We are very excited to be participating in the 2012 Great Arts Blogger Challenge!
Our first blog post was about the cultural capital of America (DC all the way!) The 2nd question is “We live in an aggressively visual age; images dominate the popular culture. But which art form has the most to say about contemporary culture, and why?”
Of course, we believe that all successful arts forms speak to contemporary culture. From visual arts to performing arts to music, all can reflect our current society’s culture. However there is one form of art that is making a huge splash on the actual daily lives of the residents of DC, and around the county: public art.
Sadly, for most of us, our day-to-day lives do not include as much art as we would like. As much as I would love to spend my days wandering the halls of the Phillips Collection and every night at the Studio Theatre, most of my days (and sometimes nights) are sitting in front of a computer screen working. This is why public art is so brilliant; it works its way into everyone’s daily life in unexpected ways. It is also completely free and accessible to all.
For example, take the New York Avenue Sculpture Project. Two years ago, the National Museum of Women in the Arts took an empty medium in DC’s bustling downtown and created one to the most vibrant art projects- a series of huge sculptures. The first year the exhibit, Dancing in the Street, featured large brightly colored dancing women who brought an unexpected light and movement to this urban center. I work in downtown DC and everyone was talking about it. People at the drycleaners, people at the McDonalds, people passing though in cabs, everyone was talking about this art. This streetscape was literally part of our lives daily.
This phenomenon can be seen through our own Neighborhood Heritage Trail. Our Neighborhood Heritage Trails are truly works of storytelling, sure 100% historically approved stories, but stories nonetheless. These poster size signs placed in DC neighborhoods, tell the history of the neighborhood through historical photographs and stories that are built from interviews with people in the community. Lots of people walk the whole trail, but many people interact with these more than 200 signs by accident. They learn about the John Philip Sousa while walking their dog, the history of the Howard Theatre while waiting for the bus, or the impact of the civil rights movement on their way to happy hour. There is no better view into contemporary culture than stepping into the past. These mini museum exhibits tell us every day about the stories of the people who literally once stood where we stand.
All art forms have the ability to say something about contemporary culture but programs such as the New York Avenue Sculpture Project and the Neighborhood Heritage Trails literally speak to contemporary culture daily. They not only reflect contemporary culture, they become part of contemporary culture.
Let us know what you think in the comments below - we would love to hear how you feel art affects DC’s contemporary culture.
"I looked at the new brochures for the Deanwood and Civil Rights Heritage Trails. I am always astonished and amazed at the work you do and the quality of it. Beautiful."