Arlington, VA

Local graphic designer and artist Hermes Marticio was only searching for a cup of coffee, but found an art studio instead.

It wasn’t Marticio’s first time walking into East West Coffee Wine in Clarendon (3101 Wilson Blvd) when he strolled inside in mid-November. Every time he noticed the art on the walls.

“It’s not curated. It’s just like they put it up there,” says Marticio.

So, he approached the owner, Mehmet Coskun, and asked if he could use a corner of the shop to create a pop-up art studio for his works. Coskun readily agreed and the two made a deal.

“I’ve always wanted my own studio,” says Marticio.

Marticio grew up in the Philippines, immigrated to California, and moved to Arlington about a decade ago for a job and to be closer to his mother. He is a father of one: a 19-year-old daughter.

Marticio says that this area provides good opportunities and schooling, which was also a big reason why his mom came to the United States.

“My mom grew up on a farm in the Philippines,” he says. “Something clicked in her head that wasn’t how [her] family was supposed to live.”

He says it was her “third eye” that guided her, a concept of having an invisible, perceptive eye — often in the middle of the forehead — that’s knowledgeable beyond normal sight.

His mother’s third eye is also inspiration for his art. Marticio designs illustrative portraits of pop icons, from Jay-Z to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Muhammad Ali , many of which are depicted with a third eye.

“I feel like those icons have seen something that a regular person hasn’t seen,” says Marticio. “That’s why they became so successful.”

Like many folks, Marticio has had his job prospects fluctuate during the pandemic. When he lost his job earlier this year, he focused his energy and attention on creating art. He did get another full-time graphic designer job in July, but by then, he had created a whole lot.

“All of my time, I really poured into [my art]. You know, what else am I going to do?,” he says. “It was also for my piece of mind.”

Marticio has also embedded his art with augmented reality. Each work has a QR code, which if scanned with a phone using Artivie mobile app, reveals animation and other features.

“A lot of artwork can be static,” says Marticio. “But this adds elements to it.”

This augmented reality component is another variation on the “third eye,” adding a perspective not seen by the naked eye.

Coskun says he’s thrilled to have Marticio’s art in his Clarendon coffee shop.

“I like to support local businesses just because I’m a local business myself,” he says. It’s a win-win, a local artist gets to have an art gallery and a local business doesn’t have to spend money on generic decor.

“I’d rather have [Marticio’s] paintings and help him make some money, then [for me] go to IKEA to buy some paintings,” says Coskun. In fact, he’s got a few more inquiries from other local artists as well about putting their work on his shop’s walls.

“If there’s a space available, then why not?,” Coskun says, “It makes the walls look ten times better.”

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Busboys and Poets, a restaurant and arts space with a location in Shirlington, has been holding virtual dinner parties to replace its usual in-person gatherings.

Every Friday evening since late May, the restaurants has invited diners to watch a Zoom conversation between owner Andy Shallal and a featured guest, free of charge.

The restaurant, which has seven locations in the D.C. region, normally hosts in-person poetry, art and discussion-based events. Now, with the pandemic pausing such gatherings, Shallal said the dinner parties are meant to continue the “meeting of the minds” that Busboys and Poets used to facilitate.  

“We’re a place where art, culture and politics collide and we don’t want to lose that,” Shallal said. “We want to continue that collison.”  

Most of the parties’ featured guests have spoken at previous Busboys and Poets events, Shallal said. Recent guests include author Alice Walker, filmmaker Michael Moore and Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Shallal said conversations usually cover a speaker’s background and upcoming projects as well as their thoughts on current events like the COVID-19 pandemic, the national reckoning on race and November’s election. 

Viewers are encouraged to order meals through Busboys and Poets’ pickup or delivery service to accompany the conversation. Shallal said popular takeout items have been the blackened salmon and the chicken panini, as well as signature cocktails.

Busboys and Poets has also been holding open mic nights and poetry slam competitions through Instagram Live. Hosted by one of the restaurant’s regular poets, amateur poets log in to the livestreams and present their work. Shallal said he hopes these programs maintain a sense of community between artists and art consumers while they are forced apart.  

“These are moments when people want to feel connected,” Shallal said. “[People] don’t want to feel like they’re alone. I think these types of virtual conversations and programs that we do help people to recognize that they’re not alone, that there are many, many people out there who are longing for this kind of interaction.”

The next virtual dinner party is Friday, September 11 at 6 p.m. Reverend William Barber II, a pastor and civil rights activist, will be the featured guest.

Image via Google Maps

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Arlington County is looking for a new top poet.

The selected poet would be the second laureate in the county’s history, succeeding Katherine E. Young, who ended her term in 2018. The new poet laureate would serve from 2020 to 2022, and will receive an honorarium of $1500 per year, according to Arlington Cultural Affairs.

Applicants must be published poets, with a track record of publishing their original work in poetry journals, magazines, and/or websites, that are predominantly not self-curated, personal websites or personal blogs. Interested poets must be 18 years of age or older.

The poet laureate will have several duties to carry out. One of those duties is to write and present two original poems on a subject that relates to issues relating to the county. In 2016, for instance, Young presented a poem about a thunderstorm in Ballston that felled a prominent tree.

The new poet laureate will also serve as a juror for Arlington Transit’s Moving Words Competition and facilitate community engagement programs with the Arlington Public Libraries and Arlington Public Affairs staff.

“The poet selected [as] Arlington’s poet laureate will serve as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts and will advance Arlingtonians’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms,” Arlington Cultural Affairs said in a press release. “He or she will represent Arlington County’s commitment to fostering a creative environment that encourages collaboration, innovation and community participation.”

The county is accepting applications until March 24 at 5 p.m. The poet laureate’s term is set to begin on July 1 of this year.

The full county press release is below, after the jump.

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Blerdcon — a comic convention highlighting black nerd culture — is returning to Crystal City and fans of the ’90s anime Cowboy Bebop may recognize a familiar voice.

The convention is scheduled for the Hyatt Regency (2700 Richmond Highway) from Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14.

Guests highlighted at the convention include Estelle, a musician and who has a leading role in the Steven Universe cartoon show, and Beau Billingslea, who voiced Jet Black in the English dub for the seminal anime Cowboy Bebop.

The event celebrates both the creative talents of black nerds, a subculture emerging at the intersection of science-fiction/fantasy fandoms and the black experience in America that has historically struggled with a sense of isolation in both communities.

In addition to a focus on the black nerd cultural experience, the event description highlights the convention’s intersectionality with “LGBTQ, the disabled, POCs and the international community.”

Weekend passes to the convention are $55.

Photo via Blerdcon/Facebook

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Arlington Metro riders might soon notice some digital screens displaying local artwork popping up at five stations sometime this spring.

WMATA plans to install the new screens at a dozen stations across the Metro system over the coming weeks, including several stops in Arlington itself: Crystal City, Ballston, Pentagon City, National Airport and Rosslyn.

The screens are part of Metro’s “Art in Transit Program,” which seeks to “work with cultural organizations and stakeholders to integrate art content into the new digital displays,” according a report by county staff. The County Board is set to approve an agreement this weekend that would allow Arlington Cultural Affairs to submit content to be displayed on the screens.

“Through this collaboration, WMATA is seeking to create a dynamic transit experience that increases community awareness and pride, and provides customers and the public with additional access to vibrant art produced by partnering organizations,” staff wrote in the report.

Other groups contributing artwork include the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the NOMA and Golden Triangle business improvement districts.

Arlington’s artwork is set to appear on the screens for “20 seconds at least every six minutes for a period of at least 28 days,” according to the report.

The Board is set to sign off on the project at its meeting Saturday (March 16), but riders should start noticing the screens as soon as this week. WMATA is scheduled to install the Crystal City screen from March 11-15, then bring the screens to the other Arlington stations sometime between April 29 through May 3.

This wouldn’t be the first public art project bound for the Ballston station, in particular — the station is set for a colorful, LED-light makeover sometime within the next few years.

File photo

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The legacy of Arlington’s Fire Station No. 8, and how to honor it, will be the subject of a community discussion this weekend.

The event is scheduled from 3-4:45 p.m. on Saturday (April 14) at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street).

During segregation Fire Station No. 8 was the only Arlington station staffed by African Americans.

The Fire Station 8 History and Legacy working group is hosting the discussion, “to share memories, perspectives and ideas on how to recognize, emphasize and honor the history and legacy of the Hall’s Hill/High View Park Volunteer Fire Department and Fire Station No. 8,” according to an Eventbrite page.

The group is due to submit recommendations for ways to honor the fire station’s legacy by late May.

A new, four-bay station is set to be built at 4845 Lee Highway, where the existing Fire Station No. 8 stands. The design process is scheduled to begin this summer.

Photo via Arlington County 

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For the first time in its decade-long history, the National Chamber Ensemble will play concerts at venues other than Rosslyn’s Spectrum Theatre (1611 N. Kent Street), starting next month.

Arlington Cultural Affairs Division director Michelle Isabelle-Stark said the county’s lease on the theater expired in July, and they took “immediate steps” to help find new spaces in which the group can perform.

So instead of performing at the theater, which it has done since its founding in 2007, the NCE will perform its five 2017-2018 season concerts at the Gunston Arts Center (2700 S. Lang Street) and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd).

The ensemble performs chamber music — classical music composed for a small group of instruments in a more intimate setting.

NCE’s season of concerts begins on Saturday, October 14 at Gunston Arts Center with a program called, “Night in the Garden of Spain” featuring a celebration of Spanish classical music and dance.

For NCE leaders, finding space similar to the Spectrum proved challenging.

“It was hard to find a space comparable to the Spectrum, because the Spectrum is a perfect size for chamber music,” said NCE artistic director Leo Sushansky. “Most of the other auditoriums in Arlington, they’re very large school auditoriums. So the Gunston Arts Center is probably the closest to the Spectrum in size, but it was only available for two concerts.”

The Spectrum Theatre is set to be torn down during the first phase of the Rosslyn Plaza Project along with two apartment buildings and four office buildings.

In its place would be 2.5 million square feet of space across five buildings, including 1.8 million square feet of office, 550 residential units, 200 hotel rooms and 45,000 square feet of retail space. And the space once occupied by Artisphere in the same building is set to be a co-working space, opening this fall.

But Sushansky said while having to play in new venues incurs extra costs from rentals, transporting instruments and the like, it will help them show off their talents to more people.

“I’m hoping it’ll bring us into different neighborhoods, bring attention to a different audience,” he said. “It will help bring about some interesting collaborations.”

But the closure of the Spectrum left Sushansky to bemoan the lack of dedicated performance spaces in Arlington outside of the county’s schools.

“The county has been very supportive all these years, and they continue to be so,” he said. “It’s just there’s a problem in Arlington with not enough performance spaces. There’s really no concert hall in Arlington. The Spectrum was the only one. Now that has gone and all that are left are school auditoriums.”

Isabelle-Stark said that such groups can be creative with their venue choices, as it gives them different environments to perform in and introduces their work to more people.

“As they say when one door closes another one opens,” she said. “[Alternative] venues for performance, such as churches, shopping malls, and airports, to name a few, provide opportunities for performers to stretch creatively and cultivate new audiences.”

Photo No. 1: courtesy photo. Photo No. 3 via Google Maps.

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Back in the 1970s, Clarendon was known as Little Saigon, a hotbed of Vietnamese businesses. Now, only a few holdovers remain.

Reminders of Clarendon’s Little Saigon past continues to fade. Minh’s Vietnamese Restaurant, a favorite of some foodies, closed last month. While newer Vietnamese restaurants have opened recently — Four Sisters Grill in Clarendon, Pho Deluxe in Courthouse — there’s no denying that the character of Clarendon has changed significantly over the past decade.

The original reason for the disappearance of most of the original Vietnamese businesses in Clarendon was the construction of Metro’s Orange Line up Wilson Blvd. After the Clarendon station opened in 1979, the neighborhood started to be redeveloped and rent prices skyrocketed. Before the Metro expansion, real estate rental costs were as low as $1.50-$5.00 per square foot. After its opening, prices rose as high as $25-$30 per square foot in some buildings.

The construction of Metro was another contributor. Many businesses fled Clarendon because they thought the construction would deter potential customers. By the 1990s, much of the Vietnamese community had left Clarendon en masse for Falls Church and the Eden Center.

Out of the dozens of Vietnamese businesses that once existed in Clarendon, one restaurant has remained over the past few decades: Nam-Viet. The restaurant has been family owned and operated since the 1980s and it continues to attract loyal customers to its slightly off-the-beaten path location on N. Hudson Street, not far from the CVS Pharmacy and Don Tito.

The restaurant has hosted well-known public figures like Bill Clinton and for years, it hosted an annual Tet dinner honoring American prisoners of war from the Vietnam War.

The restaurant’s new manager, Richard Nguyen, has witnessed a lot of changes after growing up in the area helping to run the Nam-Viet with his parents.

“Clarendon has gone through many metamorphoses,” he said. “It used to be a general collection of small businesses to newer commercial shops opening. I remember growing up there was a flea market where Northside Social is. It’s gotten younger, but  at the same time the residents have gotten older and aged with us. Regardless of the change they’ve embraced Arlington as home especially the natives of Arlington.”

Richard remains optimistic for the future Vietnamese restaurants.

“I think Vietnamese restaurants are here to stay they just have to stick to traditions and keep to culture as much as they can,” he said.

Video by Omar DeBrew. Some photos in the video were sourced from Arlington’s Echoes of Little Saigon Project.

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Logo via Arlington CountyD.C. has one. So does Prince William County, Va. and Takoma Park, Md.

To date, perhaps surprisingly, Arlington has not had one. But that’s about to change.

Arlington County is seeking applicants from individuals seeking to become the county’s first-ever poet laureate. The position only pays $1,500 per year — partially from donated funds — but it does come with the lofty title. The poet laureate’s two year term is set to begin July 1.

“The poet selected Arlington’s inaugural laureate will be an advocate for the literary arts, create works of special civic significance, hold public readings, officiate at special events, carry out community engagement programs and help judge Arlington’s annual Moving Words Poetry competition,” the county’s Cultural Affairs division said in a press release.

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and must reside in Arlington. Information on how to apply — the deadline is May 12 — is available on the Arlington Arts website.

The full county press release, after the jump.

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Dance Asia performers (photo via Dance Asia website)The holiday celebrations are starting early, with Dance Asia‘s fifth annual “Colors!” holiday showcase taking place this weekend.

On Saturday (November 1) from 7:00-9:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Auditorium (125 S. Old Glebe Road), 11 dance groups featuring more than 100 performers will present dance pieces designed around a particular color. The dancers — who range in age from 5 to 60 years old — designed the performances to reflect their culture, traditions and identities.

A couple of goals for the event are to showcase the diversity of Asia and raise awareness of the intricacies of Asian dance forms. The performers come from diverse backgrounds, including East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Pacific. There will also be featured guest performers of Latin American and African heritage.

Before the dancing begins, starting at 6:00 p.m., visitors can browse through a mini craft market to mark the beginning of the holiday season.

This cultural free event is for people of all ages, and advanced tickets can be reserved online. Donations are welcome.

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