The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities launched the second public art exhibition of the 5×5 Project on Sept. 6. The exhibition, an art festival which cost the DCCAH $500,000, features pieces from 25 artists at various locations around the city, and they will be on display until December 2014.
The five curators, Lance Fung, Shamim Momin, Justine Topfer, Stephanie Sherman and A.M. Weaver, were selected through a competitive process during which an expert selection committee reviewed and selected the artists’ projects, in 2013. Each curator selected five pieces to display, giving the 5×5 arts festival its name. There are 5×5 art projects located throughout D.C., including at the National Gallery of Art, the Lincoln Center and in Dupont Circle.
DCCAH Executive Director Lionell Thomas said that the curators were specifically chosen to bring different perspectives to the neighborhoods of the city and engage with their art communities.
“Each of the five curators has been partnered with various D.C.-based programming and community partners in order to engage a variety of constituents throughout the city,” Thomas wrote in an email. “Some of the artists have taken up temporary residence in the very neighborhoods where they have installed in order to engage with the community.”
In addition to community engagement, Thomas said the 5×5 Project aims to draw attention to major social justice issues affecting the Washington, D.C. community and the world at large.
“Major global issues that are addressed in 5×5 include social justice, environmental, racial identity and perceptions, heroic acts, racial and global politics, gentrification and displacement, history and of course artistic freedom,” Thomas wrote.
The festival first launched at the Cherry Blossom Festival in 2012, when it reached all eight of the city’s wards and attracted over 5,000 residents and visitors. Thomas deemed the festival a success and credited it with expanding the District art scene by inspiring similar exhibits and working with community organizations such as Sasha Bruce House and Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus.
“One thing for certain is that D.C. is emerging as a city where its residents demand a lifestyle that includes world class arts and cultural experiences and outlets,” Thomas wrote in an email.
With this second installation, Thomas said he hoped the projects would continue to introduce more people to the arts and provoke strong responses from the community.
A found-art storefront installation by Abigail DeVille, a black artist from the Bronx, received backlash from its surrounding neighborhood in Anacostia for being offensive and aesthetically displeasing. Deville said that the work, criticized for resembling junk, was intended to be an image of the Great Migration of black Americans forced north to escape the Jim Crow South and of gentrification.
“It’s one of our main thoroughfares, and people walk down the street and look through the window and see what appears to be junk,” D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) told The Washington Post. “It’s embarrassing.”
The DCCAH agreed to respect the wishes of the neighborhood and take the art installation down.
“We don’t expect everyone to love all of it, and we respect the views of those that vocally oppose some of the aesthetic and messaging that the work conveys,” Thomas wrote.”This is what 5×5 is about — it is an artistic and conceptual means of revealing beauty and prompting discourse. 5×5 breaks new ground for what public art could and perhaps should be.”
Czarina Ramos (COL ’16), an art minor, said the project offered an important contribution to public art in Washington, D.C., by promoting local artists.
“It’s fabulous that we have a really thriving art collection, dealing with, of course, the National Gallery with all of its Renaissance art and art from all over the world. I feel like local artists, at least from a Georgetown student’s point of view,we don’t get a lot of exposure to those kinds of movements,” Ramos said. “It really brings together all parts of D.C., all wards, and it gives a chance for D.C. to highlight all of the different styles and perspectives of the artists that come through here.”