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Artisphere Now Open After Raucous Opening Party

by ARLnow.com — October 12, 2010 at 7:40 am 1,520 15 Comments

On the eve of its VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony, hundreds of twenty-somethings packed into Artisphere, the county’s new $6.7 million cultural center, to drink, dance, party and enjoy some art.

Sponsored by the web site Brightest Young Things and Pink Line Project, an arts advocacy organization, Burst @ Artisphere was billed as the hipper, cheaper counterpart to Friday’s $250 per ticket opening gala. True to the billing, the evening attracted a hipster-heavy crowd that looked a bit out of place in stodgy, corporate Rosslyn. Organizers helped lure party-goers from their safe, comfortable DC environs with regular shuttle bus service from Dupont Circle and with the promise of free beer and wine (after the $20 cover).

Once inside, Artisphere’s two-floor Wi-Fi Cafe was filled to the brim with beautiful and/or interesting people, all conversing loudly. Pabst Blue Ribbon and Beringer flowed freely.

The artist Katie Laibstain (a.k.a. Katie Balloons) held court near the stairs on the second level, wearing an elaborate balloon costume that allowed her to occasionally pose as an inanimate object, only to pop up and scare unsuspecting hipsters. Ms. Balloons would later make her way to the ballroom, where a crowd energized by the beats of DJ Chris Burns proceeded to rip apart her costume, wearing Laibstain’s former balloon arms and balloon headgear as a primitive hunter might wear a slain animal’s pelt. The sounds of popping balloons were ever-present for the rest of the night, as parts of the costume were passed from person to person.

Aside from Lord of the Flies-esque balloon destruction, the ballroom was also the scene of at least one breakdancing competition, as well as numerous make-out sessions.

In other parts of Artisphere, where the PBR cans were verboten, actual art was being viewed and created. The Family Hemerlein Variety Show brought music and comedy to one of Artisphere’s three theaters. Elsewhere, in one of Artisphere’s studios, a mustachioed man was riding skateboards over canvases and fresh paint, making art out of the resulting multicolored tracks. A lone middle-aged man in a sports jacket, standing to the side, mused enthusiastically that it would be neat if Tony Hawk were to be involved with the project. The skateboard artist politely agreed, while the other twenty-somethings in the room rolled their eyes.

Meanwhile, a two-story projection on the wall beckoned attendees to email their cell phone photos to a certain address, which would then automatically display the snaps for all to see. Thanks to one prankster, this resulted in the first and perhaps the last time that a graphic drawing of a part of the male anatomy would go on display at Artisphere.

When the night concluded around 2:00 a.m., Artisphere staff were left with the unenviable task of making the place sparkly and new again in time for the bigwigs to cut the ceremonial ribbon later that morning.

“If the bathrooms are any indication of how much cleanup there is to do tomorrow, I feel bad for the staff of the Artisphere,” TBD arts writer Maura Judkis tweeted.

With the ribbon-cutting completed, Artisphere held a two-day open house, which allowed members of the public to tour the facility for free, albeit with less alcohol-fueled enthusiasm.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) will host the first of its weekly salsa dancing nights. Tickets are $20, or $15 with a student ID. Feel free to wear balloons as part of your outfit, it should be safe this time around.

  • RestonRunner86

    Someone seriously sent an image of two dudes doing it on a two-story projection screen?! Where was I?! LOL!

    • Brian

      And I love how tastefully that piece of information was presented to us. THat is a way to start the morning. I’ve being serious, not sarcastic at all/

    • RestonRunner86

      In all seriousness, though, not having anyone volunteering to “censor” the incoming content was a prankster’s dream come true. They could have displayed something much worse (i.e. Janet Reno in a licorice thong!)

  • Skeptical

    Can anyone tell me what any of this had to do with art?

    • ArlingTony

      Unfortunately, not much. It was more an opportunity for the self-styled trend-setters of DC to mingle, posture, and pose. By the end of the evening the latex ballons lay discarded about the floors while the sentient variety wafted out the doors to their cabs and metro cars, puffed up even greater than when they arrived by their self-satisfaction; a sense of artistic implorance for the creative performance piece on egoistic decadence they had just executed inside.

      The balloon scuptures were neat though.

      • AllenB

        You sound kind of bitter.

        • ArlingTony

          Haha. No, not bitter, just seeing how much could be made from a silly metaphor to poke some fun/comment on the egos of the multitude of hipsters (the beautiful and interesting as the article put it) who deigned to leave the cultural mecca of Dupont Circle and put their badge of approval on “stodgy, corporate Rosslyn” and its art, yet seemed more concerned with capturing themselves on camera.

  • http://www.sifrx.com Mike

    I am not sure what it had to do with art, I think the only reason anyone was there to get drunk off the nasty beer and cheap wine. The Make Out Session area was a little nicer but there was about 0 people looking at the art on display. I have to agree with @RestonRunner86 they displayed some awkward images up there on those screens, I think at one point I saw some small chicks getting their beaks clipped?

  • Jezebel

    So for all of you Artisphere bashers, if the decadent activities are well attended by self-satisfied trend-setting poseurs, and the joint actually pays for itself, and helps bring a wider variety of food, entertainment, and activity to Rosslyn, then will you then shut up about the County investment in the place?

    • Truth

      Yes WHEN and if it ever pays for itself. Right now I could use the artisphere money for programs for the homeless and mentally ill. Instead it goes to a near porno palace. I note that SPectrum right next door was a porno palace where Puppetry of the Penis was shown.

      • Skeptical

        I assume you didn’t go to see “Puppetry of the Penis.” It was anything but pornographic. Yes they had their tackle out, but they put it through contortions rivalling those balloons that clowns tie into little animals for kids’ parties; the last thing you could think about was sex, as such. The performers signed my program “thanks for laughing at our genitals,” precious words in the DC area, which is top-heavy with pr*cks who take themselves too seriously.

  • Arlington

    I know you all don’t do arts reviews, but I do wish you had said something about the events on Sunday featuring the Washington Shakespeare Company, UrbanArias, and other performing arts groups. Ultimately that is what Artisphere is about, no?

    • ArlingTony

      Well said. The events of Sunday were much more subdued, but with the focus placed where it belongs, on the art and the artists (unless you count tearing an artist’s dress to pieces in Sat. night’s primitive display of man’s dominance over balloons as “focus on the artist”). People actually took time to view the works and the perfomers. It was far more indicative of the day-to-day feel that the Artisphere will likely have with visitors mingling and taking advantage of the Wifi while listening to the Tunde Jegede Trio or watching as ballet dancers performed on the staircase while others attended a performance in the Dome or the Black Box theatre. Hopefully they will be able to retain this vibrancy and help to grow the arts in Northern VA.

      • Skeptical

        I also was fairly relieved to hear mention on PBS of a Cimarosa opera at the Spectrum (though that was there before all this Artisphere stuff). You can’t stumble without tripping over a goddam dance concert around here, but if we can get more chamber music and opera going, or stage performances that don’t blow your whole season’s leisure budget in one night (’cause I already paid some in taxes, right?), it might get me out of the house. Otherwise I am staying home with my friendly DVD player and some second-hand discs of Entfuhrung aus dem Serail.

        God knows I am not crossing the street to see some [posterior ventral orifice] ride a [performing coition] skateboard through paint. That’s not art; that’s recess.

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