Among farmers’ market attendees, corporate commuters, and bar-goers in Ballston last Thursday night (Aug. 7), something else stood out. Two new interactive art displays debuted on Ballston’s sidewalks in the forms of beach chairs and Craigslist poetry.
The brightly painted chairs on the corners of Fairfax Drive and N. Taylor Street, Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd, and in Welburn Square encouraged passersby to sit back and consider rising sea levels. Outside of A-Town Bar and Grill, the jumble of words pulled from Craigslist and projected onto a screen piqued the interests of pedestrians.
These two art installations were part of a series of “Public Displays of Innovation” sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District. “Beachfront Potential” and “Missed Connections” were the first of eight projects in the series intended to “bring the character and personality of Ballston to its streets,” according to Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone.
“We wanted to see how to incorporate technology and different forms of media for people to experience on the streets,” Leone said.
With Beachfront Potential, artist Patrick McDonough wanted to pose Ballston residents with the a new, hypothetical shoreline, and suggested that climate change could bring the beach to Ballston. Those who sat down at each of the beach chairs’ three locations were educated and engaged by mobile activities accessed by scanning unique barcodes with smartphones.
“With this project, it’s really the juxtaposition of leisure and this mixing of serious and non-serious imagery and content that’s really an effective way to deal with these things,” McDonough said.
Scanning the barcode at the Fairfax Drive location outside Zoe’s Kitchen and The Nature Conservancy brought up an informative video on climate change. McDonough created the 7-minute video using footage he took along Maryland’s eastern shore and from interviews with Nature Conservancy scientists. A “Skippin’ Stones” melting ice caps game and a list of suggested “beach reads” showed up from the Glebe Road and Wellburn Square locations’ barcodes, respectively.
“If you sit in your house and think about global warming, then you might become so morose that you never leave your house,” McDonough said.
McDonough teaches art at Corcoran College of Art + Design and American University. He said he got the idea for Beachfront Potential when he was looking at a map of rising sea levels.
“It was a happy correlation that this [predicted shoreline] went straight through the Ballston corridor,” McDonough said.
Artist Peter Lee projected a slideshow of black and white imagery and word fragments pulled from Craigslist’s Missed Connections section onto a small screen outside of A-Town.
“I worked in the area and it’s IT heavy and government heavy,” Lee said. “One of the most human things you can have is romance, and living in the D.C. area that’s normally synonymous with power and stuff [made it] interesting to find a human element here.”
Lee used a prepared slideshow Thursday because of a bad wi-fi connection outside the bar, but he said he can funnel bits of text from Craigslist as they’re posted with the algorithm he and co-creator Blake Turner wrote.
“We definitely tailored the data and the aesthetic toward Ballston,” Lee said. “We wrote the algorithm so it can chop up the data more, [because] previously we were just pulling subject lines from Craigslist. Now we’re pulling the content, and it’s like stream of consciousness poetry.”
Some of the pre-prepared bits of text said, “was wearing sunglasses” and “interested noww hit me/regularly/up.”
Lee and Turner are both George Mason University graduates and members of the Floating Lab Collective art group in D.C. Although their installation only showed Thursday, Friday (Aug. 8) and Saturday (Aug. 9), McDonough’s installation will remain on Ballston’s streets through September, Leone said.
Leone said the BID plans to debut its other six projects in the next three months. “Quantum Tours Americana” and “Site: WA + FC (Ballston)” will show in September, “Cloud,” “Urban Oasis,” and “Forest of Knowledge” in October, and “Axon Xylophone Bridge” in November, Leone said.
“We really try to look for things that are unique or haven’t been seen before,” Leone said. “It’s been a long time in the works, but they’re really amazing, extremely high quality projects that people can experience together.”
A place to convene with neighbors, donate those dusty spy novels and show children the merits of community service comes in a package the size of an old cranberry crate.
These Little Free Libraries, neighborhood-sponsored curbside libraries with a free, “take a book, return a book,” policy, have sprouted up in Arlington since Robert Walter installed one in his neighborhood off Glebe Road and Walter Reed Drive in 2012.
“It’s better than donating to Goodwill, who will sell [the books], and it’s a way to give back to the neighborhood,” said Walter, who heard about The Little Free Library organization on Facebook.
Little Free Libraries encourage communities to contribute any books — from children’s books to novels to cookbooks — as well as to enjoy the contributions made by other neighbors.
There are now seven Little Free Libraries in Arlington, located at 3900 7th Street S., 1060 N. Liberty Street, 4706 32nd Street N., 5117 N. 27th Street, 1700 S. Edgewood Street, 6328 22nd Street N. along a section of the Four Mile Run trail, and on the grounds of Washington-Lee High School.
Last week, each library was stocked with books, including comedian David Cross’ memoir and an installment of the “Berenstain Bears” children’s series.
Much like ordinary libraries, Little Free Libraries are meant to be a community hub. However, they don’t charge late fees or require library cards, just an interest in reading and paying-it-forward.
“It’s good for poor people and the [undocumented] population who might have been intimidated by the registration process at a library, or who want to avoid potential late fees,” Walter said of his Little Free Library. “It’s also more social.”
After his proposal for a Little Free Library was approved by the homeowners’ association of his eight-residence community, Walter requested a box from Little Free Library.
Walter said his homeowners’ association paid approximately $350 for their recycled cranberry crate, its post and installation, but many communities make their own libraries rather than buying them from the organization.
“I’ve seen some really elaborate, cool designs that people have done,” Walter said. The Little Free Library website includes pictures of library “stewards” like Walter, who built their libraries to look like covered bridges or old-fashioned school houses.
More than 2,000 Little Free Libraries exist across the world. Since the organization’s beginning in Wisconsin in 2009, Little Free Library owners in Vietnam, Germany and Australia have registered their libraries on the official map.
For residents interested in installing their own, all that’s needed is the approval of the neighborhood association, access to building materials or the means to purchase a library box, and registration with Little Free Library’s map. A steward to sponsor and maintain the library is also essential.
“When I was a resident, I would just keep a box of books in the house and it was like a constant reserve,” Walter said.
Although Walter has relocated to Fairfax, and will soon transfer stewardship of his library to someone in his old neighborhood, he knows his library still gets frequent business.
“I went back there to pick up some mail, and there were books there, different ones from the last time I saw it,” Walter said.
A 9-year-old boy wearing an Arlington County Police Department t-shirt may not seem like a symbol of authority. But for today, he is.
This morning Police Chief M. Douglas Scott swore in Patrick Omberg, the winner of the inaugural “Chief-for-the-Day” essay competition.
“Today is National Night Out, so Patrick you’re going to work until about 10:00 or 11:00 tonight,” Scott joked during his speech at the ceremony.
Outside the police department in Courthouse, 9-year-old Patrick Omberg took an honorary police oath, read an excerpt of his winning essay and received a commemorative plaque before standing for pictures with police and his parents.
On July 8, the Arlington County Police Department announced the contest, which they plan to hold every year from now on. ACPD asked for essay submissions from children, ages 8 to 12, that answered the question: “What does it mean to be a police officer?”
“Based on his essay, it was a pretty easy selection for us,” ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said. “Even at 9 years old, he seemed to have a good understanding of the police and for our role in the community.”
Omberg said that he wrote about how “the police keep people safe” in his essay, and although he doesn’t know if he wants to be a police officer, he was having fun as an honorary chief. He didn’t have to wrangle drunken pub-crawlers or chase down criminals, but Omberg did get a glimpse at the inner workings of the police department.
“We wanted to show him what life in the Arlington County Police Department could be like,” Sternbeck said. “We want to build positive relationships in the community. It’s been a great experience for us just as much as [it has been] for him.”
Before the ceremony, police picked up Omberg from his house in a patrol car and guided him on a tour of the police station, where they took his fingerprints and introduced him to their K-9 unit.
“My favorite part was seeing the dogs,” Omberg said.
“Do you remember what his name was?” Omberg’s father, Peter, asked his son.
“Drogo,” Omberg said, although the rising fourth-grader didn’t seem to get the “Game Of Thrones” reference in the name.
To cap off his day, Omberg would look at the station’s booking department with the sheriffs and have lunch with Scott, Sternbeck said.
“I can use all the help I can get,” Scott said at the ceremony. “So having someone like you help me [for today], is very much appreciated.”
Update on 8/7/14 at 11:30 a.m. — D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders says the love locks will be removed from Key Bridge today. “Locks are being removed because we don’t want to establish a precedence where our structures could become polluted with these types of campaigns. Also, it could jeopardize the functionality of the railings,” said Sanders.
Earlier: Lovers have started keeping their love under lock and key by latching padlocks bearing their names to the Key Bridge’s railings.
These “love locks” are meant to memorialize romantic relationships, but they can cause damage to fences and railings. At the Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris, thousands of couples latched love locks to a fence along the bridge. It was so weighed down by the locks that the fencing collapsed in June.
“This is the first time we’ve encountered this,” D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders said.
Last week, there were three combination locks on the railing on the left side of the Key Bridge (as seen from Arlington) and 45 combination and padlocks on the right side’s railing. Many of the locks had couples’ names or initials on them, and some included an anniversary date or an additional sentiment.
One lock says: “alex & andi 26 november 2011,” with an engraving of wedding bands.
With love locks, the owners lock them to a railing, fence or lamppost, discard the key, and hope their love will last as long as their lock.
New York City officials claimed last May that the more than 5,000 locks on the Brooklyn Bridge put it at risk for damages, the New York Daily News wrote, and endangered motorists driving under the pedestrian walkway.
According to the Irish Times, last February in Dublin, city officials put signs on the Ha’Penny Bridge to dissuade couples from putting locks there. Transportation officials removed approximately 661 pounds of locks from the bridge the previous year.
There are far fewer locks on the Key Bridge than those other bridges, seemingly not yet enough to cause damage. Sanders currently is looking into measures his department may take to remove the locks, and is researching which D.C. laws may change this practice.
The Curious Grape, at 2900 S. Quincy Street in Shirlington, held its first chocolate tasting last night, guiding attendees through tasting five high-end chocolates. It’s the first in a series of chocolate tastings and seminars that Curious Grape plans to offer through August.
During the tastings, which range in price from $3 to $5, customers can come in between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. and taste five “rare heirloom varieties of chocolate,” said Curious Grape owner Suzanne McGrath. Artisan chocolate-making, she said, has been on the rise recently.
“There have been developments with chocolate in the past few years,” McGrath said. “Chocolate really is like wine. It depends on where it’s grown, how it’s grown and how it’s processed.”
At the chocolate seminars, attendees will taste more than 12 chocolates, with guidance and commentary from McGrath, and watch informational videos on chocolate production, McGrath said. The seminars cost $15 and accommodate 34 attendees.
“People are pretty jazzed by the end,” McGrath said. “It’s a lot of caffeine.”
Chocolate tastings will be held Aug. 13, 15 and 22, and will explore the differences in chocolate offered by single brands, or the variance between different brands making chocolates at the same cacao percentage, McGrath said. The 90-minute chocolate seminars will be held Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 at 6:30 p.m and registration is still open.
The cafe and wine shop has offered wine tastings since it first opened in 2001, and also offers cheese tastings and seminars, although wine will not be served at the chocolate events, McGrath said.
“Once you start mixing wines and chocolates, you miss the complexities in the flavor,” McGrath said. “There will be no spitting of chocolate.”
Although McGrath had offered chocolate events at her store in the past, she said that the improvements in organic and heirloom chocolate production inspired her to hold tastings and seminars again. Among the more than 40 new, white, milk and dark chocolate bars at the cafe, there is a range of cacao percentages, roasting techniques and conching styles among them, McGrath said.
“Those are big brands for me,” McGrath said. “Ritual is one that uses the same process to make chocolate from different origins, and Fresco uses different methods to make chocolate from one origin.”
But of all the options in her cafe, McGrath said the customer favorite is still Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar.
“That’s always been our best-seller,” she said.
Virginia Square restaurant Water & Wall, located at 3811 N. Fairfax Drive, is offering a “pop-up” Chinese menu for lunch until Aug. 29.
The “Uncle Paul’s Kitchen” menu, named for Water & Wall co-owner Tim Ma’s uncle, debuted almost three weeks ago at the restaurant, Ma said. It includes Chinese-inspired dishes, like Kung Pao Pork Belly, and more traditional Chinese fare, like “Uncle Paul’s Zha Jiang,” with prices ranging from $6 to $10.
The Zha Jiang is like a Chinese ragu, which Ma said the Chinese community jokingly calls “Marco Polo noodles, because Marco Polo came to China and took the recipe back, and that’s where Italian pasta comes from.”
The dishes from Uncle Paul’s Kitchen are smaller than regular entrees, reminiscent of dim sum, which allow customers to order two or three at a time. The lunch menu is available daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
“We are essentially running two restaurants here,” Ma said. “We have the kitchen divided for the Chinese stuff and then the rest of the storage space and refrigeration is for the regular restaurant stuff.”
Water & Wall opened eight months ago for dinner, and served only its French-inspired dishes. In mid-June, Ma, his parents, their “old school Chinese” air conditioner repairman, and some Chinese cooks were having a Chinese dinner and had the idea for the pop-up menu, Ma said.
“We were joking around, saying ‘Well this is more like a Chinese restaurant than an American or French place,'” Ma said.
From the idea’s inception, it took Ma two weeks to create the menu, which drew from dishes that his uncle served at his traditional Shandong restaurant “Paul Ma’s Kitchen,” in New York in the 1980s, Ma said.
“He had incredible success there with these homemade recipes,” Ma said. “It was like impossible to get a reservation there.”
The food Paul Ma cooked for his nephew, while living with him at Tim’s Virginia home, also inspired Ma’s lunch menu for Water & Wall.
“He continues to tell me things that I should tweak and things that I should add,” Ma said.
Ma also owns a restaurant serving American food in Vienna called Maple Ave Restaurant. For now, Ma is not sure whether Water & Wall will debut its planned lunch menu of French fusion dishes at the end of the month, or create something else closer to the pop-up menu’s choices.
“This has been really well received thus far,” Ma said. “We have a better response with the dishes my uncle created back in the day.”
A Washington-Lee High School teacher will embark on a 12-day-long National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study that will enhance her science curriculum.
Earth science teacher Joan Le will accompany NOAA scientists in conducting “an on-going population survey of deep-water coral habitat in the Atlantic Ocean.” according to the agency. As one of NOAA’s “Teacher at Sea” cruises, the trip will give Le an opportunity to observe, research and interact with professional scientists.
“I want to bring real data back into the classrooms and find opportunities for citizen science [for the students],” Le said. “I’m hoping that through this process I can find ways for the students to actually contribute.”
For the first time in her four years at Washington-Lee, Le will teach an environmental studies course in addition to her earth sciences course in the fall. Le said she plans to create projects for both classes with the data she gathers on the trip.
Le said her teaching method is to try and make science a hands-on experience, like a science fair.
“My grades in science weren’t really that good,” the James Madison University alumna said. “I had great teachers, but something about science in the classroom doesn’t always translate how exciting science can actually be. It’s not always easy because there are lots of things to cover.”
Along with writing a blog to chronicle the trip, Le will submit an original lesson plan to NOAA that incorporates what she learned. Her plan will be available online for any science teacher to use in a classroom, Le said.
“You can kind of look through what other teachers have done, and it’s great because it’s better than [having] matching worksheets,” said Le, who used a similar NOAA lesson plan in her first year of teaching.
NOAA has sponsored Teacher at Sea trips every year for the past 24 years. Out of 200 teachers who applied, Le was one of 25 chosen for research cruises. Le and the NOAA scientists will travel on the ship Henry B. Bigelow, and will set sail Aug. 5 from Newport, R.I.
Studying coral is a significant way to understand past climates, Le said. Although she is excited for the cruise, Le said she is unsure exactly what the trip will entail.
“In the manual, one of the important traits they list is flexibility,” Le said. “So I’m ready for anything.”
Photo Courtesy Joan Le
(Updated at 6:00 p.m) A walk-in studio art facility for veterans and active-duty service members plans to open Oct. 15 in Crystal City.
Alexandria-based The 296 Project launched a Kickstarter on July 24 with a $30,000 goal to fund the 1,100-square-foot space, which it calls “A Combat Veteran’s Healing Place.” The studio will be located in a retail space at the Shops at 2100 Crystal Drive.
Kickstarter proceeds will go toward renovation materials, art supplies and equipment for the facility, which will cater to service members with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to a press release.
“When the suffering is so strong words can barely describe it, when no one understands, when there’s no support system, this new facility allows our men and women in uniform to tell their stories with a paintbrush, clay, pen and pencil, chalk, through music, digital design, 3D design, spoken word or through poetry,” Scott Gordon, executive director of The 296 Project, told ARLnow.com in an email.
The project plans to give service members a place to explore art as well as socialize. It plans to provide art therapists with a space for seminars, art classes and group therapy sessions, although it will not be a therapy-providing entity, according to The 296 Project spokesperson Rebekah Wiseman.
The general public will be allowed in, according to the organization, so it can learn more about the community of service members with PTSD and TBI who are helped by art and expressive therapies.
“With or without a PTS/TBI diagnosis, our facility, our seminars, workshops, etc., will be therapeutic,” Wiseman wrote.
Service members will have to provide records to prove that they are or were members of the military, said Wiseman. The facility plans to be open six days of the week, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
“We believe we can save thousands of lives in the Northern Virginia area alone,” Gordon said. “This is just too important not to support.”
The Kickstarter will accept contributions until Sept. 22. Currently, the project has six backers and has raised $710.
Images courtesy The 296 Project
Kennan Garvey was a cycling enthusiast, taught children about bikes when he was in the Peace Corps and wanted to volunteer for Phoenix Bikes after he retired, his widow, Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey said.
Since she created the fund, Garvey has aimed to raise $56,000 for Phoenix Bikes, a thousand dollars for each year her husband lived.
“When people first pass away, people want to give money, and people don’t forget,” Garvey said, “but they don’t remember so much [as time goes by]. I thought a ride would be a great way to keep the fund going and organized.”
When her husband died unexpectedly from a heart attack on Jan. 19, 2008, Garvey said she knew she wanted to set up a memorial for him to benefit Phoenix Bikes.
“Probably at about 2:00 a.m. that night it came to me that this would be the perfect memorial for him,” Garvey said.
The charity bicycle ride will start and end at Phoenix Bikes at 4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive, and will span the entire trail. There will be turn-around points at 15, 30 and 45 miles into the trail, allowing riders to bike 30, 60, or 90 miles. Riders can also do an extra 10 miles on the Custis Trail to complete a full 100-mile-ride, according to Phoenix Bikes Executive Director Henry Dunbar.
“It’s a great ride, really suitable for kids,” Garvey said. “You don’t have to cross roads much and there aren’t any huge hills.”
Garvey and Phoenix Bikes partnered to raise money in her husband’s name for the nonprofit in 2008, and have wanted to organize a ride to feed the fund for the past five years, Dunbar said.
“Kennan was an avid cyclist and obviously a very connected member of the community,” Dunbar said. “Having an annual event that would continue to memorialize him and build on this fund is part of our plan to grow.”
Phoenix Bikes plans to use the fund, which has a goal of $10,000 for Saturday’s ride, to help its effort to build a new education center that will have room for more of the young bicyclists it mentors, Dunbar said. The current location accommodates eight to 10 middle school-aged children, who are taught bike repair and business skills, but Phoenix Bikes wants to double that with the new building.
Registration is still open for the ride, and those interested in donating but not riding can sponsor a rider, like Garvey’s grandson, who learned about bicycling from his late grandfather. Garvey said that the goal is for every rider to pledge $500 via either donation or sponsorship. The fund has has raised $4,120 so far.
“We’re getting there,” Garvey said. “I’m not sure if we’ll make it to $10,000, but we’re getting there.”
Although Garvey broke her collarbone in May while training for the ride and will not participate this year, she said she will be there to cheer on her family members and the other riders.
“For whatever reason I wasn’t meant to ride this one,” Garvey said.
Garvey and Dunbar said they plan to hold the ride annually to keep the Kennan Garvey Memorial Fund growing, and to make sure that he is remembered.
“It’s hard, but it is what it is,” Garvey said of the loss of her late husband. “We had a great life together.”
Photo courtesy Libby Garvey
Lebanese Taverna, which began as a single storefront in Arlington operated by an immigrant couple and their five children, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with events and specials over the next two months.
On July 28 and 29 at the Westover location (5900 Washington Blvd) and Aug. 6 and 7 at Pentagon Row (1101 S. Joyce Street), Lebanese Taverna will serve dishes from its 1979 menu with the original prices to commemorate the year the restaurant opened.
The restaurant is also currently taking submissions for a social media contest, in which longtime customers can email the restaurant their favorite Lebanese Taverna memory and then vote on their favorites by liking them on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A limousine will chauffeur the winners to different Lebanese Taverna locations for a five-to-six course meal, Shea said.
“We’re celebrating our uniqueness,” said Lebanese Taverna Vice President Grace Shea, the youngest child of founders Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm. “Thirty-five years is a long time for a restaurant to be open.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) will present a congressional proclamation of congratulations to the Abi-Najm family at a private event Friday evening, Shea said. The Westover restaurant will be open Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a kickoff event with the 1979 prices for invited guests from local civic associations and members of the public who happen to stop by.
“I’m proud of my family and what they’ve accomplished over the years,” Shea said. “When my parents came here they had five kids, $500 and spoke no English.”
The Abi-Najm family came to Arlington in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Marie Abi-Najm worked as a teaching assistant and Tanios Abi-Najm did odd jobs and painted until they saved enough money to open their own restaurant in 1979, in the same storefront they still occupy just down the street from their house, Shea said.
“My dad always loved food and it was a way for him to bring a piece of Lebanon here to us,” Shea said. Her mother came from Dfoun, Lebanon, a village famous for producing chefs.
At first, Lebanese Taverna served pizza and subs and operated under “Athenian Taverna,” the name used by the previous tenants. Shea’s parents and her four siblings in high school were the only employees during the first year, causing business to suffer, she said.
In 1979, the restaurant only offered shish kabob and hummus as menu specials because they were novelties for most Arlington residents. However, their traditional food starting piquing customers’ interests after their first year in business, inspiring the Abi-Najm’s to change the restaurant’s name and put Lebanese fare on half their menu, according to Shea.
“We’d sit down for our family dinners at the restaurant and customers would say, ‘Wow, what is that? We want some of that,'” Shea said. The restaurant kept its half-Italian menu until 1983.
Once the restaurant was officially Lebanese Taverna, a second location opened in 1990 on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. It later expanded to include the Lebanese Taverna Market in D.C., catering division, six restaurants and four cafés it has today.