I am supposedly the creative one in my relationship but my wife is the driving force in trying to make us… let’s say “less fartsy and more artsy”. We live a few miles from the nation’s capital and want to experience more of its culture, outside of sports and politics. When the Artisphere hosted a Family Fun Day Open House to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of its opening, we went.
The Artisphere is Rosslyn, Virginia’s art center. It is housed in the Newseum’s former location and opened its doors in October 2010. Arlington Country had accepted the building landlord’s offer to lease it rent free for 20 years and to use it as a cultural center. The ‘Artisphere’ name came from an opinion poll of Arlington County residents and was inspired by its geodesic dome. The dome is distinct among its architectural landscape and houses one of the center’s theaters.
There was a room where people both young and old gathered and painted a collaborative mural– a kaleidoscope of colors and abstract shapes. By the main entrance, a young woman dressed in a harlequin outfit was mesmerizing young children with bubbles. Near the lobby, resident artist Beth Baldwin could be seen working in a room with glass walls, putting together her whimsical and unique animal creations, ready to answer questions.
A local theatre group held a workshop, showing people how to project various emotions simply using the word “Oh.” The center was packed with parents and their children, “interacting” with art.
Being a bit culturally spoiled by the Smithsonian and its plethora of free museums and spectacular exhibits, the Artisphere at first seemed a bit underwhelming. Admission is free but the Artisphere will host events with prices averaging $15 and sometimes even a “pay what you can” price model.
There were several exhibits that caught our attention, most notable was a panoramic landscape by Alex Lukas a Philadelphia artist. Lukas’ work “Cylcorama” is an installation piece that engages its viewer with a nearly 360 view of a dystopic, unromanticized landscape. One suspects that his work is not too far from the reality of many real places in America.
Using mixed media of spray paint, ink, silkscreen, montages, and colored pencils, Lukas’ work has an exquisite level of detail.
Across from Lukas’ “Cyclorama” are a series of paintings by artist Richard Crozier, whose work is look at the changes and degradation of Charlottesville, Virginia. He is a hyper-local and underrated Normal Rockwell, capturing and documenting changes in the American landscape. According to his artist statement, when he sees a change that “must be documented,” he will immediately pull over in his car and begin painting on a easel that was made specifically to fit on the dashboard of car. As a series, the immediacy of his “oil sketches” transcends the prosaic subject matter.
The Artisphere’s true value as a cultural center may be its programs. It is not a traditional gallery or a museum– an ivory tower of paintings and sculptures on walls, something static. The center invites interaction. Part of the Artisphere’s mission statement is “for people and art to collide”, its workshops promise just that. The center hosts “Creative Camps” ranging from magic to face mask casting to 3d printing. This hopefully is just the beginning of a new trend in cultural and artistic enrichment.
Posted by Tate Srey.