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Artisphere Opens Its Doors

A new cultural center opens in Rosslyn with ambitious goals for its role in the region

Photograph by Caitlin Fairchild

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The Rosslyn skyline is notable mostly for its hulking office buildings. But nestled among them now is a glass-and-metal structure topped with a whimsical dome. It’s Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd.), a 6,200-square-foot space opening Sunday with the goal of becoming a major cultural, intellectual, and social hub for the region.

Formerly the Newseum, Artisphere’s renovated spaces—and there are many of them—will offer more than 100 performances and exhibitions every month. Some of the performances make creative use of the building. At 4 on Saturday and 7:30 on Sunday, the Bowen McCauley Dance Company is premiering “Fearless,” a site-specific piece that takes place on Artisphere’s main staircase.

The ballroom is also multi-use. The spring-loaded wooden dance floor will be used for a mix of classes and performances, such as Tuesday salsa nights and Wednesday zydeco and swing. A stage slides down and out from the wall when Artisphere hosts bands on Saturday nights—such as Bluebrain, which plays with Geologist October 16, and Rad Pony, scheduled to appear November 13. It’ll be interesting to see if Artisphere emerges as an alternative venue for up-and-coming local bands. And looking over the ballroom is the Mezz Gallery, where Peter McCutchen’s “Surfaces,” a collection of photographs depicting rust and decay using vibrant colors, is the opening exhibition.

Artisphere also has two other exhibition spaces. The Terrace Gallery is displaying “Skateboarding Side Effects” with gigantic sculptures and modern paintings by artists involved in skateboard culture. Check back in December for “Party Crashers,” a show revolving around graphic novels. The Work-in-Progress Gallery showcases unfinished collections by regional, national, and international artists looking to get feedback from the community.

While Artisphere opens a significant new venue for regional artists, it’s also giving the Washington Shakespeare Company a home with its 125-seat black-box theater. The season opens with Richard III and Mary Stuart. In case iambic pentameter isn’t for you, there’ll be artist talks and lunchtime movies in the Bijou Theater, styled to look like an old-fashioned drive-in. The final showpiece at Artisphere is the Dome, a 220-seat theater without a single flat surface. It’ll host groups and events such as Sula DC and the Kids Euro Festival as well as a variety of open-mike nights, dance shows, and multimedia presentations.

The project is a partnership between the Arlington County Board and Rosslyn Business Improvement District, and it’s part of the Rosslyn Renaissance. Rosslyn BID pledged $7.3 million to the project over the course of the next three years. Artisphere hopes to become an economic engine for Rosslyn, creating jobs and revenue. By the end of the first three years, the board hopes for Artisphere to be repurposed as a nonprofit separate from Arlington County.

Artisphere officially opens to the public at 10:10 AM October 10, but there are two ways to sneak in early: First, a gala October 8 will inaugurate the space. Tickets ($250) are available here. And for art lovers with slimmer wallets, the Pink Line Project and Brightest Young Things are throwing the Bust Party at 8 Saturday night. Tickets ($20) are available here. Sunday is an all-day open house that ends with a dance party featuring music by the Afrobeat band Chopteeth. For a complete list of current exhibitions and upcoming performances as well as ticket information, click here.

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