Artists add local color to annual historic house tour

May 10, 2012

Monna Kauppinen shows her painting of Gallatin Street greenery, one of several she's done featuring foliage from the city's annual Historic House Tour.

Monna Kauppinen shows her painting of Gallatin Street greenery, one of several she’s done featuring foliage from the city’s annual Historic House Tour.

BY SUSIE CURRIE — Members of the Hyattsville Community Arts Alliance exhibit their work throughout the year at Franklins and the Prince George’s Plaza Community Center, among other places. But on May 20, during the 33rd Annual Historic Hyattsville House Tour, artists themselves will be on display.

The artist's "Garden Tutus" depicts Crittenden Street peonies that were in front of a former House Tour house. Photo by Susie Currie.

The artist’s “Garden Tutus” depicts Crittenden Street peonies that were in front of a former House Tour house. Photo by Susie Currie.

Among them will be Monna Kauppinen, an HCAA member since its founding in 1994. She goes every year to paint one of the gardens on the tour.

It’s a tradition that started, she says, “eight or nine years ago,” when tour organizers from the Hyattsville Preservation Association invited HCAA artists to set up their easels along the route during the event.

“It was strictly for ambience,” she says.

Asked to depict a scene from one of the featured properties, some artists looked to the houses themselves for inspiration. But Kauppinen, as she’s done every year since, chose flowers as her subject.

“My mother was a big gardener, and I like the colors,” she says. She starts a new picture each year, working with pastels. It can take months to finish; that day, she’s mostly concerned about capturing the blooms. “I don’t see how people get anything painted [on house tour day],” she says. “Everyone stops to chat.”

Kauppinen’s family moved to Hyattsville in 1936, when she was a baby. She grew up here and, except for a six-year stint in Asia with the Peace Corps, has never lived more than five miles away.

“It’s fun to be connected with Hyattsville again,” says the Adelphi resident.

She began taking night classes in studio art at the Smithsonian Institution while keeping her day job with the federal government. The year she retired, 1990, also marked her first exhibit: at a Washington real-estate office.