Friday, February 17, 2012

Art @ Work in DC

This month, I had the pleasure of participating in a number of workshops facilitated by Albus Cavus at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, part of the Smith Center for Healing & The Arts, in Washington, D.C. Albus Cavus -- a collective of artists who work to strengthen local communities through public art -- partnered with the gallery to bring empowerment and healing to a community affected by today's economic uncertainty. Hanging from January 13th through February 18, the Art @ Work exhibit features works from over 40 local graffiti-style artists who often collaborate with Albus Cavus, including Peter Krsko, Decoy, Jazirock, Chanel Compton, Aniekan Udofia, and Ben Tolman. Each piece is a unique commentary on the feelings behind the current US financial and unemployment situation.

The works covered a variety of urban art styles:  

To further bolster the connection between art and the local community, members of Albus Cavus led three onsite mural workshops in line drawing, stenciling, and painted collage. Over three weeks, the gallery was transformed into a working studio while more than 50 DC-area residents collaborated on a community mural. Like the exhibiting artists, we also reflected on and discussed our experiences in the current economic climate.

In some respects, life in the northern VA suburbs of DC has fared better than other areas of the country. Still, the ripple effect can be felt here. This past October, The Soundry -- the gallery/studio/cafe/boutique where I'd spent a lot of time over the past few years -- shut its doors. Our community lost a unique place for emerging artists finding their voice; for those artists to work on creative collaborations alongside more experienced artists until the wee hours; for young musicians looking for a place to rehearse; and for the public to finally learn that art isn't all about stuffy still lifes and landscapes. I'm coming to realize that, for me, art -- much like life in general -- is about risk. It's about putting yourself out there, pushing yourself to test the boundaries of your creativity, and then pushing through them. To express. To learn. Perhaps, even, to heal.

My recent mixed-media "Baby Canvases"

Sometimes, though, you can do all that -- and even more -- and still get knocked off your feet by the unexpected or the inevitable. That's what I was thinking the other week in the Stencil Workshop. So because of that, and the current unemployment rate of around 8%, I chose to work on an 8 Ball stencil. So many people these days seem to be behind the 8 Ball.

Others chose to incorporate different symbols. We also collaborated on a large stencil of Uncle Sam, and painted it to resemble the color of money.

Uncle Sam, first layer

Next layer

Community mural in progress

The following week, in the Painting and Collage workshop, Chanel Compton encouraged us to draw on our own neighborhood experiences in putting together a mini collage painting of our hometowns.

The base of my collage, inspired by life in NYC

My finished project

We then used collage and painting techniques to add neighborhood scenes to the community mural.

Mural in progress

The community mural will be unveiled tonight at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009. Afterwards, it will be donated to a DC-area school or community center as part of Albus Cavus' Open Walls project.