So many inspiring things happening in DC!
The last couple weeks have been chock full of inspiring, engrossing, educational, and just plain fun events around town. Sometimes I hear people complain about DC being boring and I just don't get it. Below is a recap of a few things I enjoyed recently. But reading about me doing this stuff is no substitute for getting out there yourself. You kinda had to be there to get the full effect and you will be so glad you did! So please check out our Art Therapy each week for some suggestions, or just visit the Pink Line calendar.
"What would Jane Jacobs do?"
I attended a panel discussion hosted by the National Building Museum entitled, "What would Jane Jacobs do?" She published a seminal book on urban planning and design 50 years ago called "The Death and Life of Cities" that espoused liveable, walkable, diverse neighborhoods. The book resonates even (or maybe especially) today, particularly as urban centers become larger, and urban renewal and development raise more questions about historic preservation, mixed-used zoning, and public space. Such an interesting and inspiring panel discussion for anyone who cares about city life.
The panel consisted of some stellar names in the urban development world:
- Bing Thom, the architect who designed the new Arena Stage.
- Harriet Tregoning, the director of DC's Office of Planning (and my eprsonal girl crush).
- John Zuccotti, co-chair of Brookfield Properties, one of the largest developers in the world, and a former chair of the NYC Planning Commission.
- Susan Szenasy, editor of Metropolis magazine, and feisty and opinionated.
Thom said that reading Jacobs reminded him that public spaces are outside living rooms and that buildings are simply the backdrop for the way people live in these spaces. An architect's allegiance should be to the people who use these spaces and not to the people who pay them to design buildings.
Thom also said that in the U.S., zoning laws are prescriptive. They tell us what we cannot do and they do not encourage us to do things that make life better. He supports "discretionary zoning," which entails dialogue between planners and designers and the community. By forming relationships based on trust, stakeholders can work together to build liveable cities.
Szenasy talked about the concept of our cities being built on cultural aspirations about what they want to be. She noted that DC is the seat of democracy and government. Though that may have been the original aspiration for founding our city, I wonder if we could add culture capital to that aspiration!
Tregoning talked about how infusing arts into urban development is not just about creating jobs and economic value, but it's also about improving the quality of life for urban denizens through artistic and creative endeaors. These are the things that make people love their city. She noted that walking is a pleasurable human activity and city planners should encourage more walking by doing whatever it takes to ensure active storefronts (including vacant spaces) and lively streetscapes. When you create vibrant streetscapes and sidewalks, you also develop the social fabric that comes from the social bonds that are created when people meet on the street. Tregoning says that economic diversity is important to healthy cities and that if urban planning is left to the market without proper regulation, only expensive real estate will remain in cities in the future.
A wonderful and inspiring discussion! I am more and more convinced that the arts are a key element to healthy economic, urban, and social development.
Along the same lines, I attended another awesome panel earlier in the week at the National Gallery of Art called "Architecture and Art: Creating Community." Panelists included Robert Storr and starchitects Elizabeth Diller and David Adjaye. The talked about breaking down the walls to accessing art. This panel really got me thinking about the role architecture plays in making art more welcoming and fun to experience.
Visiting different countries without getting on an airplane
One of the coolest things about DC is that it is filled with embassies from nearly every country in the world. Many of these embassies offer cultural programming such as art exhibits, music concerts, and other kinds of performances by artists from their countries. Embassies are interested in sharing their arts and culture with us Americans. The thing is, whenever I go to the openings or concerts, it seems like most of the people attending are people from the country represented by that embassy, even though the events are typically free and open to the public. If you want to go, all you have to do is sign up on the mailing list.
For example, I went to the Dutch Embassy for the unveiling of "59 Steps" by Jeroen Henneman. A site-specific installation on a previously blank wall that makes suble reference to contemporary Dutch design. It's a wonderful work of art!
I had a chance to speak with curator Philippien Noordam about Henneman's work after we shared a really funny moment when we realized we had the same first name but in different languages!
Another funny moment: a man wearing clogs walked across the lobby. As if all Dutch people wear clogs to work every day!
I also checked out the Czech Embassy the same week to see Samizdat!, the Czech Art of Resistance. The exhibition includes handmade books, journals, and other original works on paper that circulated secretly during the years between the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution. The multimedia exhibition also includes period footage of underground concerts and bootleg recordings of banned Czech bands. Super interesting!
Bringing performance art everywhere!
Eames Armstrong of Aether Art Projects brought performance art to Smith Commons for American Craft Beer Week. She and I have been talking a lot about taking art to where the people are rather than beating our heads against a wall trying to get them to take the first step toward coming to the usual art venues. Our hope is that if they have a fun, first experience with art in an unexpected place, they will take the next step and visit art in a more traditional space. We talked to the City Paper about our experiment (and previously on Pink Noise).
Eames project was called "Drawing Lines" and here's her statement about it:
Drawing Lines is a participatory performance game by Eames Armstrong for Aether Art Projects, presented by Pink Line. It will take place on the patio at Smith Commons on the Wednesday of American Craft Beer Week. Drawing Lines is a performance piece based on the improv game in which participants are given one-line sentences on slips of paper that they have to incorporate into a conversation. The objective is to integrate your line without whomever you're talking to noticing that you've said your line. If your partner calls you out on saying your line (calling, "line!") they win. If you successfully slip in your line without them calling "line!" then you win. The lines are all related to art, thereby inserting art conversations into the evening. I give 'audience' lines to work into conversations, making them all the performers and altering conversations.
Here are some of the lines I had to insert into conversations:
- What happens to “Street Art” when it enters a museum?
- Art cannot change the world.
- There should be art about Facebook.
Totally fun night and most people at the bar were curious and willing to play.
Stunning DANCE 1 at SONG1
SONG1 at the Hirshhorn has sadly ended. It was so stunning and beautiful that I visited several times and never tired of it. SONG1 by artist Doug Aitken was a 360 degree projection on the outside wall of the 'horn accompanied by various renditions of one song, "I only have eyes for you." It was wonderful to just lay in the grass for a couple hours and soak it in.
One of the most magical moments I experienced there was DANCE1, in which Holly Bass and Simone Jacobson choreographed and organized about 30 people wearing white to dance around the Hirshhorn gardens and inner courtyard during SONG1. So beautiful, and delightfully spontaneous.
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