With Memorial Day upon us and with gas prices hovering well over $3 per gallon, I’m planning to stay put in DC this upcoming long weekend, to take in some Rolling Thunder along the Mall, and head over to NoMa to check out Artomatic.
Held regularly since 1999, Artomatic isn’t the easiest DC phenomenon to explain, I fear. Let me try: It’s a free, multimedia art extravaganza held in a spanking new office tower (Capital Plaza I, 1200 First Street, NE) in Capitol Hill North, the rapidly redeveloping mixed-use neighborhood “North of Massachusetts Avenue” (hence the clever moniker). With close to 700 visual artists and 300 performing artists on board, Artomatic expects at least 50,000 visitors during its month-long life, through to Sunday, June 15th.
You can find just about any form of artistic expression at this bonanza: Visual art, performance art, short films, fire dancing (!), installation art, poetry slams, dancing, tattooing, theater, live music, and burlesque (!!). Artomatic’s mandate is to bring art directly to the public and to break down barriers between established and emerging artists. Artists of all stripes, level of success, and of just about every genre can participate and show their work by paying a nominal fee to the nonprofit and by volunteering a few shifts to keep the show running.
But for us visitors, it’s free. Navigating the ten floors of creativity is pretty much up to the individual. When my pal and I went to Artomatic this past Sunday, we started at the top (the 12th floor) and used the stairs to explore the behemoth, one floor at a time. We covered about four floors in just over 90 minutes and took in some great abstracts, colorful portraiture, the Peeps diorama show on the 10th floor, as well as a short film about the secret life of a neglected fire extinguisher.
And in addition to the art, there are three bars (serving “good beer,” “cheap beer,” wine, and soft drinks), and various food vendors outside the complex. Rest your feet on the couches donated by the artists and West Elm and take in the great views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Most radically, however, Artomatic is fun and unique in that it is art for us and by us, free from juried shows and proscribed galleries. It’s good, bad, smelly, silly, and, of course, beautiful.
If you’re in the market to buy, that’s possible too as most artists have left their cards or email addresses near their work for you to contact them directly if you’d like a little something to take home.
There are also special programs for kids and Artomatic’s website lists different events and a detailed performance schedule. So, keep it local, make it green, take the Metro, save yourself gas money (and a Memorial Day gridlock-induced headache) and head over to Artomatic soon.
- Nat Geo Expeditions