My awards for the 31st Tephra ICA Festival (formerly Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival)

Janice K. Johnson


Now in its 31st year, the Tephra ICA Festival (formerly Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival) will take place on May 20–22, 2022 and will highlight more than 200 artists and artisans from across the nation. Drawing upon a robust exhibitor and collector base coupled with Tephra ICA’s contemporary art foundation, the Festival has become one of the region’s most anticipated events, attracting approximately 30,000 people to the unique, outdoor environment of Reston Town Center.

Details here.

I juried this festival a few years ago, and have participated in it many times over the years, maybe 25 or 26 times out of the 31 years, and I have won a ton of awards over the years – I applied again this year and got rejected, which is OK, since there are new jurors each year, and rejection is part of an artist’s life.

It is a great show!

This year’s jurors will select the award winners when the festival opens – but as usual, I’d like to run through them online and award my own awards.

You can see the artists here and make up your own awardees… my first observation is that (as usual), this show is heavily tilting towards the craft side – it’s somewhat of a trademark for Reston, and since the beginning it has added more and more jewelry, furniture, etc. at the expense of the fine arts. There are about 30 jewelers in the group! And they’re all really good!

But, did I sound elitist or what? Sorry…

And the awards go to…

Best Painting Award: Jill Banks – Booth 943 – A true example of the 10,000 hour rule; Banks is a master and her work shows it. Tough category with 37 painters here – all really good with notable ones such as the superbly talented Ann Barbieri, Jon Smith, Cassie Taggart and others.

Best Photography Award – Landscape photography dominates, which is to be expected, and (as I’ve noted for decades now) I tire of seeing photos of crumbling buildings in Havana and old 1950s cars – please! Enough! If you wanna take photographs of Cuba, go somewhere else other than Havana! Maybe photograph some of the heroes who often take to the streets to protest the brutality of Communism! 

James McArthur Cole is trying hard to head in the right direction, and he has some stunning Cuban photos, such as the one below – but I deduct two points for each photo of an old car.

Cuba 60 by James McArthur Cole
Cuba 60 by James McArthur Cole

But John Deng – Booth 317 – stands out! His beautiful photos are equally adept at capturing immensely different landscapes as well as the diversity of the human species.

Honey Gatherers by John Deng
Honey Gatherers by John Deng


Photo by John Deng at Tephra 2022 Festival
Photo by John Deng at Tephra 2022 ICA Festival

John Scanlan’s photos of Scotland are breathtaking, but then again, Scotland is possibly the most beautiful country on the planet! Nonetheless Deng takes my “Best Photography Award.”


Best Weird Art AwardGreg Stones – Booth 523 – Greg notes that his “basic process is this: Paint a landscape. Then add weird stuff.” It works! They are immens
ely interesting paintings.

Best Craft Award: Mick Whitcomb – Booth 816 – Specializes in one-of-a-kind furniture and lighting made from architectural and industrial salvage – the kind of stuff that some call “steampunk.”  The work is clever and unique and far outshines (no pun intended) the category competitors.

Fan Light Fixture by Mick Whitcomb
Fan Light Fixture by Mick Whitcomb

Best Drawing Award – Easy pick here with the complex drawings of Susan Deaton in booth 423. She notes that her work is about “conceptualization of social and environmental issues through the use of symbolic images.” Methinks there’s a lot of Lovecraft in there as well.

Best Glass Award – The DMV is home to three of the best known glass artists on the planet, and thus a magnet place for artists of this genre.  The work of David Sandidge stands out… some of the whimsical pieces remind me of Carmen Lozar’s early work.  Sandidge is clearly a master of this most demanding of all arts.

Glass art by David Sandidge
Glass art by David Sandidge


I will announce the Best in Show winner when I visit the show in person next month!



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