Usually, the Fourth of July means navigating a maze of holiday weekend traffic. But this year, the National Building Museum would rather you navigate an actual maze. Its newest exhibit, the BIG Maze, opens July 4, and taking a wrong turn in it will probably be more fun than taking a wrong turn off the Bay Bridge and getting lost in the cornfields of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Located in the museum’s Great Hall, the maze is huge, measuring about 60 square feet with 18-foot-high walls. Yet it’s not your typical maze. As you make your way toward the center, the walls slope downward, getting lower and providing a clearer vision of the correct path. It’s a zen-like structure that has a lot of similarities to Washington’s many famous labyrinths.
The maze was designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group, a Danish firm; its architect, Bjarke Ingels, says the project was an attempt to bring a traditionally two-dimensional form into the third-dimension. In fact, the original concept involved using a net to suspend a cubed maze from the ceiling, but thankfully they ended up with something a little less terrifying.
The maze is very kid-friendly (despite the fact that this grown-up reporter got completely lost several times). You can make your way to the center relatively quickly if you hustle, but it’s much more satisfying to wander down each path, watching how the form of the corners blend together, creating optical illusions that make you think you’ve found a way through, only to be tricked into a dead end.
“Architecture suffers from being seen as either elitist or boring,” says Ingels—but it’s all around us every day. The maze is an effort to get kids interested in how these structures affect our lives. “Architecture is too important to leave to the architects.”
When you’re in the heart of the maze, it feels like you’re at the bottom of a cereal bowl, or the center of a stadium. Suddenly you can see the outline of the path you took to get there, and all the twists and turns that led you astray.
Ingels quoted a fellow Dane, the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, to explain the view: “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”
Tip: After you go through the maze, head up to the museum’s third-floor balcony for a great aerial view—and laugh at everyone as you watch them hit each dead end.
The BIG Maze will run through September 1. Admission costs $16 for adults and $13 for kids ages 3 to 17, which includes access to all the museum’s other exhibits. Tickets are only available at the museum.
“Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America” examines extinct species of birds that were once rampant in North America, as well as the fragile relationship between living creatures and their environments. At the Natural History Museum through October 2015.
The National Portrait Gallery explores the private lives of, and rivalries between, Civil War generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee through photographs, documents, paintings, and more. “One Life: Grant and Lee: ‘It Is Well That War Is So Terrible . . .’” is at the museum July 4 through May 31.
At the Corcoran July 19 through September 28 is “Mark Tribe: Plein Air,” which explores aerial photography through the artist’s use of computer-generated landscapes.
The BIG Maze—named both for its size (61 by 61 feet, 18 feet high) and for the Bjarke Ingels Group, the architecture firm that created it—opens July 4 at the National Building Museum and serves as a preview of the “amBIGuity” exhibit, opening next year. Through September 1.
The Hirshhorn presents “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler,” one of the only shows in a major US museum dedicated to the works of the Italian-American artist. Among the pieces on display are the full-scale sprint-racing cars he built later in his career and the last work he created before his death in 2007. July 17 through January 11.
“Behind the Badge” at the Postal Museum is an interactive exhibit centered on the United States Postal Inspection Service, one of the oldest law-enforcement agencies in the country. On display are an anthrax-laced letter sent to Senator Tom Daschle, handcuffs used during the arrest of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and more. Ongoing.
The Corcoran College of Art and Design presents “The Gray Area: Living in Transition,” a multimedia exhibit that examines the boundaries between military and civilian life and the way those boundaries can blur. July 2 through 20.
Coming to the Air and Space Museum July 25 is “Hawaii by Air,” looking at how the journey to one of the most remote states has changed since the early days of flight.
At the Hillyer Art Space July 5 through 26 is “Flesh & Bone,” an exhibition of 33 works by local and regional artists focused on contemporary figurative art.
Washington Project for the Arts presents “Harder, Glorious,” the latest in its Hothouse Video series. The group of video works by artists from the United States and abroad attempt to capture the beauty and futility of life. In the lobby of the Capitol Skyline Hotel July 10 through September 14.
“Frozen Music” at the Torpedo Factory is a showcase of new works by DC photographer Alan Sislen that examine the relationship between music and architecture. Through August 3.
VisArts presents “The Candy Store,” in which artist Jackie Hoysted uses encaustic painting—a technique that involves adding pigment to heated beeswax—to create a series of scented paintings that play off the idea of art as eye candy. July 11 through August 17.
Also at VisArts, American University alum Ruth Lozner presents “Fiction Non Fiction,” an exhibit of her surrealist art inspired by her family’s collection of thrift-store finds and memorabilia. July 18 through August 17.
“Glass Unpolished: Explorations of Time, Nature, and Technology” at Workhouse Arts Center exhibits pieces by Maryland and Virginia artists working with glass as a medium. July 12 through September 7.
Stephen Walls’s “Transient States,” at the Torpedo Factory July 19 through August 31, examines the collective unconscious through the North Carolina artist’s large-scale paintings.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is back on the Mall July 2 through 6, exploring Chinese culture through food, dance, music, and more.
This month’s Phillips After 5, on July 3, fittingly has an Independence Day theme.
Artscape Baltimore, billed as “America’s largest free arts festival,” offers visitors the chance to peruse works from more than 150 artists, designers, craftspeople, and more. July 18 through 20.
Beginning July 7, “Design@: Sister Cities Exhibit and Festival” presents a show and a series of public programs that explore the culture and development of DC and Beijing. Through July 11 at Powerhouse.
On July 18, DC Arts Center celebrates its 25th anniversary with an “uncurated art happening,” offering 25 hours of continuous performances and opportunities to peruse and buy art, culminating in a party with deejays and drinks.
Capital Fringe announced Tuesday it has finalized a deal to purchase 1358 and 1360 Florida Avenue, Northeast, which currently houses the Connersmith Art Gallery and the headquarters of the (e)merge art fair. The performing-arts-focused nonprofit has been in the District since 2005, but its fate in town has been up in the air recently, as its home at Fort Fringe (607 New York Avenue, Northwest) is slated for redevelopment.
Capital Fringe’s new home will feature “three black-box theaters, a scene shop, art gallery/event space and a beer garden,” according to a press release. It will house both the year-round training factory and performances in the Capital Fringe Festival, though the switch won’t take place in time for this year’s event, coming up July 10 through 27. “We still have quite a bit of fundraising ahead of us, but we are enthusiastic at the potential of what this space will become and the cultural influence it will have on the city,” says Peter Korbel, Capital Fringe’s COO.
Connersmith and (e)merge, meanwhile, are looking for a new home. The final hurrah in the Florida Avenue space will be a pre-party for (e)merge on July 12 and the annual student art show Academy 2014, happening July 12 through August 9.
Beginning June 6 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, see “Total Art: Contemporary Video,” featuring ten installations by women pioneers of the medium in the 1960s and 70s. June 6 through October 12.
Opening June 8 is “Celebrating van Gogh at the National Gallery of Art,” which includes two new acquisitions from the collection of Paul Mellon.
“Speculative Forms” at the Hirshhorn looks at the relationship between the object and the eye and body across a range of art historical categories. Opens June 16.
At the American History Museum, Fancis Scott Key’s original manuscript for “The Star-Spangled Banner” is on loan from the Maryland Historical Society June 14 through July 6.
In “Indelible: The Platinum Photographs of Larry McNeil and Will Wilson” at the Museum of the American Indian, the artists offer a modern take on the “vanishing race” photographs taken of Native Americans toward the end of the 19th century. June 7 through January 15, 2015.
“American Metal: The Art of Albert Paley” at the Corcoran presents a retrospective of one of the foremost metalsmiths living in America. June 28 through September 28.
Opening June 7 at Hillwood Museum & Estate is “Cartier: Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Dazzling Gems,” displaying Post’s extensive selection of pieces commissioned from the Parisian jeweler. Through December 31.
The Art League examines the Neo-Expressionist movement of the 1980s with a special exhibit June 4 through July 7.
The Fridge presents “Urban Decay 5,” the fifth installment of the exhibit created in 2010 that focuses on the influences of urban and “low-brow” art on today’s modern art. June 7 through 29.
“Susan O’Neill: Figural Fine Lines” is at the Art League Gallery June 5 through July 7, presenting the artist’s drawings of the human form.
Washington Printmakers Gallery presents “A Wonder-Filled Life,” a showcase of works by the late local painter/printmaker Neena Birch. Through June 29.
In “Melanie Kehoss: Glow Tableaux,” Kehoss uses light boxes and cut-paper scenes to explore the humor and mystery of everyday American rituals. June 11 through August 23 at Artisphere.
“Sonya Lawyer: A Peace (of the Dream)” looks at the themes of family, past, and present through vintage photographs, spoken-word performances, and music. June 27 through August 2 at Flashpoint.
At the Katzen Arts Center June 14 through August 17 is “Continental Drift (Being Here and Being There),” a solo show by Judy Byron examining cultural influences on her identity as an artist.
Beginning June 29 at Arlington Arts Center is “Green Acres,” an interactive multimedia exhibit focused on art and agriculture.
Phillips After 5 happens on Thursday, June 5. The theme, in collaboration with the DC Jazz Fest, is Summer in the City: The American ’50s and features live jazz and food from Shake Shack. $12; 5 PM.
This year’s Source Festival, June 6 through 29, presents original works that include three full-length plays, 18 ten-minute plays, and three “artistic blind dates.” Find more details online.
At the Sackler Gallery on Saturday, June 8, is the first Asia After Dark of the year. At “Bollywood and Beyond,” learn Bollywood dances, see an installation by contemporary artist Rina Banerjee, try food from Sundevich and cocktails from Ping Pong Dim Sum, and more. $15 online or $25 at the door; 8 PM.
National Geographic and BYT partner for After Hours, a party featuring deejays, food trucks, and talks from Nat Geo “explorers.” June 13 at 8 PM; $25.
At the Torpedo Factory’s Second Thursday Art Night on June 12, browse open galleries, meet artists, and enjoy free refreshments and music.
The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival returns to the Mall June 25 through 29 and July 2 through 6, exploring the traditions and cultures of China and Kenya through exhibitions, music, and food.
This post has been updated from a previous version.
Once a month, the following business districts, parks, and cultural centers stay open late for “art walks”—allowing visitors to go from gallery to gallery to look at what’s on view and chat with artists. At the free events, you can enjoy refreshments and sometimes special activities such as contests, music, and dance.
First Friday Dupont
Expect crowds for Dupont Circle’s art walk, a three-decade tradition that spans a dozen modern and contemporary galleries. Each space has its own vibe: Studio Gallery recently booked a violinist, while Toolbox hired a deejay. Visitors often end the evening at Hillyer Art Space, which closes later than the other galleries, at 9 (and has a suggested donation of $5). Keep an eye out for tie-in happy hours and deals at bars and restaurants along the way; Circa and Duke’s Grocery recently hosted after-parties.
When: First Friday of every month, 6 to 8.
Coming up: Studio Gallery presents the work of students and faculty in the Corcoran College of Art & Design’s printmaking program, June 25 through July 19.
This gallery walk in Frederick is part of a daylong slate of activities that vary each month. Arts and crafts and music draw families in the afternoon; evenings see young adults and couples strolling down Market Street. Don’t miss the workshops at Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center or giveaways—such as handmade ceramic flower magnets—at the Potters’ Guild. You can make a night of it with special deals at restaurants and retailers; a few shops even have their own galleries, hosting different artists each month. On a summer day, downtown Frederick can get up to 25,000 visitors for its art walk.
When: First Saturday of every month, 3 to 9.
Coming up: “I ART Downtown Frederick,” a celebration of local art, coinciding with the 21st annual Frederick Festival of the Arts, June 7.
Art Walk in the Park
The former Glen Echo amusement park houses galleries, studios, and workshops in its Art Deco pavilions. In and around the Arcade Building, you’ll find artists working in glass, painting, photography, pottery, and silversmithing, along with group exhibits in the Stone Tower and Popcorn galleries. The night ends with social dance and live music at the Spanish Ballroom or Bumper Car Pavilion, for a small fee. This art event attracts an older crowd because there aren’t kids’ activities.
When: Second Friday of the month, May through October, 6 to 8.
Coming up: On June 13, enjoy demonstrations of silversmithing and kiln-formed-glass techniques, two photography exhibits, and a contra dance.
Second Thursday Art Night
Old Town’s Torpedo Factory is an indoor arts village with 82 studios, six galleries, two workshops, and an archaeology museum on its three levels. Located on the Alexandria waterfront, the art center—in a former Navy munitions factory—celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Check out the enamel art, fiber creations, photography, and ceramics by local artists as well as the largest gallery, the Art League, which includes an art-supply store. Each month features a different discipline—June’s is sculpture—with live music in the main hall and demonstrations throughout the space.
When: Second Thursday of every month, 6 to 9.
Coming up: “The Alexandria Community Art Library— a 40th-anniversary exhibit in the Target Gallery exploring the Torpedo Factory’s history through artifacts and oral histories—runs May 31 through July 13.
2nd Saturday Art Walk
Explore the 55-acre grounds of Workhouse Arts Center, a converted prison in Lorton that joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. In six studio buildings, the campus supports more than 100 artists who are on hand to talk about their work. Some 200 to 400 visitors attend each month. Every studio showcases the work of its resident artists, while the largest facility, housing the McGuireWoods and Vulcan galleries, curates larger monthly exhibitions. Kids and pets are welcome to play on the outdoor quad, which hosts a summer concert series.
When: Second Saturday of every month, 6 to 9.
Coming up: At the ice-cream social in July, $20 gets you a bowl handmade by an artist, plus ice cream and toppings.
Bethesda Art Walk
You might start by entering from the Metro tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue, which showcases the work of 12 local artists. Galleries on the route exhibit painting, sculpture, tapestry, and ceramics. You can meet artists in their workspaces at Studio B and tour new juried exhibits every month at Waverly Street Gallery, founded in 1993. The free Bethesda Circulator stops near all seven galleries.
When: Second Friday of every month, 6 to 9.
Coming up: Gallery B exhibits winners of the 2014 Bethesda Painting Awards, a juried art competition for local painters, June 4 through 28.
Third Thursday Open Studios
Located outside the Brookland Metro, Monroe Street Market’s arts walk is just that: a promenade flanked by two buildings housing 27 art studios. Since January, the mixed-use development has hosted monthly open-studio nights, with artists coordinating demos, workshops, and classes. Highlights include Stitch & Rivet, a handmade-accessories studio, where guests who paid $5 recently crafted leather bracelets, and the ARTillery, which lends tools for art projects.
When: Third Thursday of every month, 6 to 8.
Coming up: Decorate costumes for children in hospitals—they wear them during performances of the theater nonprofit Only Make Believe—in Studio 1 on June 19.
This article appears in the June 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art in its current form will end October 1, to be divided up by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University, but until then its programs are continuing as usual. That means it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of the museum’s Free Summer Saturdays program—which offers gratis tours of the gallery, along with workshops, performances, and more, and runs every weekend through Labor Day.
This Saturday brings a “botanical collages workshop” from 10:30 to 12:30, offering visitors the chance to create their own tropical landscape in the style of the painting “Into Bondage,” by Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas. The gallery also has two special exhibits opening later in the summer: “American Metal: The Art of Albert Paley,” opening June 28 and examining the 50-year career of the American metalsmith; and “Mark Tribe: Plein Air,” in which the artist uses a computer to generate landscapes with the look of aerial photographs, opening July 19.
Here’s a reason to make another trip to the National Gallery of Art: Soon you’ll be able to see rarely viewed works by such artists as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas, as the museum gains 62 pieces bequeathed by the estate of museum benefactor Paul Mellon after his death in 1999, according to the Associated Press. Among the works are van Gogh’s “Still Life of Oranges and Lemons With Blue Groves,” which goes on display June 7; “Still Life With Bottle, Carafe, Bread and Wine,” one of Monet’s earliest known paintings; and 12 oil sketches by 19th-century post-impressionist painter Georges Seurat, which, when combined with the gallery’s existing five Seurat works makes up one of the most significant collections of his works in the US.
The works were under the care of Mellon’s widow, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon until her death in March of this year. The Mellon family has donated nearly 1,200 works of art since 1964.
“Kiyochika: Master of the Night,” at the Sackler Gallery through July 27, features almost 50 prints by 19th-century self-taught artist Kobayashi Kiyochika capturing Tokyo in 1874 during Japan’s industrial revolution.
“Coast to Coast,” at Artisphere April 2 through August 3, features 400 photographs capturing bodies of water, crowdsourced via social media and e-mail by local photography publisher Empty Stretch.
“Visions From the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone,” at the National Museum of African Art April 9 through August 17, focuses on the relatively unknown art traditions of these two African countries, displaying works collected by a former curator at the Brooklyn Museum who lived in Liberia for more than 20 years.
“Face Value: Portraiture in the Age of Abstraction,” at the National Portrait Gallery April 18 through January 11, features more than 50 paintings, prints, works on paper, and sculptures made between 1945 and 1975, revealing how artists such as Alice Neel, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine de Kooning, and Andy Warhol approached portraiture when it was out of vogue.
“Meret Oppenheimer: Tender Friendships,” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts April 26 through September 14, explores the diverse works of the Swiss surrealist, whose 100th birthday would have been last year.
“Louloudi Flower/To Flower,” presented by the Washington Sculptors Group at the Athenaeum through May 4, features a juried exhibit of 24 artists’ work examining flora.
“The Cost of Making Her Run: Fear, Flight, Freedom” is at the DC Arts Center through April 20, displaying drawings and photographic dramatizations exploring the legacy of Harriet Tubman.
Washington Project for the Arts’ Member Exhibition at Cherry Blast, a cherry-blossom-inspired group show, is open free to the public at Blind Whino April 6, 13, and 20.
At Transformer through May 3 is “Atmosphere,” a show featuring paintings, photography, and video made by four artists during a cultural trip to China.
“Oleg Kudryashov: Memories of Moscow” is at Robert Brown Gallery through May 10, with reliefs, contractions, watercolors and more by the Russian artist.
Washington Project for the Arts’ Hothouse Video Series features computer-animated work by Jonathan Monaghan at Capitol Skyline, April 3 through May 5.
“Emily Biondo and Bradford Barr: Touch Me” is at Flashpoint April 4 through May 6, and encompasses visitors within an interactive light environment that changes as they touch another person.
“Andrew Kozlowski: After Party” is at 1708 Gallery April 4 through May 31, featuring drawings, prints, and installations riffing on the detritus left after social gatherings.
This month’s Phillips After 5 is April 3 and has a ’30s theme.
Hillyer’s First Friday event is April 4, with work by Kimberley Parr Roenigk, Michael Havneraas, and Everitt Clark.
Opening day at the DC MeetMarket, a monthly art-inspired community market in Logan Circle, is April 5.
The National Portrait Gallery hosts a family day for the exhibit “American Cool” April 5.
The National Portrait Gallery’s monthly pop quiz is April 10.
Countdown to Yuri’s Night, an event celebrating the first space flight, is at the Anacostia Arts Center April 12.
The annual Smithsonian Craft Show returns April 10 through 13.
Yesterday, #WithSyria posters designed by street artist Banksy showed up all over the Capitol Hill area in a campaign designed to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Syria on the third anniversary of the country’s uprising.
The posters were just phase one: All this week, the With Syria campaign is organizing events around Washington to amplify its cause. Wednesday, March 12, the poster will be projected onto the exterior of four Washington landmarks from 8 to 9 PM: the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the National Gallery, and the Supreme Court. There’s also a vigil outside the White House tonight, and another vigil with red balloons by the Capitol Reflecting Pool on Thursday from 6:30 to 8 PM.
For more information about the events in Washington and around the world, visit the With Syria website.
If you were around the Capitol Hill area this morning, you may have noticed Banksy-style fliers adorning lampposts and walls, particularly around the Capitol South Metro station. The posters use one of guerrilla street artist Banksy’s most famous images: a little girl with windswept hair letting go of a red, heart-shaped balloon, only in this case the girl’s head is covered and the poster bears the hashtag #withsyria.
It’s uncertain who actually posted the fliers around town, but they are the work of Banksy—he designed the image to help raise awareness about Syria’s plight. And he’s found support on the hill from Senator John McCain, who tweeted, “To mark 3rd anniv of #Syria uprising, pls RT new #Banksy image to stand #WithSyria & 10,000+ children killed there” earlier this afternoon, along with a picture of the image. Whether the senator approves of illegally putting up posters around town is another matter.