Karen Isailovic of Laurel said her mother and her aunts have called her an artist since childhood, but she only discovered a passion for painting 10 years ago.
That passion helped lead to Isailovic, 43, being the featured artist during a July 24 “Meet the Artist” happy hour at Olive on Main in downtown Laurel.
The event marks the first in an ongoing event series organized at the newly-opened restaurant by the Laurel Arts District Committee and the City of Laurel in an effort to engage the community with art and culture, organizers said. The event attracted about 25 people, many of them connected to the art community.
Isailovic said she mostly painted figures and landscapes until recently, when her 10- and 14-year-old daughters, who helped inspire her to return to painting, said she has found her voice with the colorful, abstract paintings now on display at the restaurant.
“They really feel like something’s shining through in my work,” she said.
The monthly events are part of a broader city initiative to revitalize the city’s downtown by attracting new businesses and foot-traffic to the Main Street part of Laurel and revitalize its arts district, said Karl Brendle, director of the city’s Community Planning and Business Services Department.
Brendle said the city is in the early stages of trying to facilitate an arts and entertainment district.
“It’s like a spark,” Brendle said. “A catalyst.”
Ada Ghuman, a member of the committee started three years ago to bring the art community and Laurel residents together, said the idea behind the event is to highlight the work of local artists. She said she hopes the partnership between the city and the restaurant to bring art to a public setting will help Laurel begin to grow the type of vibrant art community she has seen in places such as Hyattsville.
“When you have art you grow,” Ghuman said. “This kind of give-and-take is what has sustained a lot of towns.”
Sora McCann, 25, of Laurel said she made many contacts in the artist community during the happy hour.
“I got to hand out business cards,” said McCann, who does animation and graphic design. “[Artists] need to support each other ... kind of remind people that we’re still there.”
Steven Williams, 63, of Laurel, a painter and mixed media artist whose work will be on display at Olive on Main in August, said he thought the event was successful.
“I think it was pretty good for a first try,” he said. “I hope the word will spread.”