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Arts Focus: We Paused! Unbound — a community’s pandemic journey through art

This column is sponsored by Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

WE PAUSED! A Handmade Book by Studio Pause for Gates of Ballston, chronicles a year in the life of one Arlington community during the COVID-19 epidemic through creativity and art.

Now, that book has been ‘unbound’: becoming an art exhibit with four thematic installations from June 2022 to May 2023, at Gallery 3700, located at 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, in Arlington. Admission is FREE to the exhibit which is open during business hours. An Opening Reception will take place on Saturday, July 16 from 4-7 p.m., with an Artists Talk at 5:30 pm. Free Tickets Required via Eventbrite.

We PAUSED! is a Community Handmade Book Project created in 2021 by Studio PAUSE for the Gates of Ballston Apartments, an AHC Inc. community in Arlington’s historic Buckingham neighborhood. The book project was supported in part by Arlington Arts, which is the principal sponsor of the exhibit.

As the COVID-19 pandemic surged and the world grappled with its consequences, artist Sushmita Mazumdar, whose art studio and community space are located in the Rinker Community Center at the Gates of Ballston apartment complex, watched AHC Inc’s resident services team work tirelessly to provide essential services to their residents since March 2020.

“What if we shared everything we did when we paused in 2020 with the residents of the apartment community?” stated Mazumdar. “If they could not come to the studio, as the community center was closed to the public, could we take our stories to them? Could the space become a book?”

Project Director Sushmita Mazumdar rallied allies from her studio community, and others to make the project a reality, securing a grant from Virginia Humanities. Other partners were AHC Inc and Arlington Arts. Kori Johnson, editor; Susan Sterner, humanities scholar; Ella Endo, intern; Ruben Villalta, translator (Spanish); Soheir Ghali, translator (Arabic); MaryLouise Marino, adviser

In 2021-22 each of the 460 households in the GOB community was given a free handmade copy of the book. All copies were made during community bookmaking sessions at the Rinker Community Center, by students in the after-school program, or by PAUSErs at home, or in the studio. The bookmaking kept up with the variations in the pandemic, with building closures, and people’s levels of comfort. Then, they were delivered to each home, inviting the community to connect, reflect and share.

About Sushmita Mazumdar — After a 15-year career in advertising in India and the US, Sushmita started writing stories from her childhood for her American children and making them into handmade storybooks. She has designed programs for the Smithsonian Institution, area public schools and libraries, Glen Echo Park, and Arlington Arts Center, and has exhibited at the National Building Museum, and the Smithsonian’s Dillon Ripley Center. In 2018 she received the Woman of Vision Award from Arlington County and in 2019 she was appointed to the Virginia Commission for the Arts representing Congressional District 8. Photo: Lloyd Wolf

So come check out the exhibit at Studio 3700 during the building’s business hours (Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday: 12-6 p.m.).

Join the Artists and the community for an Opening Reception at the Gallery, on Saturday, July 16 from 4-7 p.m., with an Artists Talk at 5:30 p.m.

Free Tickets Required via Eventbrite.

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