“The [art] gallery scene in D.C. doesn’t even compare to New York City’s,” humbly admits a local Washingtonian. But this spring the nation’s capitol is making its mark on the art scene with an impressive citywide public art festival, The 5×5 Project. The project, funded by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities has pulled together 25 notable artists from around the world to create unique temporary pieces around the city’s neighborhoods, from glamorous Capitol Hill to the historic neighborhood of Anacostia in southeast D.C., to run through April 27th. The hope is that the tourists who have invaded downtown D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival will take in the works while they’re there. Those fortunate tourists will find themselves on an unexpected adventure: watching a community of butterflies cross busy street traffic thanks to a ‘Butterfly Bridge’ created by Natalie Jeremijenkoe, or jumping into a drum circle on the sound sculpture made of cherry blossom wood by Charles Juhasz-Alvarado, or climbing an abandoned police evidence warehouse to view large-scale treehouse-like sculptures made entirely of discarded materials and artifacts by Monica Canilao and her crew.
It’s no surprise that many of the artists took the opportunity, while showing in the District, to open a political dialogue with their works. “This portable fountain will be used as a protest tool,” explained Steve Rowell, the curator of a work by Berlin-based artist collective KUNSTrePUBIK. The piece is a replica of the Temperance Fountain from 1882 and is hitched to the back of a pick-up truck enabling it to be transported around town during the festival for use by protest groups; in fact, if you’re interested, it can be booked here. Another artist from abroad, Jo Ray, constructed two billboards featuring photographed scenes of displaced signs from around the city in a dusty environment reminiscent of the now abandoned Occupy D.C. grounds.
For those just looking to enjoy the spring weather and blooming city there is the p:ARK, a walkable labyrinth by Tattfoo Tan in an open grass field at Yard’s Park. Or the Love Motel for Insects by Brandon Ballengee at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park which is exactly what it sounds like: an outdoor light installation that attracts insects and nocturnal anthropods during the day so they might mate.
For a map of the works go to the5x5project.com