Arlington, VA

A mural featuring detailed pink and mint line work on the outside of Synetic Theater, on S. Bell Street in Crystal City, is now complete.

In July, the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) launched a design challenge for the mural, in partnership with developer JBG Smith, for individual artists to submit their portfolio for consideration. After receiving 24 entries, a jury of representatives selected five finalists to create conceptual designs.

Runner-up ideas featured tropical florals, silhouettes of people, and geometric shapes. In October, winning artist Jay Shogo was chosen for his wavy line art representing “the experiences and connections we all share with others,” according to the mural website.

“Each design concept that was submitted by our finalists was captivating and thoughtful, and we appreciate the level of artistry that went into creating them,” said Jason Najjoum, Managing Director of the Synetic Theater, in a statement.  “Jay’s dynamic use of flowing lines make for a thrilling design.”

Although two of the five finalists were from the area, Shogo hails from Japan. His artwork can be found everywhere from New York City and Los Angeles to Australia and Korea.

“Jay’s design is sophisticated and bold and serves as a beautiful addition to the Crystal City streetscape,” said Crystal City BID president Tracy Sayegh Gabriel. “There have been exciting productions at Synetic Theater for years, but the street environment hasn’t matched the energy behind the doors — until now.”

The mural was painted in November.

Synetic Theater, which performs at 1800 S. Bell Street in Crystal City, is a physical theater company noted for telling “classic stories through movement, music, technology and visual arts” — but without words.

Photos via Crystal City BID 

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Last night, an art shop along Lee Highway debuted a brand new mural from a Spanish artist.

“I think it’s going to be a nice ‘talk of the town,'” said Jimmy Hakimi, who owns the business, KH Art & Framing. “It’s a nice art for the area. We are an art gallery so it makes sense.”

The shop is located at the busy intersection of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road, which made the building ideal for local officials looking to find a home for the public art that the Spanish Embassy was hoping to commission locally. The painter behind the new mural is Spanish artist David de la Mano.

“Hopefully it will bring some customers, but that wasn’t the main use,” said Hakimi, who has run the businesses for 33 years.

De la Mano is known for his monochromatic murals depicting groups of people fighting forces and fears, often intertwined with elements of nature like branches or animals.

His Arlington mural depicts ragtag groups of people marching forward with spindly flags upwards in an overgrown forest — inside of a person’s skull.

“He was a really fun artist to work with,” said Ginger Brown, vice president of the Lee Highway Alliance, which helped coordinate the project.

The Spanish embassy in D.C. had originally commissioned de la Mano for its own annual, mural project inside the embassy before looking for public art opportunities the artist could take advantage while in the area.

“It seems like it was a wonderful opportunity to have David’s work in Arlington,” said Ernesto Coro, a cultural affairs officer with the embassy who added the country liked to see “have the imprint of Spain” on the street.

The county has long sought to redevelop the area along Lee Highway, a mostly car-oriented stretch of parking lots and businesses between the East Falls Church Metro station and the Lyon Village neighborhood near Rosslyn. In 2016, the county-appointed Lee Highway Alliance released plans to study ways of transforming the region an “attractive, prosperous, safe, healthy, and livable main street community.”

“We’ve always wanted to incorporate public art into the corridor,” said Brown. “That includes temporary and permanent public art.”

Altogether she said the project cost around $7,000 — $6,000 of that went to de la Mano and another $1,000 went to buy the paint. Arlington developer BCN Homes covered the cost of the paint while the Spanish embassy and developer JBG Smith split the artist fees. Real estate firm Long & Foster sponsored Monday night’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

 The mural itself is titled “Changes Begins Within,” a title Brown said fits the corridor.

“It goes along with Lee Highway. It’s changing,” she said. “Our organization is a grassroots organization so we’re within. Change from within.”

Hakimi said the wall of his business at 4745 Lee Highway is usually repainted every five years, which means de la Mano’s mural may be only temporary.

“It’s possible that we keep it going,” he said. “As long as people like, we keep it.”

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The pop-up plaza next to the county’s surface parking lot in Courthouse has been adorned with a new piece of public art.

The mural is the creation of local graphic designer and artist Marc Pekala. Set to debut tomorrow (Friday) at Courthouse’s PARK(ing) Day celebration, at the corner of 15th Street N. and N. Uhle Street, the abstract art combines eight of Pekala’s paintings of signs from iconic Arlington businesses such as Weenie Beenie and the former Bob Peck Chevrolet.

The design was chosen through the “Arlington Abstracted” contest, in which people were invited to visit the Arlington Art Truck and scramble Pekala’s artwork. The winning design, by Arlington resident Brandon Bailey, was chosen by Arlington Arts to be brought to life by Pekala as the new Courthouse mural.

“The whole process with the Arlington Art Truck was wonderful,” said Pekala. “Listening to people share their memories of Arlington brought back by the older signs may have been my favorite part. So often I work in solitude, and the feeling of community and the pleasure of sharing was a real treat.”

PARK(ing) Day is a national event that asks the public to reconsider the use of parking spaces as public land. Pekala’s mural will span across three former parking spaces, the “last remaining vestige of the original Arlington County Courthouse site from 1898,” according to a release from Arlington Arts.

The public is “invited to celebrate the mural” and meet the artist Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The event will include an opportunity for attendees to create their own miniature, take-home versions of the mural, according to Arlington Arts.

Photo (3) courtesy of Arlington Arts 

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A 26-foot-tall sculpture of a fire nozzle is coming to the new location of Fire Station 10 as a tribute to Arlington firefighters.

The artwork is the result of a partnership between Arlington Public Art and Penzance, the developer behind the upcoming massive development in western Rosslyn dubbed “The Highlands.”

Set to open in 2021, The Highlands will be the future site of the new Fire Station 10. Currently, the station is temporarily located at 1791 N. Quinn Street.

“This is our first opportunity to integrate public art into a fire station, which is a recommendation in Arlington County’s Public Art Master Plan,” said Angela Adams, Director of Arlington Public Art, in a press release. “Partnering with Penzance has allowed us to honor the history of Fire Station 10 through an enriching piece of public art for all to enjoy for years to come.”

Baltimore artists David and Eli Hess were commissioned for the artwork, which was funded by Penzance as a part of The Highlands development process.

The sculpture, described by officials as “larger-than-life,” will be fabricated from the same bronze used in actual firefighting nozzles. More from the press release:

The nozzle of the piece will act as a giant sconce or torch mounted to the side of the building. At night, a light inside the nozzle will illuminate the spray of water above. The water will be made from stainless steel pipe, twisting and bending in a quasi-spiral formation. The entire sculpture will be 26-feet-tall, attached 8 feet above the ground, extending to the top of the station’s façade. The stainless steel and bronze of the sculpture contrast the dark brick of the station, and the stainless water spray will shine at night against the rich red glow of the brick behind.

The Highlands, on the 1500 block of Wilson Blvd, will include three towers, up to 27 stories, with 104 condos, 780 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail space.

Images courtesy of Penzance

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Arlington County is hoping residents can help inspire the artist designing the public art component of renovations to Jennie Dean Park near Shirlington.

Residents will be able to meet the Brooklyn-based artist Mark Reigelman on two days in early September during his first visit to Arlington to share their stories and memories of the 12-acre park.

“The input gathered will inform the art work design,” said officials in a press release.

Reigelman will give two presentations about his past work on Tuesday, September at 6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. at the New District Brewery (2709 S. Oakland Street) and is also expected to open the floor for stories from residents. He is scheduled to host another, open house-style, meeting on Wednesday, September 4 from 8-9:30 a.m. at Busboys and Poets (4251 Campbell Avenue).

Reigelman has worked on two park projects before in New York City and San Jose, California, according to his website — which heralds him as a “genius” whose intellect is “only exceeded by his modesty and benevolence.”

The future artwork planned is part a fiercely debated redesign of the park that includes moving a baseball field near S. Nelson Street, installing a new bathroom near Four Mile Run Drive, and building basketball and tennis courts near where a WETA-TV production building now stands. The county held a public feedback session on the renovations last month.

The park redesign itself is also part of a larger plan to revitalize the Four Mile Run Valley area, solve overcrowding at sites like the Trades Center, and prioritize storm protections for the floodprone area.

New art for the park could pay homage to the park’s namesake, former slave Jennie Serepta Dean, who helped found a trades school for African Americans, per a 2018 staff report for the Arlington County Board about the project.

Map via Arlington County 

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Morning Notes

Big Tree Fall on Car — A large tree fell across 8th Street S. late last week, crushing a parked car and causing a widespread power outage. [Twitter]

Local NAACP Reflects on Progress — “The Arlington NAACP’s 71st-anniversary Freedom Fund Banquet was a chance to look back on progress, but also to press for vigilance so it doesn’t slip away… The banquet on Oct. 13 drew a large crowd to the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel.” [InsideNova]

Rosslyn LED Art Unveiled — “Cliff Garten Studio is pleased to announce, ‘Gravity and Grace,’ a site-specific large-scale LED public artwork integrated into the architecture of JBG SMITH’s Central Place Plaza in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington.” [LiveDesign]

Yorktown Tied for First — “With an important homecoming victory over the visiting Langley Saxons in Oct. 12 football action, the Yorktown Patriots (4-3, 2-0) upped their winning streak to three to remain tied for first place in the Liberty District.” [InsideNova]

ACPD Again Holding Take-Back Day — “On Saturday, October 27, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 16th opportunity in seven years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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A colorful, constantly changing public art installation is now on the way for Rosslyn’s Central Place.

Arlington Public Art is teaming up with the Rosslyn Business Improvement District and developer JBG Smith to host the new work of art at Central Place Plaza (1800 N. Lynn Street), just across from the Metro station.

California-based artist Cliff Garten will be working to install and program the piece from now until Thursday (July 12), according to a county press release. The 150-foot-wide, 15-foot-tall LED artwork, titled “Gravity and Grace,” will be projected onto the top two floors of the parking garage at the site.

“The ever-changing artwork incorporates real-time environmental data that organizes its spectral shifts of color,” the county arts program wrote in the release. “Both color field painting and blues guitar inspired the design of the artwork. If the work of art were played on a guitar, you might say that the programmed environmental factors are really what are strumming the chords of color you see on the wall.”

The county added that Norm Schwab of the design firm Lightswitch and artist Pablo Molina helped write algorithms for the artwork “that drives the color and motion transitions in the artwork.”

“The significant pieces of real-time environmental data tied to the artwork vary daily and show significant fluctuations over long periods of time, such as temperature and extreme weather tied to climate change,” the county wrote. “This shifting data introduces chance into the structure of the artwork pulling data from factors like local variations in Arlington’s temperature, river level, traffic patterns or water usage.”

Garten, who is also the designer behind the “Corridor of Light” art installation coming to N. Lynn Street’s intersection with Lee Highway and I-66, will host an “on-site artist talk” about the installation tonight. The event will start at 9 p.m.

Photo via Arlington Public Art

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A yarn bomb will be hitting the Clarendon Metro Plaza this week to raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer.

More than 30 trees in the plaza will be covered in colorful yarn from April 20-30, according to Arlington native Ann McLean, the project’s organizer. McLean has been collecting both knitted pieces and monetary donations through her organization called Stitch 4 Stage IV, which was created in November.

More than 200 knitted pieces were donated for the yarn bomb.

“I was really worried that we weren’t going to get enough and it turned out we got more than enough,” she said. “We actually may turn out doing more trees than we thought we were going to do.”

McLean is also using the yarn bomb as a way to celebrate the six-year anniversary of her own diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. This type of cancer has no cure and the survival rates are grim — around 70 percent of people with it don’t live past 3 years, she said.

“I’m considering this quite an anniversary,” McLean added.

It also sends cancer cells to other parts of the body, and in McLean’s case, it’s in her liver. The cancer is treatable, but not curable, she noted. The yarn bomb is symbolic of the cancer, she said.

“Metastatic breast cancer is like a bomb going off, sending breast cancer debris to other parts of your body — bones, lungs, liver and brain,” McLean wrote in an email.

McLean also got 40 people to sponsor a tree for $100 each and also received other donations, totaling $10,000 raised for the Karen Ribeiro Drug Discovery Research fund at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute.

Knitting was a hobby for McLean when she was a child and she picked it back up when she got her diagnosis. She said it helps her feel “zen,” keeps her busy, and calms any anxiety.

She also got the idea for a yarn bomb when she took a trip to New Zealand and thought the knitting community would support a similar project in Arlington. But the donations have come from all over, including Encinitas, Calif., Palm Harbor, Fla., Rehoboth Beach, Del. and even the United Kingdom.

This will not be Arlington’s first yarn bombing — a group called the Guerrilla Stitch brigade covered Rosslyn in yarn back in 2013.

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Columbia Pike is set for a new piece of public art: a 60-foot wind turbine blade on Arlington County’s western border with Fairfax County.

The blade, entitled “The Pike,” is designed by the noted sculptor Donald Lipski, and will stand on the southern side of the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Jefferson Street in the Arlington Mill neighborhood.

At a talk at the Columbia Pike Branch Library last month, Lipski said he was inspired by the design of wind turbine blades and the pike weapon, which is a long thrusting spear. He also noted that there are still disused windmills along Columbia Pike that were once used to pump water.

“It’s just put up as this big beautiful thing,” Lipski said. “It’s a found object, it’s recycled, it’s emblematic of wind energy, it’s emblematic of a Pike, but one that’s vertical, one that’s in the open position and says, ‘Come on in. Everybody is welcome. You don’t have to pay a toll even though it used to be a Pike'”

Lipski said he will reuse an old 50-foot-long turbine blade, stand it up vertically on a 10-foot pedestal and then cover the pedestal in coins from the various countries and nationalities represented along the Pike. The sculpture will be lit at night by a series of lights around its base.

The use of coins also harks back to when the Pike used to be a toll road, first designed to connect the District of Columbia with areas to the west.

“Citizens of Arlington would go and rummage around in their drawers and find coins from their home country and give me those coins, and I would build them into the sculpture,” Lipski said.

And in return for letting him use their coins in his sculpture, Lipski said he will design a commemorative coin and give one to each person who donates in exchange.

The work had been intended to coincide with the opening of the since-canceled streetcar, but will go ahead as the Pike prepares for the launch of the “Premium Transit Network” of buses.

But not everyone is so sure about the new piece of art. In letters provided to ARLnow, leaders at the Arlington Mill Civic Association said a decision approving the project was made without enough input. Planning for the art has been underway since 2012, and Lipski was selected from 88 applicants the following year.

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Morning Notes

Record High Low Temperature — The area has set another record for a warm low temperature. Yesterday, the low temperature at Reagan National Airport was 74 degrees, besting the previous Oct. 9 record of 72 degrees. [Twitter]

Record APS Enrollment — Enrollment at Arlington Public Schools for the 2017-2018 school year has been recorded at 26,927, surpassing the previous record set in 1963 in the midst of the Baby Boom generation. “The official count was up 789 students – 3 percent – from a year before, and has now risen 27 percent since the 2010-11 school year,” the Sun Gazette reported, though the final figure was well below the more than 27,000 projected. [InsideNova]

Record School Library Circulation — Print is apparently not dead yet, as 1.044 million books and other printed materials were checked out at Arlington Public Schools libraries last school year, a new record. It is the first time that count has exceeded 1 million. [InsideNova]

ACFD Getting New Ambulances — The Arlington County Fire Department is getting two brand-new ambulances for its fleet. [Twitter]

Courthouse Meeting Bowls in KidsPost — “Near Arlington’s courthouse, three unusual round wooden objects are attracting attention and exploration by people of all ages. Some think they look like amusement park rides. To Hadley Christiansen, 3, of Arlington, ‘they look like salad bowls.'” [Washington Post]

Meeting Set on High-Speed Rail Line — A public hearing is being held in Alexandria next Tuesday to gather public input on proposed high-speed rail service from D.C. to Richmond. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by James L.

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At a time when everyone is glued to their smartphones, spontaneous, in-person interactions seem to be on the decline. But a new public art installation in Courthouse is hoping to buck the trend, encouraging people to talk to strangers and make new friends.

Created by the Spanish art collective, mmmm…, and presented by the county’s public art initiative, “Meeting Bowls” opened Monday (July 17), and will be in town until November 1, when the installation will be transported to its next exhibit, in Miami. The bowls are red, blue and yellow among other colors, and made from medium-density fiberboard.

The installation is part of Courthouse 2.0: Reimagining the Civic, a public art initiative that strives to explore the interaction between civic space and life in Arlington.

“They are on display in a public space and are free and open to the public to engage with as they pass by, take a moment to rest, have lunch, or converse with friends,” Jim Byers, the marketing director at Arlington Cultural Affairs, said in an email.

There are bowls located at 14th Street N. and N. Courthouse Road, each with seating for eight people. The bowls are five feet tall and eight feet in diameter, and look to spark conversation among their users through their circular seating arrangements. The bowls also mimic swings, since they rock back and forth when occupied.

Byers said the funding for transporting Meeting Bowls to Arlington and Miami came from a grant from the Madrid-based public arts agency Acción Cultural Española. Byers said Arlington Cultural Affairs also paid around $14,000 from its own budget.

Meeting Bowls first appeared in the United States back in 2011, in New York’s Times Square. Instead of shipping the bowls from Spain, new bowls were created in the U.S. with computer-aided manufacturing. Digital files of the more than 75 parts that make up a bowl are emailed to a regional manufacturer and made locally.

Spanish artists Eva Salmerón and Emilio Alarcón will host a discussion about the creations at the bowls on September 23 at 11 a.m.

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