Posts

Wanda Hernandez, Catherine Lopez, Ingrid Ortega and Vanessa Fuentes // Photo: courtesy of Creating Casa

Placing Latinxs On The Marquee: Creating Casa Celebrates Diversity In DC Art

DC has an incredibly vibrant art scene, from the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall, to the small independent galleries and pop up shows, art is seemingly everywhere. Yet despite that, the women of Creating Casa couldn’t help but notice that there was a strong lack of representation of Central American, Latinx art in DC.

They were determined to change that.

Together, the group has organized pop up art shows and art exhibitions featuring up and coming Latinx artists, as well as spoken at numerous panels about being Latinx creatives in the District, ensuring that the Central American Latinx perspective is both seen and heard. Their latest project takes things even further by making it a truly collaborative community effort. The project “Siempre Aqui,” asks for photo submissions of everyday life memories of growing up in the DMV. These photos will then be considered for a two-fold project, including wheatpasting, and an immersive gallery experience.

Read on to learn more about the brilliant women of Creating Casa, and their mission to highlight and celebrate the Latinx diaspora in DC!

On Tap: Who are the faces behind Creating Casa? Do you each have a specific role, if so, what are they?
Catherine Lopez: I am a first generation Salvadoran-American born in Falls Church, VA. My professional background is in public health, but at the center of what I do is the role of community. From translating documents for my parents or family members [at] a young age to working with vulnerable immigrants or teaching children of immigrants, I have seen the need to create space and give voices to those who feel they do not have one. My interest in the arts has a very similar core and I find my role in Creating Casa aligns nicely with this. My role includes that of supporting and coordinating our programs, fundraisers and continuously searching for funding along with supporting the rest of the team in our endeavors. 

Wanda Hernández: Similar to many of my colegas from Creating Casa, I was born in Arlington, VA to Guatemalan immigrants – shoutout to my beloved parents Elda and Julio – and grew up in the neighboring Falls Church. My professional background is in museums and I am currently pursuing a PhD in American Studies at the University of Maryland. I have found that my lived experiences shape all of what I do professionally as an educator, curator, scholar and cultural organizer. Creating Casa allows me to artistically explore questions that formulate about identity and belonging, which often leads me to be the one that researches and connects with artists, galleries and other like-minded organizers. 

Ingrid Ortega: I create our graphics, event flyers and post to our Instagram (@creatingcasa). As a team, we are committed to expand Latinx dialogue through all art mediums by representing and empowering emerging underrepresented artists in the DMV area. That is a passion we all share. We, as a team, work very collaboratively and we’ve never defined roles. We all have our strengths and we utilize all our strengths to make our events a reality!

Vanessa Fuentes: I am a second-generation Salvadoran-American born in Arlington, VA. I am passionate about my involvement in the Latinx community. 

OT: What made you come together to create ‘Creating Casa’?
IO: It came out of frustration, really. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed a lack of Latinx representation, specifically Central American in the DMV area. Since 2018, I’ve seen a positive change. I knew something had to be done about the lack of representation of Latinx people, but I didn’t know what. I always dreamt of curating an art show featuring Central American artists in the DMV area. I had no idea where to even start, but I knew who to call – Wanda Hernandez. Wanda listened to this idea, provided input and ended the conversation saying, “I’m 110 percent in.” A week or two later, I told Catherine Lopez and Vanessa Fuentes about this idea, and without any hesitation – they wanted to be apart of it, too.

For almost a year, we had meetings at NorthSide Social, countless phone calls and a very “poppin” group chat. We came to be because of the passion and love we have for our community. Our first self-titled art show, “Creating Casa,” was so special to us, our guests, the artists, etc. 

OT: I love how passionate you are about highlighting and bringing focus to the Latinx creatives in the DMV! Do you think that DC area Latinx artists are under-represented?
WH: Absolutely. In high school I wanted to be a fashion designer. However, I thought, “What are the odds that I’ll make it as a fashion designer?” So, in college I decided to pursue fashion merchandising, which I saw as much more practical but I ultimately dropped that major because it did not fuel me. I think that growing up in a working-class, immigrant family, as well as a first-generation Latina in college, I was looking to pursue something that was likely to give me a job. I think this strays Latinxs and other people of color away from pursuing a career they are truly passionate about, which leads to the overall underrepresentation of Latinxs in the industry. 

OT: Who are your current fave local Latinx creatives?
CL: Luis Peralta del Valle is at the top of my list. I was introduced to him as we were planning our first show. I think he has paved a way for himself and has created avenues to showcase his work throughout the DMV area.

IO: I believe we’re all fans of Luis Peralta del Valle! C’mon! His art alone is so breathtaking, but if you’re fortunate enough to talk about his art with him – you’ll seriously be blown away. We [Creating Casa] were very fortunate to have him featured in our first show back in March 2019. 

WH: I cannot disagree with Catherine or Ingrid. Luis is amazing. He’s been such a guiding light for me as I entered the DC art world. To mix it up a bit, however, I am really excited about Cielo Félix-Hernández. They’re currently in school in Richmond, VA, however, I hope they make their way back to the DMV after graduation. Also, I have to shoutout two amazing women: DJ Beleza and J’Nae Morrae.

On Tap: How did the concept of your current project, “Siempre Aquí” come about?
WH: The idea behind “Siempre Aqui” came about right after our first show. Upon attending the show a friend of the collective, José Centeno-Melendez, shared photographs of himself when he was young in the 90s. They depicted him visiting the national monuments for the first time and busting a piñata on the sidewalk for a birthday party in Hyattsville, MD. I thought, “Wow! How many of us have pictures just like this?” We wanted to create a huge photo album, if you will, of our experiences in the DMV. And from there, the show began to evolve. 

If you would like to submit to the “Siempre Aqui” project, click here. Creating Casa will be accepting submissions until January 18. For more information on their initiatives and future projects, follow them on Instagram @CreatingCasa.

Madeline Rothman // Photo: In His Eye Photography

District Clay Center Provides Holiday Shoppers With Pottery Bonanza

During the holiday shopping season, do you ever stop and think about who created the items you’re purchasing? Over the weekend, District Clay Center held its holiday pottery sale, where local ceramic artists displayed their handmade wares. Beautiful vases, delicate ornaments, earrings and necklaces, just to name a few, were for sale. With each artist showcasing their own unique style, there was definitely something for everyone on your shopping list. 

I had the chance to meet and chat with one of the artists at the event, Madeline Rothman. She is one (of three) of the Artists In Residence at District Clay Center. The Artist in Residence Program is year long, and gives the artists a stipend, studio space, clay to create and a solo exhibition at the end of her year.

Rothman, a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, says of her experience at District Clay, “The studio is sort of run by the people who use it, which is unique. There is a lot of trust and respect within all of the artists to make sure everything is getting done and running smoothly. This is the kind of environment that clay requires and is also why I love it so much.” 

“The community is so accepting and supportive.”

The space definitely has a warm familial feel to it. The holiday sale was my first time visiting District Clay, but I truly felt right at home. You could definitely sense the feeling of community, as fellow artists mingled and shared laughs as they set up their tables. As I walked around and explored the plentiful goods for sale, I was really happy to see such a diversity in style and goods at an excellent price point.

When I stopped by Rothman’s table, among her gorgeous, larger pieces of colorful pottery for sale, there was a section of equally beautiful espresso cups (or shot glasses… pick your poison) for sale, with proceeds from those directly benefiting District Clay’s nonprofit program Community Clay. 

“I have been teaching as well as trying to raise money to grow our program and hopefully be able to give even more students an opportunity to learn and make art,” she says. “It is extremely rewarding after a class ends [and] how excited the students are to return.”

The District Clay Center partnered with ArtReach GW (George Washington University) to create a free clay class for children in the Southeast part of DC. The classes are held at THEARC: Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus.

“A lot of these students in Ward 7 and Ward 8 neighborhoods don’t have access to many art opportunities, especially with clay.”

Naturally, I took a couple home with me, as well as some other incredible goods from the local artists at District Clay. As I headed home, I was filled with joy at the knowledge of how my holiday purchases would directly benefit my local community. That to me is the pinnacle of the holiday spirit.

For more information about District Clay Center and its future events, visit here. To see a gallery of the event, click here.

District Clay Center: 2414 Douglas St. NE, DC; www.districtclaycenter.com

Paintings by Christine Olmstead on display at Latela Curatorial // Photo: Sloane Dakota Tucker

Five Art Destinations Changing DC’s Creative Scene

Looking for some new or unique places to experience art in the District? Check out our picks for where to enjoy DC’s thriving arts scene, from galleries and pop-ups to programs and workshops.

Latela Curatorial Explores New Spaces

Latela Curatorial is an art consultancy with a focus on women artists and the feminine aesthetic. While they’ve held exhibitions of artists’ work at their Brookland studio and office since 2015, they’re transitioning into installing work in larger spaces and finding ways to bring local creatives and their visions to big projects.

“We’ve been refining where we want our projects to go from here on out, focusing on that feminine, delicate, vulnerable, energy-transcending type of narrative from a female artist perspective,” says founder and director Marta Staudinger.

The Brookland-based space just celebrated a successful showing at Superfine Art Fair, and Staudinger and her team are now thinking of ways to build on that energy.

“We introduced several local female artists [at Superfine],” she continues. “Where my interest for 2020 lies is in proposing that booth [at Superfine] as a teaser for a much bigger exhibition that we could do [where we] work with larger institutions.”

Check out Latela’s website to learn more about its artists, exhibitions, and procurement and installation work, and peek your head into the new Avec apartment building on H Street soon for a glimpse of Latela artists’ work.

“We’re super excited to do procurement on that scale,” Staudinger adds of the residential art project. “Nothing is mass-produced. It’s all original art.”

Latela Curatorial is providing spaces all over DC with artwork that’s more than just beautiful – it resonates.

716 Monroe St. #27, NE, DC; www.latelacuratorial.com

The Omi Collective’s Hydrated Womxn Pop-Up

The DC Arts Walk and Edgewood Arts Center is hosting “Hydrated Womxn,” an interactive media exhibition, healing arts residency and holiday bazaar curated by the Omi Collective on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through December 22. The central idea is to create a space at the Brookland location where people can relax and recharge while surrounded by creativity.

“We’re challenging people to think about what nourishes them,” says Omi Collective Curator and Creative Director Sanam Emami. “Someone can come in during art lounge hours and step into our joy.”

Resident artists are multidisciplinary, communicating through art, poetry, music and more. Each weekend will explore a different theme with events, performances and workshops meant to leave attendees feeling inspired, centered and creatively hydrated – alongside thoughtfully curated offerings for sale from local artists.

“It’s about the process, not the product,” Emami says.

EWBA Store, Brookland Arts Walk: 716 Monroe St. Studio 1, NE, DC; www.theomicollective.com

Hemphill Fine Arts Moves to K Street

Hemphill has been an integral part of the art community in DC since opening in 1993, and has built a reputation for working with collectors and art aficionados of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. The gallery represents a variety of contemporary artists working in sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media, with recent exhibitions from Julie Wolfe, Hedieh Javanshir, Rushern Baker IV and James Britton.

Now, the gallery is preparing for a big move in January. Director Mary Early says the move “is a dramatic change from our space of the last 15 years on 14th Street in Logan Circle, where we were located on the third floor of a historic building.”

“That location required a little extra from visitors,” she says. “The effort to seek out and find us, the desire to pursue.”

But the new space in Mount Vernon Square brings unique opportunities for visitors to become familiar with Hemphill artists.

“The move to K Street comes full circle to our beginnings in Georgetown in 1993, bringing us back to a first-floor space in a rapidly evolving neighborhood.”

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition will be Linling Lu’s third solo show with the gallery. Hemphill will soon be bringing visitors old and new to its home on K Street.

“We’re looking forward to getting to know our new downtown neighborhood,” Early adds.

434 K St. NW, DC; www.hemphillfinearts.com

Femme Fatale’s New Pop-Up

Femme Fatale is fast becoming a DC fixture as a pop-up showcasing women artists and entrepreneurs. Visitors can expect to find a trove of jewelry, art, prints, clothing and more. CEO Cee Smith says that Femme Fatale is starting to settle into its role in DC’s creative scene.

“We’re definitely still in startup mode, but we’ve had a chance to assess the value that Femme Fatale brings to different communities,” she says.

Femme Fatale has become well-known for its events – from craft workshops to networking parties – and for its bright and welcoming aesthetic.

“We’ve always been this hub for women not only to gather, but to learn from each other,” says Femme Fatale’s owner and jewelry designer Adriana Mendoza.

Now, Femme Fatale is taking on a more “structured type of template to create a real incubator space for women,” she says.

You’d never know that just a few weeks ago, the new pop-up was a gutted restaurant. Art is everywhere: murals, paintings behind the counter, and jewelry, accessories and textile designs for sale in the shop.

Artists are “the secret sauce of the experience of Femme Fatale,” Smith says. Her team prioritizes supporting a wide range of local creatives and especially “those who might just be starting out or who haven’t really had their voice heard,” Mendoza adds. In other words, Femme Fatale provides a great opportunity to find a unique local piece you might not see anywhere else.

401 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.femmefataledc.com

The Torpedo Factory Celebrates 45 Years

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is an icon of Old Town Alexandria. This year, it celebrated 45 years as an art institution with studios, galleries, classes taught by the Art League School, events and more.

“One of the biggest changes since the Torpedo Factory was founded is how much Old Town and the waterfront has changed,” says director Brett Johnson. “It’s become a vibrant and exciting destination, and it’s been great that the art center was a part of that change.”

Looking ahead, the art center is finding more ways to engage with the community and bring more visitors within its walls.

“City council has tasked staff to create a vibrancy and sustainability plan for the art center,” Johnson adds. “We are seeking to create an even more interactive space than what we already provide with new, hands-on experiences.”

That means everything from well-loved programs like Art Safari to newer ones like Factory Flow morning yoga, as well as seasonal events like the Holiday Market and Olde Year’s Day. On December 13, the art center will look back on the first five years of its post-grad residency program, which supports recent art grads with studio space and presentation opportunities.

105 N Union St. Alexandria, VA; www.torpedofactory.org

L to R - Beth Hansen, Kathrine Campagna and Tiffany Evans // Photos: Trent Johnson

Pop-Up Queens: Hen House DC Bring Art To The People

“Wow, there’s definitely a need for what’s happening here. People want to support women in the arts.” I’m sitting with the three powerhouse talents behind Hen House DC amid the retro lime green-teal-pink walls of their most recent pop-up exhibit “Tiny Show 2” as they open up about the realization that they are filling a void in our city’s arts scene. Friends, collaborators and co-founders of Hen House, Kathrine Campagna, Beth Hansen and Tiffany Evans have been overwhelmed by support from the DC community since launching their all-female arts collective this summer. Not only have they created a welcoming creative outlet for local artists, they’ve also made art accessible, engaging and perhaps most importantly, fun.

Gone are the days of blank, sterile walls at exclusive galleries. We’re entering a new era for DC arts, one where event spaces like No Kings Collective’s Good Fast Cheap DC in Brentwood can be reconfigured as the colorful dream designs of three badass ladies and filled to the brim with 5-inch-by-5-inch works from 145 artists. I picked the collective brain of this triumvirate focused on creating forward momentum for female-driven, community-focused arts and creative experiences that are meant to connect and not alienate. Read on to learn more about what Hen House is up to, how you can be considered as an artist in their next show and why I now have girl crushes on all three of them.

On Tap: How did you three meet and connect?
Kathrine: Beth and I went to Corcoran College of Art and Design together, so I’ve known Beth since I was 18.
Beth: We’ve known each other for a very long time.
Kathrine: Yeah, gross [all laugh]. I met Tiffany through my friend and just working with No Kings.
Tiffany: We really bonded at [Art] Basel a couple of years ago. That’s when we really started talking and hanging out.
Kathrine: Both of our friendships have all been really art-centered, which has been pretty awesome.

OT: What was the impetus to start Hen House?
Beth: A couple years back, a couple of us that all had gone to school together basically made an agreement to start proposing shows. Kate hit upon this really cool show idea, “Responsive Light,” and there ended up being four rounds of it.
Kathrine: You could make whatever you wanted. It just had to involve light.
Tiffany: I think it was actually kismet because at the last “Responsive Light” show, I approached Kate and she was like, “Oh, Beth actually just offered the same thing. She wants to help as well.” And I’m like, “Let’s all do this together.” And then she had this idea for Hen House. She was like, “I want to do something with all women. This is perfect.”
Kathrine: I had been sitting on this idea for a while. I really wanted to do it. I wanted to pull people in from all backgrounds of art. I really wanted to make sure it stays diverse, but definitely women-focused.
Beth: We found out really quickly that we all bring our strengths to the table, but we all know enough about what the other ones do that we can come in and help. We can lean on each other’s strengths, but we can also bolster them as well. It feels like everyone is definitely collaborating equally.
Kathrine: Yeah, everyone’s being heard. Communication is definitely our biggest strength.

OT: I read that there was a big draw for local female artists through the “Responsive Light” shows. Why do you think that was?
Kathrine: A lot of women reached out to me who had a lot of talent and had never even shown before. They just didn’t know how to even go about it. They were underrepresented. They didn’t know what tools they had. That definitely put fuel to the fire to get something done.
Beth: I think it helps [that] we’re doing open calls on Instagram. “Hey, we’re looking for you. Send us your stuff. You don’t even have to consider yourself a full-time artist. But if you’re working on this, let’s see what you have.” [We] try as much as possible to fit people’s strengths into each show. We now have this huge collection of artists that have reached out to us, and it’s really incredible to get to meet all of them at these different shows and put those faces to the photographs we’ve seen of their work.
Tiffany: You’d be surprised how many of them – there’s 145 artists in the show – had never shown their work before. And they were like, “How could I? I didn’t know that was really a thing.” It’s been really, really special to see them come and bring their families and they’re like, “This is my first art show and I’ve actually sold a lot of pieces.”

OT: How do you think DC’s art and overall creative scene has changed since launching your professional careers?
Kathrine: Something that I definitely learned just from working with No Kings the last few years is you don’t need a gallery to sell your work. I think the art scene is becoming a little bit more accessible for everybody. It’s all DIY. It’s going to be hard, but that’s the direction I think people are starting to go. It’s not just for the rich anymore. Art should be for everybody. It should be accessible.

OT: How important is it to you to expand your reach beyond just artists to incorporating other women into your shows?
Beth: If we’re trying to highlight female-owned businesses, we try to bring in other women and trans and non-binary creatives in there as well. We try to include as many people as possible.

OT: Is there anyone on your wish list across local food, drink, music, etc. for future collaborations?
Kathrine: One of our good friends from Corcoran is Laura Harris. She’s the drummer for Ex Hex, and it’d be awesome if they could play one of our shows. I think that’d be super fun.

OT: Tell me about “Tiny Show.” How did you guys decide to go little and how much time and energy does it take to work with so many artists and to collect so many tiny pieces of art?
Kathrine: We went to check out the space at Brookland Exchange [where the first “Tiny Show” was hosted] and it was their artist lounge. It’s a hallway.
Beth: Like a cheese wedge.
Kathrine: It’s an odd shape – it’s a cool space – we’re just looking at it like, “I don’t know what to do with this tiny, weird space. Maybe it’s too small for a show. Maybe we should just do a workshop.” And then I was just like, “No. More artists, smaller work.” It’s “Tiny Show” because everything’s tiny because this space is so small [laughs].
Beth: We wanted to be able to get as much work in there as possible, and the only way to do it was like, “We’ve just got to scale this way, way down. No big stuff. Five inches by five inches on the outside dimensions.”
Kathrine: Beth came up with this genius gridding system, so basically no matter how small or big anything is, it will pretty much fit in its space.

OT: What’s next for Hen House?
Tiffany: We’ve definitely talked about a music element. We want to encompass all of the arts in some sort of event where we all incorporate our work on the walls, but we have different performances. I think eventually we want to do something like a Hen House summer camp or days’ long event where it’s really interactive and we can have people coming and making and buying art.

OT: What about wish list spaces?
Kathrine: We can adjust to anything. We’re very adaptable. It’s time that I think is really our main focus for a new space. Can we be there for more than a day? We don’t want to deinstall the next day. We want to give the community and anybody else interested time to see it and keep it as diverse as possible with all the things we’re doing. We always really try to shoot and have a fundraiser attached to it.

OT: Are there any local initiatives or charities you feel passionately about?
Tiffany: We love DASH [local nonprofit District Alliance for Safe Housing]. Beth volunteers for DASH.
Beth:
I do the art group with the kids who live there once a week.
Kathrine:
We’ve donated to them a couple of times.
Tiffany:
We want to work with all the charities, actually. We hope to change it up every time so we can spread the love a little bit.

OT: Do you ever want a permanent space, or do you think you want to remain ever-evolving and modular?
Kathrine: I think probably down the road it would be nice to have a place to call our own and make it what we want to.
Tiffany: Or even a monthlong space would be pretty cool, because we could also change it.
Kathrine: But even if we had a brick-and-mortar, I think we’d still be doing pop-ups. I think that’s how we got our start.
Beth: We want to bring the art to the people.

OT: I noticed high schoolers’ artwork as part of “Tiny Show 2.” How did they react to seeing their art up for sale?
Tiffany: I got to meet a few of the students, and they were literally almost moved to tears when they found out that someone had bought their artwork. Restauranteur Erik Bruner-Yang came in and bought up a bunch of artwork, including some of the students’ work, and was saying it’s going to be included in his new restaurant ABC Pony. And they were literally just over the moon. They could not contain their excitement. I think we’d definitely like to incorporate that in the future.

OT: I feel like at every show you’ve had, there have been families with kids and that’s really cool because that’s another part of the art world that’s not always accessible – not only the price point but whether or not people can bring their kids.
Kathrine: I think it’s nice that families come in because it is a little stuffy in a gallery setting because you know, I guess families aren’t posh and sexy [all laugh]. I like all those weird kids [laughs]. My best friend has two kids. They’ve all sneezed in my mouth. They’re great, man [all laugh]. If I had the opportunity as a kid to grow up in an environment like this where I was exposed to these things, how much cooler would we be?

OT: It’s also a way to include people that live in the neighborhood and surrounding community. It makes it more accessible in that way, which is important too.
Kathrine: We want to keep it as down to earth as possible.

Learn about what Hen House DC has coming up next at www.henhousedc.com or on Instagram @henhousedc.

If you’re an artistic human interested in being considered for one of their upcoming shows, send them a message on Instagram with three submissions of your work and you’ll be included in their pool of submissions for the next one.

Photos: Trent Johnson

A Day In The Life With Tenbeete Solomon AKA Trap Bob

Tenbeete Solomon looks like she’s at home. When I knock on the door, she appears through a window, emerging from the background like someone strolling through their living room. She’s covered in flecks of paint and holds a brush in her hand. However, I’m not at her house or her studio. Instead, we’re at Big Chief, the New Orleans-themed bar in Ivy City.

No, Solomon isn’t squatting. Instead, the graphic artist better known as Trap Bob is working on a mini-mural promoting her contest-winning Pabst Blue Ribbon design. If you drink the American lager, there’s a chance you’ve seen it. But if not, it’s a dark skyline complete with shining stars adorned by a flying saucer (FROM OUTER SPACE) abducting a classic can of PBR. Also, there’s a hand on there (Trap Bob loves hands). She loves them so much, I once called her the Tarantino of hands.

“They’re the perfect things,” Solomon told me next to her “Stairway to Your Dreams” structure at Refinery29’s “29 Rooms.” “They’re very relatable and something I like to do.”

Known for hands (duh), space and bold colors, Trap Bob has completed projects for national companies like Apple and Viacom; people such as Elizabeth Warren and Missy Elliot; and local entities like the DC Mayor’s Office and Washington City Paper. Her art is infectious and fun, bright and loud. It incorporates the wonders of space, but captures the absurdities of the norm. To learn more about the fast-rising artist, we caught up with her to chat about her moniker, a career epiphany and how she balances her growing body of work.

On Tap: So, Trap Bob. Is there a backstory?
Trap Bob: Yeah, there is. I used to have a Bob The Builder backpack and people used to think it was hard to say my name. I always hated the nickname thing, and then I had that backpack and a friend saw me in the hallway one day and she screamed “Bob!” And, everybody was just like, “Oh, this is okay now.” For Trap, I’m literally Gucci Mane’s No. 1 fan. He dropped Trap God when I was getting into art in 2014, and I put them together.

OT: What is the first art-related thing you remember, whether it’s something you made or something you saw where you thought, “Holy shit, that’s cool. I’m doing this?”
TB: I did a self-portrait in first grade and I painted myself as a princess, but the only princesses I had seen had been blue-eyed blondes. So I’m going into it and I was like, “You know, how am I supposed to do this?” So I ended up painting myself with blonde hair and blue eyes and a crown, and it was so crazy because I was like , “That’s me as a princess.” And then [the painting] ended up going on tour in a school art show, and I didn’t get it back until like fifth grade and I forgot about it. Now I have it in my home. I see a message behind it and where my head was then.

OT: You still have it?
TB: Yeah, it’s funny. It’s kind of similar to my style now: really big outlines and primary colors. When I look at it, I see my mind was already in that space of an artist. There was a message in the work when I wasn’t thinking about it.

OT: Did your parents ever see that?
TB: I don’t think that they thought much of it back then, because I think they just thought I was being a little girl. But, my dad is an artist and he always loved that piece because he saw the message in it. He’s the one who makes me aware of when I act like an artist, or create as an artist. He helps me see my work.

OT: What other inspiration did you have growing up? What kind of things were you doodling? Hands?
TB: Not hands, actually! I just doodled random stuff. I don’t even think I had one thing that I liked to draw. It was just a way for me to pay attention. If I was listening, I could draw and keep up that way. I really was into cartoons. I fell in love with anime. Sailor Moon is my everything.


Top five things I can’t live without
Faith
Art
Coffee
Family
My cats


OT: When did you realize you could create art professionally?
TB: I never actually thought of myself as an artist or thought about having a career until my senior year of college. I was studying marketing at the University of Maryland. I figured I’d study business because then I could make money off of whatever I wanted to do, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

OT: What was the big reveal like?
TB: I was relieved, I think. When I figured it out, it was like I solved some lifelong puzzle and everything felt right. Even though it was scary to think of how I was, I was like, “How the f–k am I going to turn this into a career when I just realized that I want to do it?” But it was comforting for me to know. At least I’m committing to something I actually care about. It got to the point where I was like, “Would I sleep in my car to be an artist?” And the answer was “Yeah, I’ll do whatever I have to do.”

OT: How did you kickstart your art career?
TB: I did a lot of personal pieces. I was doing a ton of oil paintings, which is a very deep and long process. So I spent a year just practicing. I taught myself [Adobe] Illustrator after I graduated and started getting into digital pieces, because I realized at the very least, I could do freelance work.

OT: You’ve done graphic design for cans and staircases, and you’re literally painting a door right now. How much of your time would you say is spent self-educating, trying new mediums and pushing yourself to explore different canvases?
TB: I would say out of all my time, the time I actually get to create or learn probably makes up half. [The rest is] managing and emailing, and all the behind-the-scenes stuff. I think a lot of the projects I work on end up having things that I haven’t tried before. I try to at least fit in something new with all my work. I really try to stay away from being repetitive. I think I’m always learning as I create. I don’t think I can ever be done with it.


Top five things I need at work
Coffee
A personalized workspace
Sketchbook
Oil diffuser
Comfy socks


OT: You’ve worked for Refinery29’s “29 Rooms,” Girls Who Code, PBR and Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. You’re busy as hell. How do you go about separating freelance work that people hire you to do and your own creative endeavors?
TB: That is another thing I’ve always tried working toward balancing, because I have a hard time saying no to things. I like doing different things and I do very well with direction. I think my social media illustrations are mostly for me. They’re like trending topics of things that are important to me.

OT: Your work always has a connection to social issues. How do you approach serious topics?
TB: I don’t like to go negative, really. I like to have a positive way to talk about negative things. Some of the illustrations I do have, like the different girls I make, I’ll just put an emotion behind them [that’s] more up to interpretation. But [there’s] usually a message in there somewhere.

OT: What’s next for Trap Bob?
TB: I’m doing a lemonade stand for PBR. It’s like a lemonade stand in space. I’m really excited about that. Next year, me and [local arts collective] GIRLAAA are focusing on a pop-up exhibit installation. [But I’m] not sure where, and I don’t want to be specific.

Follow Trap Bob on Twitter @trapxbob and on Instagram @TRAPBOB. To see some of her projects and learn more about the artist, visit www.trapbob.com.

Photo: courtesy of The Arctic Refuge Experience

A Story of Beauty and Hope: The Arctic Refuge Experience Comes to DC

Adventurers, explorers and friends of the outdoors, pull out your maps and point to where the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is. If you are not sure where to find it, your GPS should steer you toward Northeastern Alaska.

However, hold off from strapping your hiking boots, because for a limited time you won’t have to leave DC for a chance to experience the refuge. From November 8-11, The Arctic Refuge Experience. Step in. Step Up. is taking over the AutoShop near Union Market to provide a 4-D sensory art installation, with a look and feel that mirrors a walk through the Alaskan wildlife safe-haven. The exhibit is presented by The Wilderness Society and the Gwich’in Steering Committee, in conjunction with the Arctic Refuge Defense Coalition. 

This opportunity is something you do not want to miss out on because the ANWR, naturally, is difficult to visit. Every year only 5,000 people manage to make the trek, making this exhibit a can’t miss opportunity for both art lovers, people invested in environmental issues and even people who work on projects directly related to the refuge. 

“It is incredibly difficult to visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” says Edit Ruano, the director of regional communications strategy for The Wilderness Society. “So difficult that I, who, have worked on protecting the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, actually have never been.”

Upon entry, explorers will reach a threshold where the ground beneath you will suddenly change from the DC streets to the arctic tundra. Thanks to dozens of filmmakers and visitor testimony, you will see the region teeming with life through video and artistic recreations. Ruano and other team members wanted make the experience feel authentic, including the Gwich’in community.

“The Gwich’in are an indigenous community who rely on the Arctic Refuge for their way of life,” she says. “We had the head of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Bernadette Demientieff, in New York, [where] we got to share the video of the experience with her and the council members, and they told us that it felt like being home. We teleported them home [from] New York. For us, that was the biggest compliment we could have received.” 

This 4D experience allows you to feel the arctic wind brush against you and even provides smells of the land. One of Ruano’s favorite experiences was when the wildlife surrounded her. Its artistic qualities not withstanding, the Arctic Refuge Experience also has a deeper purpose as this exhibit demonstrates how this beautiful land is in danger because of oil and gas drilling. 

While the Arctic Refuge Experience is designed to warn and inspire everyone, Ruano and her team spent a year designing it because of the urgency regarding the situation.

“Oil and gas companies and the administration have been trying to fast-track, and expedite sales of the Arctic Refuge ever since the 2017 Tax Act, which included a hidden provision opening up the refuge to oil and gas drilling,” she says. “Since then, they have been expediting the scientific review process, and not doing the due diligence and listening to the voices of people who know about the refuge.”

The experience is a story that shows the beautiful land, the villains, but also the heroes working to save it. This is a tale full of hope and serves as evidence of people working collectively to take action. By attending, you can help take action too, as there are physical phones on location that will empower you to call key individuals and leave voicemails wherein you can express your opinions. During the exhibit’s stop in New York, they managed to get 1100 voicemails declaring that the ANWR is too precious to drill.

Visitors will also become “shareholders” in the No Waaay Corp., the first-ever collective action corporation created with the intention of stopping “ big oil” from harming public lands.

Hopefully, The Arctic Refuge Experience will bring out your inner activist. With climate change constantly in the news, this exhibit hopes to truly connect and engage. This immersive experience is on the first leg of its tour, and Ruano wants to expand and reach other areas so the young people can make their voices heard. “We’re hoping that this that activism happens across the US: In red, blue and purple states alike.”

Though you do not need to be politically active to enjoy this one of a kind experience, the exhibit serves as an opportunity to see the beauty of a difficult place to physically explore, with grander designs to inspire you to protect it. All net proceeds will go to the Gwich’in Steering Committee and Gwich’in Youth Council. 

For more information about the exhibit, visit here.

AutoShop: 416 Morse St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com/retailer/autoshop

Anchuli Felicia King // Photo: Benita de Wit

Anchuli Felicia King’s White Pearl Explores Intra-Asian Racism

2019 has been a big year for playwright Anchuli Felicia King. The 25-year-old Thai-Australian will make her professional playwrighting debut not once, not twice, but three times this year with White Pearl. The corporate satire about the beauty industry is premiering in England and Australia before making its American debut at Studio Theatre this November.

To launch a professional career nearly simultaneously on three continents would be unusual for most playwrights, but for King, who grew up between Thailand, the Philippines and Australia and now divides her time between New York, London and Sydney, globalism is the name of the game.

“I’m basically a global citizen,” King told me last week.

We chatted by Skype as King rode a train to the Sydney Theatre Company, where the Australian production of her new play was in rehearsals.

White Pearl, which launched King’s international career, is set in the cultural melting pot of Singapore and features six characters of different Asian backgrounds who work for the fictional beauty startup Clearday. When someone leaks an ad for their skin-whitening cream, the Internet pounces, pronouncing the ad racist and prompting finger pointing among the six very different – but all Asian – women who lead the company. Someone’s getting fired, but who?

King started writing the play in 2016 while she was pursuing an MFA in dramaturgy at Columbia University.

“Ads started coming up on my newsfeed for skin-whitening products that were deemed to be racially insensitive,” she said. “Products like this were ubiquitous when I was growing up in Thailand and the Philippines, so it was fascinating to me that suddenly they were being held accountable to a global discourse around race.”

King asked her friends in Columbia’s Women of Color Collective about their experiences with whitening cream and discovered that the topic hit a nerve with women from all different backgrounds.

“It doesn’t matter what country you come from. You are being sold an idea of what beauty looks like that is so entrenched in your cultural ideology.”

In crafting a dark comedy about the beauty industry, King found the perfect backdrop in corporations – particularly millennial startup culture and the disconnect between the glossy, utopian ideals and the reality of the practices and what they are selling.

“There is this disjunct between surface and substance,” she said of startup companies. “Cosmetics companies specifically prey on and monetize women’s shame and insecurity.”

White Pearl brings the issue to life through six characters: all of them Asian women, but each from very distinct backgrounds and cultures. The Clearday CEO is a British Indian woman, while the other characters have roots in Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand and Singapore.

“My goal with that was to poke holes at the idea that Asia is a monoculture and to explore the specificity of different places in Asia,” King said. “But the play also explores the ongoing cultural traumas and legacies that lead to tension between different Asian cultures and the racism that still happens in Asia.”

In choosing a director for this production, Studio tapped Desdemona Chiang. Born in Taiwan and raised in L.A., Chiang known for taking on projects that illuminate marginalized populations and challenge perceptions of the status quo.

“When I first read the script, it hit me really hard – especially when it discussed the racism of East Asian people,” Chiang told me in a recent conversation. “That hit a very raw spot for me because it was something I recognize sometimes within myself and sometimes in where I come from. I found that really discomforting so I said, ‘Great, that means I have to do this play.’”

I asked Chiang how she thought White Pearl would be perceived by American audiences – Asian and non-Asian – who are geographically and often psychologically further away from Singapore than a London or Sydney audience.

“What’s interesting about this story is that it deals with the same issues we have in America but through a different lens,” she explained. “We talk about racism, classism, beauty standards and implicit bias here, but usually through a black/white lens. To tackle the same issues through a different perspective is interesting.”

King agrees: “It’s fascinating to see how this play resonates differently with different audiences and specifically, different Asian communities in different countries.”

King hopes that the exploration of intra-Asian racism will be eye-opening for non-Asian audiences in America.

“There are also things in the play that are so true of the time we are living in and so universal that will resonate with any audience. At its heart, it’s an old-school black comedy and a satire so I hope the audience laughs a lot and through that, interrogates why they are laughing.”

White Pearl runs from November 6 to December 8 at Studio Theatre’s Milton Theatre. Tickets start at $20. Learn more at www.studiotheatre.org.

Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; 202-332-3300; www.studiotheatre.org

Guests interact with the 29Rooms: Expand Your Reality immersive art festival on Opening Night in Washington DC on October 18, 2019. // Photo: Getty Images for IMG/Refinery29

29Rooms Opens Doors To New Experience in DC

“The sacrifices we make for art.” 

This is what I muttered to myself at 6:30 a.m. on Friday, October 21. I was slated to venture from my Alexandria duplex to DC’s Armory on a cultural adventure to Refinery29’s “29Rooms: Expand Your Reality” exhibit, currently enjoying its first national tour, concurrently making its DC debut. 

The women’s publication first unveiled the concept in 2015, giving attendees of New York Fashion Week an opportunity to walk through 29 distinct artistic experiences, ranging from vibrant and fuzzy to interactive and talkative. Fast forward four years, and the exhibition is on the road visiting cities like Atlanta, Dallas and DC, along with bigger U.S. cultural hubs like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. 

“When I heard we were coming to DC it was an exciting surprise,” says DC native Olivia Fagon, Refinery29’s creative director. “Most of our team is from New York, so there was a little bit of mystery as to what it would mean to bring it here. I think for me, I was super excited to tap local artists who are from DC.”

The DC Armory stop runs through October 27, giving residents of the nation’s capital a chance to walk into, and throughout, rooms created by artists such as Kali Uchis, Yvette Mayorga, Dan Lam and NNEKKAA, and others. As part of this year’s rendition, 29Rooms has added what they’re calling “The Art Park,” an initiative intended to highlight local artists from the cities on the tour, including a stairway toward your dreams created by local illustrator Trap Bob, aka Tenbeete Solomon

Artist Tenbeete Solomon poses at the 29Rooms: Expand Your Reality immersive art festival Photo: Getty Images for IMG/Refinery29

“I’ve always wanted to work with 29Rooms,” Solomon says. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for forever. My mind went to something expansive. I loved being able to explore with different mediums, because I don’t have the capacity to do these major rollouts, but it’s great to partner with people who have the same ideas and same values.” 

The team behind Refinery29 initially wanted a flat graphic, but she wanted something more engaging. When they suggested a staircase, Solomon approached the canvas thinking about its physicality from all sides, and though she wanted it to feel different than her illustrative works, it would still feel distinctly Trap Bob.

“It’s a weird thing to put a design on,” Solomon says. “I want to make sure each part is like its own piece, but still work together. I do hands a lot, it’s very relatable and something I love to do. They’re the perfect things. It’s my way to reach out to everybody and bringing that idea with the ‘follow your dreams’ theme, which is very, very close to me and my experience. It worked with the idea of climbing the stairs. Just the idea of elevating yourself and literally taking steps to get to where you want to get to. If I didn’t take those steps early in my career, there’s no way I’d be here talking about it.” 

For more local flair, Refinery29 tapped Howard University master of fine arts graduate Jamea Richmond-Edwards to construct a DC-centric full-scale billboard to welcome guests into the gallery. The murals are exclusive to the respective city’s art scene, to highlight the local community. 

Artist Jamea Richmond-Edwards poses at the 29Rooms: Expand Your Reality immersive art festival. // Photo: Getty Images for IMG/Refinery29

Upon walking past the “Traveling Billboard” and into the main area, you’ll notice the lighting in the Armory is dark, giving each room and piece a spotlight effect. This is apt, as all hold a unique point of view worthy of said spotlight. And no matter which you stumble into, they all are connected by the theme of a woman’s experience in several facets of society and empowerment, echoing that of the publication’s mission.

“It was amazing to bring this brand that is not only pro-female, but very intersectional,” Fagan says. “We’re looking at women from all kinds of points of view. There’s a lot of political undertones in the event as well and those aren’t necessarily supposed to resonate specifically to DC, but I think whatever city we take it to, it makes a strong statement.”

Giving a tour, Fagan identifies a few rooms as fan favorites including “Dream Doorways,” a display with several (you guessed it) doors leading to stunning visuals that could make you question whether you’re on psychedelics; “A Conversation With Your Inner Child,” an interactive room which allows you to tap into the dreams and desires of a younger you; and “29 Questions,” a collection of tables and chairs meant to evoke discussions among strangers congregating throughout the exhibit.  

The different perspectives from a diverse set of artists is meant to represent and reflect those same qualities in the audience of the attendees. For Fagan, the doors are open for everyone, and she hopes people are as excited to explore the rooms to find their own favorites. 

“We always welcome that,” Fagan says. “I think Refinery has perceptions around it: people know us as a women’s publication, people know us for having certain types of values. I think as much as we can attract people in, and then surprise them with something they may not have thought of in a certain way, it’s always a gift if we can. If we’re creating a space where our values are just resonating with that audience already, that’s great too.” 

Gallery times are 1:30-10:30 p.m. on Tuesday-Thursday and 10:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. on Friday-Sunday. Tickets start at $29 and guarantee access for one 2.5 hour session. For more information about 29Rooms, visit here.

DC Armory: 2001 E Capitol St. SE, DC; www.29rooms.com

Photo: Getty Images for IMG/Refinery29

"Lucid Motion" by Rhizomatiks // Photo: courtesy of ARTECHOUSE

ARTECHOUSE Provides View of Art’s Future

Walking into the Lucid Motion exhibit at ARTECHOUSE, I felt like I had stepped into a video game. The main room featured three floor-length screens that projected a video of images showing movement and lights that reflected onto the black floor. The multi-colored bars bounced on the walls in time with each piano note, a futuristic figure danced, drawing out her movement as shapes and fragments of light followed her.

As the name suggests, ARTECHOUSE is a house of art and tech. The space provides a platform for groundbreaking and experimental artists to get their work in front of an audience. Co-founder Sandro Kereselidze says the exhibits are very much a “collaboration” between the space and the artists. Having three locations in the United States, “Lucid Motion” by Daito Manabe x Rhizomatiks Research is the latest exhibit here in DC.      

Manabe is a Japanese designer, programmer and DJ. Launching his company, Rhizomatiks Research in 2006, Manabe now serves as co-director. Similar to the mission statement of ARTECHOUSE, Rhizomatiks attempts to push the boundaries art through his use of technology. This is Manabe’s first solo exhibition in the U.S.

In addition to the main room and its looping video projection, the exhibit featured two others offering authentic interactive experiences. To my right, a thick black curtain exposed a space that featured a large screen showing what appeared to be groupings of glowing, colorful shapes and black lines. As I moved, the configuration moved with me, creating a vaguely human figure on the screen. Despite mirroring my movements, the shapes and lines were still tied to the beat of the music from the main room. 

To my left offered four more screens for audience interaction. All were similar experiences of lines and shapes, blurring into multi-chromatic colored figures, 3-D depth cameras capturing movement and depicting an alternate world. 

Manabe also made use of Augmented reality, or AR, taking computer-generated images and bringing them into the real world. While games like Pokemon Go has made use of this technology used, I had never considered that it could be used to create art.     

My favorite part of the exhibit came when I was handed an iPad in a room with objects sitting atop black tables. A dancer brought to life by AR twirled around the keys of a soundboard, stepping on the keys and creating sound.

Some of the objects were 3D printed specially for the dancer’s movement. Black posters hung on the wall – and when exposed to the iPad, the silhouette of the dancer appeared. She was connected to white lines like a marionette doll, fading in and out, while the lines continued to move. 

The exhibit isn’t the only part of ARTECHOUSE to explore augmented reality. Its bar is the first in the United States to feature this technology. Drinks and cocktails at the bar are served with an image on a coaster or sometimes on the food. With the ARTECHOUSE app, the audience can then scan that image and interact with it. In addition to using AR, the bar also themes its drinks based on the current exhibit. For Manabe’s work, Japanese ingredients were used and a human figure inspired by the silhouette was chosen for the glass.

Manabe’s work was unlike any art exhibit I had experienced before. It shows the future of what dance and art can be in a space like this. The blend of technology and creativity produces an experience that is both entertaining and interactive for audiences of all ages.

“Lucid Motion” runs through December 1. Tickets range from $8-$20. For more information on the gallery or the exhibit, visit here.

ARTECHOUSE: 1238 Maryland Ave SW, DC; www.dc.artechouse.com

Welcome Pavilion from South with Sedum Swoop // Photo: Richard Barnes

The Art + Architecture of The REACH

The Kennedy Center’s original building may be a box-like structure in its physical form, but it has truly grown into a space that cannot be boxed in. A monument, performing arts space, educational center and must-see stop on a list of tourist travel plans: these are all roles the space has held since opening in 1971. 

Naturally, as the Center’s roles have shifted, so have the needs of the community it serves. That’s where The REACH comes in. An expansion of the Center, its sprawling, subterranean layout and public art installations are just as integral to the vision of this new endeavor as the programming that will take place in it. 

The care and attention to detail invoked by those involved in designing the building and placing the art within provides another layer to the deep commitment of the Center – not only to the legacy of its namesake who cherished the arts so dearly, but for the community it will serve in the years to come. 

THE ARCHITECTURE

Chris McVoy, senior partner at Steven Holl Architects, says the selection of their firm to design The REACH was a once-in-a-lifetime commission – the kind of project that makes up an architect’s dream. 

With its serene, subterranean layout, exterior slopes made up of glistening white titanium concrete and lush greenery surrounding the grounds, McVoy says The REACH represents more than a stunning arts campus or extension of the institution the Center established with its original building.

“We had a chance to transform a 1970s notion of what a national performing arts center [is] into a 21st century vision,” he says. “It’s an expansion of an existing building that hasn’t really been touched since 1971.”

McVoy notes how the performing arts and the spaces that house them have changed since the Center opened, both in the District and nationally.

“This was a chance to take that 1971 model and completely transform it and open it up. In the original building, [the arts] are really now held within a box – a very large box. This was a chance to break that open, turn it inside out and open it up to the city.”

Although the building is made of the aforementioned white titanium concrete, another material is an essential part of the building: natural light. McVoy says that Holl will always say natural light is his favorite material when asked what he prefers to work with.

That affinity followed Holl, McVoy and their team to The REACH in an especially effective way. The sweeping windows, skylights and frosted glass blur the lines between the natural and the manmade. When walking through The REACH, it’s easy to forget you’re in an urban space as you’re enveloped by sunshine and greenery throughout.

“[Natural light] is essential to your psychological sense of well-being,” McVoy continues. “You feel good when you have a connection to the outdoors. You know what the weather is like outside, you know what time of day it is, you know what season it is. When you put that in a rehearsal space or performance space, it gives the artists or the audience a critical connection to the outdoors. It’s inspiring. Often when you’re rehearsing, you’re there eight hours a day. To have this feeling of relief in the light gives a whole inspiration to the process of making art.”

McVoy and senior associate Garrick Ambrose felt inspired during the process of constructing The REACH, pioneering an internal design element with their team just for the space. Called crinkle concrete, it adorns the walls of the Justice Forum and other rehearsal spaces. And although the Justice Forum is the only room in the space without windows, the fluidity created by the design also emulates the same natural serenity as the rest of the building. Its crisp acoustics are also novel, as concrete is not necessarily known for creating purity of sound.

McVoy notes that his team had the idea to imprint the concrete with a texture that does the acoustical work of diffusing the sound.

“We did many studies of what kind of texture we could put into the form work of the concrete to create this diffusion. [Ambrose] was doing experiments and found this idea of a crinkle concrete, where by taking a sheet of aluminum and bending it and banging it up and then using that as the liner that the concrete is cast against, [it] creates the ideal acoustical texture to mitigate flutter echo and diffuse the sound in the space.”

Once perfected, the team took their creation to the rest of the rehearsal spaces. While they met their goal acoustically, the accomplishment is twofold. The fluidity provided by the crinkle concrete is not only aesthetically appealing but provides a metaphorical distinction of the fluidity in the arts that The REACH itself represents.

“When you see this texture, especially in the Justice Forum, it’s immaterial,” McVoy explains. “On the one hand, it [appears] carved out of solid rock. And then on the other hand, it seems as light as folded paper. And then, especially in the Justice Forum where we’re lighting it right along the surface – we’re just raking it with light – the textures [are] particularly pronounced and immaterial. In fact, it’s a concrete structural wall but it feels like a folded texture of light.”

Though the Center’s original space will always stand as the iconic monument to its namesake’s legacy and commitment to the arts, the fluid and flexible notions brought forth in The REACH – both in structure and ideology – surely show the creative future Kennedy advocated for as the catalyst of change in our modern times. 

THE ART

Longtime DC residents will be greeted by a familiar figure when entering the grounds of The REACH: Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstrokes, on loan from The Hirshhorn. The 1996 sculpture is just one of three outdoor sculptures that, along with many other pieces of art indoors, were selected with the help of Dr. Elizabeth Broun.

“I’ve been a longtime admirer of the Kennedy Center and the role they play – not just in Washington but across the country – to encourage the performing arts,” says Broun, The REACH’s visual arts advisor. “It’s an organization with a deep sense of mission and a real commitment to the idea that the arts can really express American life.”

Broun, who served for many years as the director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and retired in 2016, says her involvement in The REACH is a perfect way for her to stay engaged with the arts and work with one of the most prestigious, fabulous arts organizations in America.

She took Kennedy’s legacy as a powerful arts advocate to heart while working with artists, museums and donors to adorn the space. She notes that while a connection to the Kennedy administration was not a necessary requirement for inclusion, there are some beautiful connections to his life that make an appearance at The REACH – namely in the case of painter Sam Gilliam and sculptor Joel Shapiro.

Gilliam’s work, which Broun describes as “lyrical and musical,” drapes across the interior space. Shapiro’s sculpture almost appears to “pirouette” across the lawn, and she envisions it becoming something of an iconic symbol of The REACH due to its visibility from the river, the highway and within the landscape of the building.

“[Gilliam] is really the internationally acclaimed dean of Washington’s artists. He’s long been affiliated with Washington. He came to the city in 1962 during the Kennedy administration, so we liked that reference. We liked that Joel Shapiro was actually in the third cohort of Peace Corps volunteers in India. The Kennedy legacy really does live on and is a very active component in the arts.”

In working to bring this incredible array of American art to The REACH, Broun’s hopes lie in the idea that patrons will see the multidimensional impacts of the arts that harken back to the Kennedy legacy it so gracefully pays tribute to.

“People mostly don’t think of the Kennedy Center as being about art, except for maybe that great big bronze head of Kennedy that’s in the foyer. I hope it makes them sort of reflect a little bit that yes, this is a great center for all of the arts in America. It’s encouraging the arts of every type. It’s comprehensive in the same way that President Kennedy’s vision for the arts was to be a beacon and related to our democracy. It’s about public spaces and public art. I hope they respond to all of that.”

For more on the work of Chris McVoy and Steven Holl Architects, go to www.stevenholl.com. Visit www.reach.kennedy-center.org for continuing announcements about upcoming programming at The REACH.