Arlington, VA

Though we are well out of spring, a new bunch of flowers has bloomed in Clarendon.

A new sculpture entitled “Floral Sky” was installed Saturday at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Edgewood Street at Market Common Clarendon.

Artist Michael Kalish from Los Angeles was chosen from around 75 submissions to create the sculpture, according to Jason Yanushonis, manager of investments for property owner Regency Centers. The sculpture was designed, fabricated, built in and shipped from LA before installation began on Thursday, Sept. 17.

The installation was commissioned and funded by Regency Centers in collaboration with the Arlington Cultural Affairs division for the county, Yanushonis said.

Jim Byers, Marketing Director for Arlington Arts, describes the installation as “a multi-dimensional sculpture of larger-than-life blooms native to Virginia sprouting up from the ground.”

“Floral Sky is a vibrant and whimsical addition to the public plaza and streetscape at Market Common Clarendon,” Byers wrote in an email. “In our busy worlds where we are often looking at our phones, it encourages passerby to stop and look up. “

Planning for the art installation began in 2018 as part of the redevelopment of Market Common Clarendon.

“We wanted to do something really extraordinary here. We decided to work with Arlington to come up with something collaboratively that kind of expressed what we felt about the area of the neighborhood, and especially our project,” Yanushonis said.

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

By guest blogger and artist Melanie Kehoss.

The Arlington Visual Art Studio Tour (AVAST) is a self-guided free tour of artists in their studios held throughout Arlington County in early autumn. In response to the pandemic, this popular event is going virtual with a mix of videos and Facebook Live events from Wednesday, September 23 through Sunday, September 27.

This is a non-juried showcase for local artists to feature their work, processes and studio spaces. For the last several years, it’s been a popular way for the community to experience the richness and diversity of visual arts to be found in Arlington County.

In 2020, our tour will go entirely online, with videos and Facebook Live events featuring artists in their studios. This format not only helps our artists and visitors feel safe and secure, it also provides an opportunity to “visit” far more studios than would be feasible in-person. Moreover, this virtual tour will showcase Arlington studios to art lovers around the country and the world! And yes… Much of the artwork you’ll see is available for purchase (see website for details)!

The 2020 Tour will begin on Wednesday, September 23 at 9 a.m., when 28 video studio visits premiere on You Tube. The interactive portion of the tour takes place on Saturday, September 26 at 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, September 27 11 a.m.-4 p.m., when 12 more artists go live on Facebook.

Videos will also be available to watch after the event, but we encourage you to watch during the live sessions so you can comment and ask the artists questions! Look at the list of participating artists and the full schedule on the AVAST Website!

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Isabel Samaras, who grew up in Arlington, has illustrated the cover of MAD Magazine’s October issue.

The cover is for MAD’s “Super Spooferheroes” issue and depicts Wonder Woman’s “Lasso of Tooth” extracting a tooth from the magazine’s iconic cover boy. Samaras is only the second woman to illustrate a MAD cover in the magazine’s 68 year history.

In addition to creating art for publication and for sale, Samaras is a professor at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Samaras spent most of her youth in Arlington, attending Glebe Elementary, Swanson Middle School and Washington-Lee (now Washington-Liberty) High School. She describes her younger self as being a bit of an outsider navigating through Arlington Public Schools.

“I was kind of an oddball, out there flapping away on the fringes, a nerd and an art nerd, some kinda double whammy that probably made me socially radioactive,” Samaras said.

Samaras credits her mom for first sparking her interest in art. When Samaras was young, her mother would construct paper dolls for her to play with. Samaras said seeing the possibilities for what an ordinary object could become fascinated her.

“It seemed like an incredible magic trick to me — this ability to make something, to make toys out of humble office supplies,” Samaras said. “I wanted to be able to do that, too.”

In high school, Samaras painted murals around W-L’s building, including seahorses in the cafeteria. She also painted backdrops for the drama department and was the art director for Penman, the school’s literary magazine.

At W-L, Samaras said her art teacher, Roy Anderson, played a huge role in her artistic growth. He encouraged her to try printmaking at a class in George Washington University’s Corcoran School, and motivated her to apply to Parsons School of Design in New York City, where Samaras attended college.

“He really pushed me to try things that were outside my comfort zone,” Samaras said. “I think about Mr. Anderson a lot these days, about the power of a teacher to light candles, to ignite excitement.”

Growing up, Samaras said MAD Magazine was a coveted treat to read. She remains an avid reader of the satirical magazine today, even as its national popularity wanes. To have her work on the cover, and to be the second woman to ever do so, “is a pretty big, tingle down to the toes, thrill,” Samaras said.

“When I was a kid, and for most of my life, I never saw any women artists in MAD, so it didn’t even occur to me as a possibility that someday I’d see my own work there,” Samaras said. “I’m a subscriber — still — so having the issue with my art on the cover show up in the mail was a completely surreal experience.”

The Wonder Woman parody on Samaras’ cover, which keeps with the MAD cover tradition of spoofing pop culture, is also in line with Samaras’ earlier work.

Samaras said her most popular work blends fictional characters with classic historical paintings. She’s painted Frankenstein and his bride as Mary and Joseph in a nativity scene, Batman dressed as a classical lord and a non-frightening Morticia Addams of The Addams Family holding a child.

Lately, Samaras has been doing more personal work, like painting hands to express different emotions. In these pieces, Samaras said she aims to give her audience a glimpse into how she sees the world.

“Ultimately I’m trying to create beauty, but there’s a lot of energy embedded in a painting,” Samaras said. “You spend an enormous amount of time dreaming them up and creating them — it’s not just a metaphor that you pour yourself into them, you really do… But mostly I’m just hoping that there’s a feeling of connection. A painting in a frame is like a tunnel or a window, from my world to you.”

Photos courtesy Isabel Samaras

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The Arlington Festival of the Arts will make an outdoor return over Labor Day weekend, despite the pandemic.

The annual festival, which was postponed in April after statewide bans on public gatherings, features fine art from local and national artists in forms like glass, paintings and jewelry.

The festival is taking place near the intersection of N. Highland Street and Washington Blvd in Clarendon. Exhibits will be open to the public between 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5 and Sunday, Sept. 6.

Now in its 8th year, the festival typically packs Washington Blvd with visitors walking through rows of white display tents. This year, though, the event will have safety measures meant to prevent COVID-19’s spread.

All attendees above the age of 2 are asked to wear a mask, and social distancing is required between visitor groups and artists. Limits will also be set on how many visitors can attend at one time.

“This has been a trying time for artists around the world, and their appreciators, because nothing beats being able to see the creation in person,” festival producer Howard Alan said in a press release. “We have been able to craft creative solutions to bring art back to the people, without compromising safety.”

Artwork at the festival has been selected from hundreds of applications by an independent panel of expert judges, according to the press release.

Artists include Loretta Scott, a painter in Reston, and Carolyn Copper, a photographer in D.C.

The festival is free to attend and visitors are encouraged to reserve a time slot to avoid lines.

Picture courtesy Arlington Festival of the Arts 

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Morning Notes

New N. Va. Unemployment Claims Drop — “New claims for unemployment benefits filed by Northern Virginia residents fell last week to their lowest level since pandemic-related business shutdowns began, even as thousands of area residents continue collecting unemployment.” Arlington had 352 new claims and 5,280 continuing claims. [InsideNova]

Developers ‘Double Dip’ PPP Loans — Companies affiliated with major local developers received million in PPP loans, in some cases with multiple loans backing individual properties in Arlington, D.C. and elsewhere. [Washington Business Journal]

Another Flash Flood Watch TodayUpdated at 8 a.m. — “More thunderstorms with heavy rain are expected today. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect again this afternoon and tonight for much of our area.” [Twitter]

Citizen’s Police Academy Seeking Participants — “The Arlington County Police Department is now accepting applications for the 24th Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA). The CPA is an educational program designed to create better understanding and communication between police and the community they serve.” [Arlington County]

New Mural in Crystal City — “Last week, the @gensler_design team helped JBG SMITH paint a mural at 2250 Crystal Drive in National Landing to remind our neighbors that ‘even through tough times, the sun will always rise.'” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Morning Notes

Va. to Step Up Restaurant Enforcement — “Recognizing an increase in COVID-19 cases in parts of the state, particularly in the Hampton Roads area, Gov. Ralph Northam is increasing enforcement of the state’s rules around the coronavirus… State licensing agencies will be conducting unannounced visits to establishments, as needed, and the state health department is shifting an additional 100 staff members to its existing team of 500 inspectors.” [InsideNova]

Barrels Fail to Stop Rogue I-395 Driver — Someone stopped their car on a highway, got out, and moved an orange barrel in order to avoid a slight delay while driving from Arlington to D.C. on I-395. [Twitter]

County Board to Approve Arts Grants — “Arlington County Board members on July 18 are slated to approve approximately $216,000 in annual grants for arts organizations… Each of the 21 organizations that requested funding saw at least part of their request fulfilled; in addition, two of four individual artists seeking funding garnered a grant.” [InsideNova]

Local National Merit Scholars — Nine Arlington students are among the National Merit Scholarship winners for 2020. [Patch]

Arlington Students Ace Latin Exam — “According to Arlington Public Schools about 130,000 students across the country take the [National Latin Exam] which focuses on vocabulary, grammar, Roman cultural history and mythology. Nineteen students in the school system were among the few who achieved perfection.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Morning Notes

Arlington Gets Federal Arts Grant — “Arlington Cultural Affairs will receive a $35,000 Art Works award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)… [Arlington] will use the grant to support a multi-cultural artist residency project serving the Columbia Hills and Columbia Grove affordable housing communities.” [Arlington County]

Justin Trawick to Play ‘Secret’ Show — “We just got approval from Arlington County to present ‘Common Good on The Block’ benefiting the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Join ‘Justin Trawick and The Common Good’ for a secret street show with the full band on August 1st. This will be a socially distanced event and there are only 60 tickets available.” [Twitter]

Armed Robbery Near Ballston — “At approximately 11:45 p.m. on July 7, the victim was outside his residence when he was approached by two male suspects, one of whom was displaying a firearm. The suspects forced the victim back inside of his apartment, assaulted him, and demanded money. The victim was forced into the bathroom while the suspects ransacked the residence, then stole the victim’s vehicle, a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox with Virginia tags, and other items of value.” [Arlington County]

APS Superintendent to Hold Virtual Town Hall — “Dr. Durán will be hosting a community virtual Town Hall on Tuesday, July 14, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., to address the family selection process for choosing an instructional model for students. The Superintendent will address questions already received and take questions during the live event using Microsoft Teams or Facebook Live. The event will provide simultaneous interpretation in 5 languages (more details to come), including ASL, and closed captions in the streamed video.” [Arlington Public Schools]

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(Updated at 11:45 p.m.) More than 500 people have signed a petition calling for the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 to be renamed “Black Lives Matter Bridge.”

The petition was created amid dueling efforts to place and remove the letters “BLM” on the bridge’s chain link fence, a thus far nonviolent dispute that has resulted in multiple calls to Arlington County police.

The BLM art first appeared about a month ago, during nationwide protests over the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement.

Two weeks ago, the red cups used to form the letters were removed, promping locals to replace them with new cups and to write new chalk slogans. Among them: “no justice, no peace” and “take it down and we’ll do it again.”

Melissa Schwaber, who sent photos of the cups being replaced, described those doing so as “Fairlington moms and their kids.”

The cups were later removed again, which led to Black Lives Matters supporters creating a heart and spelling out BLM with harder-to-remove ribbons. That won Twitter praise from Arlington County Board Chair and Fairlington resident Libby Garvey. The next day, however, someone spray-painted “TRUMP 2020” under the letters.

The spray paint was in turn sprayed over later that morning, and “BLACK LIVES MATTER” written in chalk over it. Then, more spray paint appeared.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, July 1, a local resident posted photos of an older man and a younger man — wearing a motorcycle helmet and a Liberty University shirt — who she accused of vandalizing the bridge and the lettering.

On Friday, a tipster said the “BLM vs. MAGA battle” was continuing to escalate.

“Now there are people putting up conspiracy theory banners on the bridge and people camped out on the bridge with large dogs,” the tipster said. The banners included a photo of Hillary Clinton under the words “WANTED 4 Crimes Against Humanity.”

Later that day, there were more skirmishes.

“I was driving on the Fairlington Bridge an hour or so ago and saw a man arguing with several white women near the BLM signs,” said another tipster. “He was waving his arms in one woman’s face. About 15 minutes ago, on my way home, I saw that the Arlington PD (about 3 cars) had detained the man at the gas station in Shirlington.”

An Arlington County police spokeswoman tells ARLnow that officers have responded to the bridge several times.

“ACPD has responded to multiple reports of disputes in the area of the S. Abingdon Street bridge regarding the posting and removal of signage,” said Kirby Clark. She said that “no charges have been filed related to any incidents involving the signs,” but one incident is under investigation.

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As Cowboy Cafe (4792 Lee Highway) adds new outdoor seating, as temporarily allowed by the county, co-owner Jim Barnes wanted to spruce out the exterior of the restaurant a little.

The result: a towering, colorful mural currently being painted onto an empty brick wall.

Local artist MasPaz — whose distinctive style can be found from across the region from D.C. to Tysons — has been working on designing and painting the mural. The artwork’s design was inspired by the Wynwood Walls in Miami, but the theme came from the local response to COVID-19.

The project spun out of the Arlington Art Truck program when participants were asked to summarize their feelings on life in Arlington under the quarantine, according to the Lee Highway Alliance. MasPaz’s word was “community” and the subsequent mural depicts someone hugging several homes close to them.

Beyond the mural, the new patio will also feature lighting and other renovations. The plan is to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the Lee Highway Alliance is still awaiting the final lighting installation, later this month.

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A new public art project set to debut later this summer will place numerous model slave ships in front of the Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Blvd) in Virginia Square.

Local artist Lynda Andrews-Barry‘s display of 25 wooden slave ships, formed from driftwood collected from the Chesapeake Bay, will fill the lawn in front of the arts center. The ships will be staked into the ground and have sails that collect sunlight during the day and light up at night.

According to Barry:

This site-specific project was conceived through researching Arlington Arts Center and its location in the former Maury school. The institution’s namesake, Matthew Fontaine Maury, was a native Virginian astronomer, historian, oceanographer, meteorologist, cartographer, author, geologist, education, United States Navy officer, and Chief of Sea Coast, River and Harbor Defenses for the Confederacy. However, Maury was not a proponent of American slavery. Instead he favored relocating slaves (and their owners, if desired) to the Amazon, and sent a crew there to map the river and determine if his plan was feasible.

Maury’s proposal was part of a broader movement to relocate, rather than integrate, Black Americans formerly held as slaves. A school in Alexandria is also named after Maury.

The artwork commemorates the 12 million people captured and loaded onto those ships as cargo, some of whom Barry said she is descended from.

Megan Niewold, director of development at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, said the project was funded by a $10,000 grant. Niewold said the focus of the grant this year was on funding public art that was helping to transform communities.

“We wanted to do public art opportunities that were accessible for everyone and in a diverse area,” Niewold said. “[The project] had to be public, interactive, environmentally friendly, and had to talk about a big topic and encourage heavy discussion.”

Niewold said ten submissions were considered in the final review, but a volunteer grants committee was particularly impressed with how this design tackled race relations and the history of the Maury school — as well as the use of reclaimed driftwood.

The project was originally supposed to go up in April, Niewold said, but the foundation didn’t want to promote more public art during the height of COVID-19 so the timeline was changed to mid-August.

Image via The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia

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(Updated at 8:10 p.m.) Wakefield High School senior Kidus Sebil’s photograph “Half a Man” has won the Congressional Art Competition in Virginia’s 8th District.

A panel from the National Art Education Association selected Sebil’s photograph out of dozens of other student works, according to the Office of Congressman Don Beyer. Sebil was notified of his victory in a congratulatory call from Beyer.

Sebil said that the photo was in black and white to highlight the details while also emphasizing the country’s current black and white division. The boy’s face was half-covered by the tree as further symbolism.

“Being an African American male in America can often feel like you’re only worth half that of a white man,” said Sebil.

Winning artwork will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year, according to the Congressional Art Competition website. However, the Congressional Institute and Architect of the Capitol are still evaluating the timeline and logistics around COVID-19 restrictions and procedures, Beyer’s office said.

The Congressional Art Competition is held each spring, accepting participants from high schools across the nation. Winners are recognized by their district and at an annual awards ceremony in D.C.

Beyer said that Sebil’s photography “speaks very powerfully to this moment,” and he believes people will be moved by this image once the Capitol building is open for visitors.

“At a time when so many are decrying the painfully slow pace of progress towards equality, justice, and the rejection of racism, this picture is powerful and moving,” said Beyer.

Photo by Kidus Sebil, courtesy of the Office of Congressman Don Beyer

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