000 calls to help animals in need.  Plan to join in the fun next year, and bring your precious pup for a howlin’ good time.

Photo credits: Cary Pollak