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Arts Focus: Arlington Art Truck at 5 years — creating community, changing lives

By Michelle Isabelle-Stark, Director at Arlington Arts

Not long after I began working for Arlington County, Arlington Arts launched the Arlington Art Truck: a bold new project to take curated and interactive visual art experiences out into the community to where people congregate. Five years in, the program has succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.

The Arlington Art Truck is a curated mobile tool box for artists-in-residence to engage the public from April to October in interactive art projects designed to blur the line between participant and presenter, citizen and government. Nominated for the 2019 Robert E. Gard Award from Americans for the Arts, the concept was launched in 2018 with a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Its activations have recently garnered media attention from WTOP 103.5 FM and NBC WRC4 TV news. But recently, we’ve begun to receive a more personally meaningful level of feedback about its impact: from the community.

“[The Arlington Art Truck] was at the Lubber Run Farmer’s Market, and I met a resident whose daughter has been following us since day-one,” says Special Projects Curator Cynthia Connolly. “Inspired by the way art engages people, her daughter is now considering studying Urban Design in college and wants to volunteer on the Art Truck!”

As part of its structure, the Arlington Art Truck works across County departments, featuring various ‘ride-along’ partners whose missions happen to coordinate with a particular arts activation, ranging from recycling to biking to work. In the current project with artist Laure Drogoul, our own Textile Studio helped Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau by doing an on-location demonstration of sewing on patches with the new County logo on uniforms with the old logo that would otherwise have gone to a landfill.

“Although small in scope, this simple action demonstrates how the County can walk the talk when it comes to sustainability and waste reduction,” noted Erik Grabowsky, Solid Waste Bureau Chief for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services. “Instead of purchasing new apparel with the new logo, we are prolonging the life of our work clothes by simply changing out the logo. [We] find value in these sustainability lessons artistically taught to an audience who might not hear it otherwise.”

From community members to arts professionals, to government agencies, the Arlington Art Truck provides a simple pop-up platform for revealing the arcane and unseen wonder of our everyday experience through an artistic lens, outside the confines of a four-walled gallery or museum. I’m inspired for what the next five years will bring.

To keep up with the Arlington Art Truck, bookmark the ArlingtonArts.org website, and follow @arttruckarlington on Instagram.

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