Thursday, July 24, 2014

Alper Initiative for Washington Art

Every once in a while I go the Kojo Nmandi show on WAMU to discuss DC area visual art stuff… and at one of those radio shows, many years ago, I was discussing the lack of interest, or better still, apathy, that most Washington area museum curators exhibit (pun intended) towards our DMV area artists.

In what was to become a battle cry of the ignored, I noted that “it was easier for a local DC area museum curator or director to take a cab to Dulles to catch a flight to Berlin, or London, or Madrid, etc. in order to visit an emerging artist’s studio, than to take a cab to Georgetown, or Arlington, or Rockville to do the same.”

A few years after American University’s gorgeous American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center opened, I updated that statement by noting that the Katzen had taken the lead (in a one horse race) in showcasing, exhibiting and documenting the DMV art scene.  The Katzen had become, and remains, the only major DC area art museum that pays attention to its own backyard!

The driver here is the Katzen’s energetic director Jack Rasmussen. This is a man with a deep connection to the DC area art scene that goes back many decades, and it was a brilliant coup by the AU leadership to hire him.  And I say that not only based on the Katzen’s interest and support of its own city’s artists, but also because Rasmussen has proven to the other area art museums that an intelligent combination of regional artists with national and international artists can be accomplished.

What does that take? I’m not sure, but the libertarian part of me suspects a certain degree of “taking the path of least resistance” on the daily workload of other local museum curators/directors, many of which are government employees; it is much easier to take a traveling exhibition, let’s say, than organizing one from scratch.  I know that I am generalizing here, and often that’s a bad thing, but in the multiple conversations that I’ve had over the years with several generations of curators from the Hirshhorn, NGA, NPG, the Corcoran and others (yes, even other local Universities) I’ve gathered both empirical and anecdotal data to back up that impression.

Any of those museums is welcomed to please prove me wrong!

And it is because of Rasmussen’s stellar leadership and guiding hand, and the Katzen’s record with its own community that I can report the following:
Left to right, Jack Rasmussen, AU Museum Director and Curator, Carolyn Alper, and AU President Neil Kerwin
Photo by Jeff Watts, American University
“… Thanks to a major gift from alumna and art advocate Carolyn Alper, BA/CAS ’68, to the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, more resources will be allocated to the study and exhibition of Washington art.
Alper’s gift will establish the Alper Initiative for Washington Art at the American University Museum. The initiative will dedicate space for displaying the work of Washington artists, including more tightly focused, historical shows; development of space for archives of Washington art (available for both members of the public and AU students); an endowment to support more programming of events, gatherings, lectures and films; and digitization of AU’s growing collection of Washington art.”
According to AU Museum Curator and Director Jack Rasmussen: “Carolyn’s gift provides American University Museum the funds necessary to elevate Washington art to the place of prominence it deserves. All of Washington should be grateful as Carolyn has put her contributions where her heart is.”

Need more evidence? Five of the six exhibits on display at the museum through Aug. 17 feature Washington artists and collectors: Mynd Alive by B.K. ADAMS/I AM ART; Syzygy by William Newman; Continental Drift (Being Here and Being There) by Judy Byron; Passionate Collectors: The Washington Print Club at 50, with prints curated from Washington collections; and The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund: Second Act, with art by grant recipients from the region.
Thank you Ms. Alper, thank you AU and thank you Jack!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Opportunity for artists

My good bud Al Miner, who used to roam these regions, and who is also a kick-ass artist, and thus was included in the first volume of my books on DC area artists, is the juror for this show up in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Massachusetts.
Deadline: September 15, 2014 CALL FOR WORKS ON PAPER South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, MA, invites entries of original work that offer distinctive imaginative imagery using paper. Show dates October 24 - December 21, 2014. Opening Reception October 24 6-8pm Juried by Al Miner, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. $1200 in prizes - all work must be for sale. Entry fee. Details: 781-383-2787 OR

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gateway CDC Receives $100,000 from NEA

Good news in this news release!
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced plans to award 66 Our Town grants totaling $5.073 million and reaching 38 states in the Our Town program's fourth year of funding. Gateway Community Development Corporation(CDC) is one of those recommended organizations and will receive $100,000 to fund Phase 3 of the Art Lives Here initiative. The goal of Art Lives Here is to boost vibrancy in the Prince George's County Gateway Arts District using a mix of short and long term projects to support existing small businesses, attract commercial in-fill, prepare for the next round of commercial development, and further strengthen our diverse and streetwise creative communities. In Phase 3, the initiative will launch a Creative Enterprise Incubator in the prominent retail space of the Artspace Artist Lofts on the Mount Rainier circle.

This year's Our Town projects demonstrate again that excellent art is as fundamental to a community's success as land-use, transportation, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety, helping build stronger communities that are diverse in geography and character. Our Town funds arts-based community development projects in a way that is authentic, equitable, and augments existing local assets. Since Our Town's inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 256 Our Town grants totaling more than $21 million in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Creative Enterprise Incubator will convert a long under-utilized commercial space at the Artspace Mount Rainier Artist Lofts into a vibrant hub of activity to serve arts-related and retail businesses and provide a comprehensive set of resources that will enhance opportunities for the creative economy to thrive. Purpose-built for arts usage, the available space includes 4,000 square feet of open and flexible gallery storefront, room for a mix of private commercial artists studios and offices, a large classroom space, and a residents' gallery. Artspace will build out the space and a committed team of partners, artists, professional arts managers and business leaders will equip the incubator with a self-sustaining structure that brings a curriculum, services and resources to the Gateway Arts District's creative communities.

"Gateway Community Development Corporation demonstrates the best in creative community development and whose work will have a valuable impact on its community," said Chairman Chu. "Through Our Town funding, arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike."

Art Lives Here (ALH) began with an NEA grant of $50,000 to Joe's Movement Emporium to focus on artist-driven strategies to support small business development in Mount Rainier's historic but distressed town center. In phase I (June 2012-June 2013) the initiative (a) engaged citizens through participatory public arts projects; (b) facilitated partnerships to place competitively-selected arts projects in under-performing storefronts to enliven  the space and attract locals and visitors downtown; (c) hosted Soup Nites where local donations were matched 10:1 to support creative business developments; and (d) established a downtown arts season and visibility campaign that swirled public art, social media, street marketing and multimedia into the stock of existing events.

Designed to progress in seasons and up the Gateway corridor, phase 2 was funded with $240,000 by ArtPlace America to Joe's Movement Emporium (July 2013-December 2014) to continue the visibility campaign developed in phase I and to extend it to neighboring towns in the arts district with projects based on the Mount Rainier pilot. In phase 2, the ALH initiative is: (e) hosting Better Block projects in Brentwood and North Brentwood near two active Redevelopment Authority sites; (f) competitively funding pop-up installations and performances woven into existing arts district events; and (g) working with local multimedia professionals to produce a series of artist profiles and spark a multimedia production micro-industry. ALH partners have also undertaken smaller scale urban design projects, including: (h) commissioning a series of 30+ place-making murals throughout the arts district; (i) locally producing boulevard signage for businesses and art spaces; and (j) public works projects around storm drains in partnership with the Department of Environmental Resources. Partners for ALH phase 2 include Art Works Now, Gateway CDC, Hyattsville CDC, Joe's Movement Emporium, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George's African American Museum and Cultural Center, Prince George's Arts and Humanities Council, and Red Dirt Studio.

"Through the Art Lives Here initiative, our team has strengthened its economic, social, and political ties, already attracting more positive attention to the Gateway Arts District," said Gateway CDC Executive Director Carole Bernard. "With a new round of long-awaited arts-integrated facilities through the two-mile stretch of historic U.S. Route 1, our four large mixed-use development projects over the next 36 months will bring new density, new businesses and an anticipated increased interest in property in the corridor. At this exciting time in the arts district's history, we need to focus on our local businesses and creative communities more than ever and form collaborative infrastructures for new creative enterprises that will enhance opportunities for continued economic growth and sustainability."

"The City of Mount Rainier is pleased to partner with Gateway CDC on phase 3 of Art Lives Here," said Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles. "By activating a commercial space within our business district and converting it into a creative enterprise incubator, our many local artists and businesses will receive critical resources and services that will help them grow and maintain their presence in a changing economic environment."

"Artspace has a long history of investment in facilities across the country that support the arts, and we are excited to work with Gateway CDC, the City of Mount Rainier and the communities of the arts district to pilot this new incubator," said Artspace Senior Vice President of Properties Greg Handberg. "Artspace is proud to be a partner on this NEA grant where we can activate our commercial space and be a part of helping our artist residents and other local businesses move their businesses forward in a community-focused initiative."

"The Prince George's County Redevelopment Authority has invested millions of dollars into the Gateway Arts District because we know what this area and the surrounding communities have to offer," said Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Howard Ways. "We are excited about this project and our partnership with Gateway CDC, and the County looks forward to being a part of the continued community revitalization strategies within the arts district."

The NEA received 275 applications for Our Town this year. Recommended grant amounts ranged from $25,000 to $200,000. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at Project descriptions, grants listed by state and by project type, and resources are available as well.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Susana Raab all over America

Susana Raab's exhibit, The Invisible Wall: Photographs from East of the River, is currently showing in the neighborhood at the Vivid Solutions Gallery in the Anacostia Arts Center in Washington, DC. 
This ongoing work focuses on Wards 7 & 8 in Washington, which is separated from the rest of the city by the Anacostia River due to President Thomas Jefferson’s love of symmetry; he absolutely needed to make the District of Columbia a square. Of course, Virginia messed everything up when it seceded.  
The Washington City Paper's top notch critic Lou Jacobson previews it here.

She's also part of Cotidiano USA, which continues to make the rounds as a traveling show, and is currently exhibiting in San Antonio at the Mexican Cultural Institute (I almost ended up moving to San Antonio in 2006... remind me to detail that story here...).  It will be heading to NYC later this year. 

The exhibit, curated by the wonderful Claudi Carreras, consists of works representing the US experience of Latinos and includes the work of dear friends and photographers: Carlos Alvárez MonteroSol AramendiKatrina d'AutremontCaléRicardo CasesLivia CoronaHéctor MataKaren MirandaDulce PinzónSusana RaabStefan Ruiz, and Gihan Tubbeh.

And if that lists of surnames doesn't give a perfect example of the diversity of the people labeled as "Latinos," then nothing will!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Danny Conant “French Impressions” and E. E. McCollum “Shadow Series”

I know that the Fall is still a long time to go, but can't wait to see this show at Alexandria's Multiple Exposures Gallery inside the Torpedo Factory. It opens the day after my birthday!

EXHIBIT DATES                                 September 2 – October 12, 2014
OPENING RECEPTION                      Sunday, September 7, 2014  2 -4 pm
GALLERY HOURS                             Daily 11am – 5pm, Thursday 2 – 9 pm

E.E. McCollum will be showing images from his “Shadow Series.”  Strong graphically, his black and white images explore the sculptural qualities of the nude figure and the interplay of shadow and form. Set against a white background, the figure seems suspended, without context to guide our understanding, and we are left to encounter the body in its most elemental expressive elements of shadow, form and gesture. McCollum is a member of Multiple Exposures Gallery at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria,VA. He has exhibited nationally and has been published in Lenswork, PH Magazine and Adore Noir. McCollum lives in Northern Virginia.

Danny Conant's “French Impressions” images are influenced by her recent trip to the French countryside of the Dordogne region and an exhibit at the Musee d' Orsay in Paris.  The photos are often manipulated in Photoshop and other programs and printed on watercolor paper. Some are additionally colored with pastels and then the watercolor paper is adhered to a wooden panel and covered with encaustic paint.  Conant’s work has been shown both nationally and internationally via galleries and Sotheby’s and Art Net auctions. Two books on Tibet have been published and her work has appeared in magazines and photography books.  She is a member of Multiple Exposures Gallery in Alexandria and lives in Maryland.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The DMV at AU this summer

Exhibits at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center this summer focus on the art and artists and collectors in Washington, D.C. Exhibits open June 14 and run through Aug. 17.

Passion for Prints
Passionate Collectors: The Washington Print Club at 50 features almost 150 prints selected from Washington collections. The collection reveals a diversity of techniques from relief printing by celebrated masters Durer, van Dyck, Carracci, Pissarro, Picasso and Chuck Close to monoprints by contemporaries Richard Estes, Ventura Salimbeni, Thomas Frye, Adolphe Appian, Reinhard Hilker and Keiko Hara. Among the contemporary works is a print involving buckshot, and one created with 4,225 small black dots.
“Viewers will be surprised there are no dominating genres or periods or artists represented in this show, but rather a huge range of works that are national, international and local,” said AU Museum Director and Curator Jack Rasmussen. “We share our location in the nation’s capital with most international diplomatic missions to the United States. Washington is a community with diverse interests and affiliations and may well provide the most diverse group of collectors in the country.”

The show will also feature “Midwest Matrix,” a film study of post-World War II printmaking to present, produced and directed by Susan Goldman.
The Washington Print Club was established in 1964 as an independent, nonprofit volunteer organization consisting of both collectors and practicing artists. This biennial exhibition celebrates the club’s 50th anniversary.

Lives Devoted to Art 
The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund: Second Act features paintings, sculptures and works on paper by Richard Cleaver, Emilie Brzezinski, Fred Folsom and other artists who received grants totaling $670,000 over the last 13 years from the Bader Fund. Legendary Washington art dealer Franz Bader and his wife, Virginia, started the fund, which continues to support the arts long after the couple’s deaths in 1994 and 2001, respectively. The fund committee awards grants for artists 40 and older who live within 150 miles of the U.S. Capitol.
The first exhibition of Bader Fund artists took place a decade ago. “Second Act” provides another viewing of the range and quality of work supported by the grants.
Franz Bader was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1903. Bader and his first wife, Antonia, were fortunate to escape Vienna after the takeover of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, arriving in Washington in early 1939 with few possessions and little money. But, as is true of so many émigrés from Hitler’s Europe, their arrival was America’s good fortune—Washington's, in particular. Working at first with the Whyte Bookstore and Gallery and then, from 1953 to 1985, at his own art and book shop, Bader was a pioneer and creator of a vibrant art scene in his adopted city.

Personal Drifts of Culture
Continental Drift surveys the work of Washington artist Judy Byron, and invites the viewer to consider the visual and auditory environment that informs identity. The exhibition acknowledges the artist’s drifting of visual influences between three specific countries: Brazil, China, and Ghana. From 2010 through 2012, Byron traveled abroad and photographed details of sidewalks, toys, products, netting, foliage, clothing and detritus. Images from her travels formed the point of departure for 18 color pencil drawings.
Accompanying the drawings are the voices of three women from Brazil, China, and Ghana who now live in the Metro D.C. area and have established roots while maintaining strong identification with their places of birth. Three smaller drawings — Memories of Home — are based on photos Byron took of objects in their homes that remind the women of the homes they left behind. The sound of ocean waves lapping the shore can be heard throughout the exhibition space.
Rasmussen observed:  “I don’t think any artist has communicated so beautifully the interaction of community and environment in the construction of culture.”

Nature’s Fleeting Beauty
Syzygy, William Newman’s series of 19 oil paintings and digital images, and two metal sculptures, is a vibrant investigation of temporality, subjective freedom, and natural splendor. The photographs, photorealist paintings and stainless steel sculptures present striking natural forms and places holding personal resonance for Newman, including Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon and the cosmos.
For his sculptures, Newman had natural artifacts from his farmhouse in Shenandoah County duplicated in welded, polished stainless steel by craftsmen in Beijing. The resulting forms gracefully blend elements of abstraction with Newman’s mastery of representational expression. 

This tactile sensibility is also evident in Newman’s conjunction of paintings and photographs. The central subjects of his paintings are round forms from nature, which Newman and his assistants meticulously recreated from photographs that he took himself or appropriated from NASA’s public archives. Newman then conjoined the objects with photographs using rare-earth magnets. Photographs that took just a click to create and paintings that took years to make join to represent nature’s fleeting beauty, its life through memory and desire, and its timeless eternal renewal.