DC at Night

DC at Night

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Art Underground

There has always been an underground art scene in the DC area. But now, Crystal City is ready to give that phrase a new literal meaning with this weekend's opening of Art Underground, a transformation of five blocks into an underground arts and cultural destination with galleries, studios, interactive exhibits, regular performances, and special events.

"I'm very excited," says Sandi Parker, co-director with Marina DiCarlo of the renamed Gallery Underground, which will be one of the focal points of the transformation. "I think this will create the kind of artistic vibe that people will really like."

In addition to Gallery Underground, Art Underground will include 2 other existing entities: Fotowalk Underground and the award-winning Synetic Theater. The trio will be joined by the new Studios Underground, where you will be able to see artists creating their work, and ArtJamz Underground, where artists of all talent levels can engage in participatory paint parties and other activities.

The newly renamed gallery, which is home to the 40 members of the Arlington Artists Alliance, has been open for about 9 months. "This was sort of a grand experiment. No one knew how it would work," Parker explained, adding that the project has exceeded expectations. "We've just been thrilled," she said.

The gallery has been attracting residents from local apartments, businessmen and businesswomen on their way to and from work, and tourists. It offers a new themed show each month. For example, this month's art falls under the category Real and Imagined. An upcoming show will be titled Walk on the Wild Side and will feature animals.

Parker praised the Crystal City BID (Business Improvement District) and the owners of much of the underground retail space Vornado/Charles E. Smith for helping with the transformation. "There's this wonderful symbiotic relationship with all these groups," Parker said.

She is especially looking forward to the opening of about 20 different artists' studios. "You'll be able to walk past and see all these artists working and stop in if you want," she said. In fact, Parker is so supportive of the idea that she is setting up her own studio to be part of the Art Underground.

Art Underground will celebrate its official launch on March 16 with an open house and free mega paint-off hosted by ArtJamz from 6 until 10 p.m.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
For the sake of full disclosure, I should admit that my wife Judy, who is an artist and a retired manager of an art gallery and custom frame shop, and I have a vested interest in seeing the Art Underground succeed. We live in Crystal City and our apartment complex's lower exit leads directly to the Gallery Underground. In fact, we jokingly refer to the entire 11-block Crystal City underground as our basement. And believe me, it's great having a world-class theater company like Synetic and ever-changing art from the gallery and Fotowalk in your basement. And I'm sure the new editions will only make our basement better.

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