Someday soon(ish) Arlington’s Courthouse will feature a lush lawn known as Courthouse Square. But, as it stands, the future home of Courthouse Square is a large piece of pavement. Courthouse 2.0, an initiative created by Arlington Cultural Affairs, is working to bridge that gap between the present space and its future use through public art.
While the city waits for its eventual green space, Courthouse visitors can engage with temporary art pieces that “explore the interaction between civic life and civic space.” Frequent visitors to the area may have already noticed local artist Linda Hesh’s “Put the ‘I’ in Civic,” on North 15th Street. The interactive sculpture encourages people to make themselves part of the word civic, share what “civic” means to them and post the photo with the hashtag #reimaginecivic or upload it to reimaginecivic.com.
The newer additions to Courthouse 2.0 will be difficult to miss. Starting July 11, Spanish art collective mmmm….’s “Meeting Bowls” will start appearing in the space. The 5-foot-tall bowls, which look something like a marriage between the teacups at Disney World and a salad spinner, will stay in Arlington through November 1, at which point they’ll be taken to Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach.
A previous version of “Meeting Bowls” was featured in Times Square in 2011, but the new bowls that will be assembled in Arlington should have a very different feel than the originals.
“The ‘Meeting Bowls’ in Times Square were like ‘tourist cages,’ that was the Animal New York site headline, nice cages where you could rest your tourist feet and meet people in the meantime,” says mmmm…’s Eva Salmerón. “The ‘Meeting Bowls’ in Arlington will be a little bit more intimate, places to encourage friendly dialogue between friends and also strangers in a close, yet pleasant, space.”
Arlington’s bowls will also feature some design changes. Instead of the neutral tone shown in New York, Arlington’s bowls will be bright red, yellow, and blue thanks to a new material Special Projects Curator Cynthia Connolly found for the project.
“The color is through the entire material, so when they cut it you’ll see the color on the inside and the outside,” Connolly says. “It’s not painted.”
Experiencing the bowls from the inside and the outside is the point, after all. That eight-foot circular bench on the inside of each bowl is meant to be used by anyone and everyone who passes through the space.
“The idea of course for the ‘Meeting Bowls’ is to encourage people to see the sculptural work from the outside but also sit inside the ‘Meeting Bowls’ and feel the sculptural work and see how the world transforms around you, but also to interact with people within the work,” Connolly says.
Construction of the three bowls starts July 11, and they should be completed by July 17. Two members of mmmm…, Salmerón and Emilio Alarcón, will also visit on Sept. 23 for an artist talk. The collective’s work can also be seen nearby in Baltimore, where their “Bus Stop” has been installed since 2014.
“Public art is for everybody, and it is shown in places where you are passing by,” Salmerón says. “It’s something that you find yourself with, not something you’re going to see. It’s a spontaneous encounter, no prejudice, no expectations, a surprise. Something new that changes the landscape of the city.”
That change of landscape is exactly what Arlington is waiting for. With any sort of green space years away, Courthouse 2.0’s installations and events are making a home for community engagement and interaction with the arts right in the city’s civic heart.