The DMV’s Arts Tapestry
By F. Lennox Campello
The DMV’s Arts Tapestry
I’ve often used the metaphor of referring to an “art scene” of a particular area as an “arts tapestry” – sort of like a quilt made of patches from different sources and materials. Some patches are bigger than others, with more presence and impact on the quilt. They are all important, and all different, and they all pull equally to make the quilt come together… as a work of art.
The DMV’s tapestry has many key components and some of them are – in no particular order – our commercially independent visual art galleries, such as Adah Rose in Kensington, and Morton Fine Arts in the District; our artists’ co-operatives like Washington Printmakers, Foundry Gallery, Touchstone, Waverly; art spaces like DC Arts Center, BlackRock, Brentwood, Tephra ICA (nee Greater Reston Arts Center) and our local museums – most of which ignore DMV artists with the notable exception of American University’s gorgeous museum at the Katzen Arts Center.
And our DMV arts tapestry is slowly beginning to unfold from its Covidian Age storage, and we all need to start showing our support in whatever way we can.
The buzz in the DMV for the last six weeks or so has been all focused on the Phillips Collection’s 2021 Juried Invitational titled Inside Outside, Upside Down.
This juried invitational, a first for this museum as far as I can recall, “celebrates The Phillips Collection’s 100th anniversary in 2021, building on the legacy of founder Duncan Phillips and his commitment to presenting, acquiring, and promoting the work of artists of the greater DC region.”
Inside Outside, Upside Down – using as jurors the talented quartet of Phil Hutinet, Founding Publisher of East City Art, Abigail McEwen, Associate Professor of Latin American Art, University of Maryland, Elsa Smithgall, Senior Curator, The Phillips Collection, and art superstar Renée Stout, invited artists to submit recent work produced between March 2020 and February 2021 that “speaks to the struggle and resiliency of the human spirit in the face of the global covid-19 pandemic and recent social upheavals.”
A source at the Phillips told me that over 1300 submissions were submitted, and as of the writing of this article artists are still being announced. Great artists such as Tim Tate, Michael Janis, Judith Peck, Kate Kretz, David Mordini, Kirsty Little, Barbara Muth, Cathy Abramson, Leslie Holt, Julia Bloom, Tim Makepeace, and many others whom I have missed have already been invited. I am proud to have been invited as well, and super honored to be exhibiting with so much talent!
There’s also a lot of vivid talk about staging a Salon des Refusés close to the museum exhibition and staging a show of the artists whose work was not invited. Personally, I love that idea! And who knows? Just as the original 1863 Salon des Refusés outshined the Paris Salon, maybe the 2021 DMV version will too.
In any event – having both the Phillips show and a Salon des Refusés running concurrently would clearly create an epic moment in time for the DMV art scene and a special part in that tapestry that I mentioned earlier.
More good news for the DMV art scene: The McLean Project for the Arts is another key part of that tapestry. Each year MPA provides 15 outstanding contemporary arts exhibitions that showcase the work of emerging and well-established artists from both the region and the nation. And now MPA is about to bloom and become a world-class art powerhouse with not just a local/regional art footprint, but also as a national and international art presence.
Here’s what’s going on: In addition to its current exhibition space in McLean, VA, MPA has been gifted a sizeable amount of property by Fairfax County. And a source tells me that MPA “intends to build a large, truly dazzling campus with one huge exhibition hall, one smaller hall, workshop rooms and classrooms, with outdoor space for exhibiting large-scale sculpture and Earth art.” My source has seen the architectural plans for the new campus, and he describes it as “jaw-dropping.”
There’s more! MPA has also recently been bequeathed property in McLean, from the siblings of Zbigniew Brzezinski and his wife Emilie (who is a superbly talented sculptor). I am told that “MPA intends to convert the Brzezinski mansion, Emilie’s fantastic studio, and the grounds into an international residency for sculptors.”
Here comes the summer. Go see some art.