WASHINGTON – Pink and green graffiti splashes across a wall in one corner. Black and white photographs of mothers breastfeeding their babies dominate another wall. Close by,there's a display of brown-skinned women with afros,proud to show off their buxom bodies.
This is Artomatic – a vibrant mix of art,fashion,film and music. For the next two months,Artomatic will bring the creative work of more than a thousand artists to the nation's capital,a city known as a place tourists flock to for museums and monuments. Not so much for contemporary art.
The nonprofit transformed the bare space of an unoccupied office building into a free showcase of art,spoken word,music and theater.
“We are bringing the artist community together. It's something you don't see happen naturally in D.C. because we don't have an industrial base … that in itself,creates a magnet for people,” Artomatic President Veronica Szalus said.
She said that “creativity is something people gravitate towards.”
That's exactly what drew Shea Cadrin,21,of Mashpee,Mass.,to the multimedia event.
“I first found out about it after the winter,and I decided to check it out because I like the idea of free art for everyone,” Cadrin said.
Cadrin is majoring in graphic design at American University here and was attracted to the bluish-green,prickly glass work,reminiscent of stalactites,perched on several poles in the middle of the ninth floor.
This is the first time Artomatic features work by the Cohesion Glass Artists of Sunderland,England,home of the National Glass Center for the United Kingdom. Washington and Sunderland signed a friendship agreement in 2006,and the collaboration builds on that network.
Artomatic is open-entry,without any juries or curators. And it's first come,first served.
In honor of its 10th anniversary,Artomatic switched locations from Washington's NoMa neighborhood to the Capitol Riverfront,formerly a collection of empty lots and run-down buildings,now home to the city's new baseball stadium and a forest of new office and residential buildings. Because the event is right above the Navy Yard Metro stop,it's more accessible to visitors.
Susan Frey,57,of Greenwich,Conn.,was visiting her daughter,Ami,26,of Rockville,Md.,and decided to see Artomatic. Susan is a mixed-media and collage artist,and she wanted to scope out Washington's art scene.
“This is what they did in Brooklyn. Artists are usually the first to move into a cheap space,and then they bring others with them,” Susan Frey said.
Her favorite display was Christi Thomas' collage of a pair of hands knitting. Ami Frey said she appreciates Artomatic for showing her a different side of the nation's capital.
“Otherwise,I wouldn't have come to this part of the city. It's good to bring art to this area,” she said.
Szalus,also an industrial designer,said she hopes tourists will detour from the Mall and museums to embrace the full range of the capital's artistic expression.
“I want them to walk away with the feeling that anyone can be a part of the arts,not a select few. Artomatic offers a unique perspective on the arts that you can't find anywhere else,” Szalus said.
Admission to Artomatic is free. In 2008,52,500 visitors attended,and more than 750 painters,sculptors and photographers participated.
This year's event features a film screening room,a Peeps diorama exhibit,a grant-writing workshop and meet-the-artist nights. Artomatic is located at 55 M Street,SE.