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Arlington's "Center" for Modern Art

Washington, D.C. has a number of wonderful galleries, museums stocked with hundreds of classical paintings: Picassos, Renoirs, Van Goghs. What, though, is there to check out if you are looking for art with a much more modern flair?

You would have to leave the city, but you wouldn’t have to go far, just head to North Arlington for a trip to the Arlington Arts Center.

The Arlington Arts Center is a combination gallery, art school and residency program, located in Ballston.

The Center is housed in the Maury School, one of the oldest buildings in Arlington, at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Monroe Street. The sandy brick building was built in 1910 and has one of the prettier facades in the area. The entrance is framed by a white portico. Windows abound, and the top of the building has matching blue gables on either side. In contrast to the old exterior, a giant swooping pink neon light sits atop the portico.

Every part of the building, from top to bottom, involves an aspect of art. On the first floor there is a rotating gallery, which mostly consists of works from contemporary Mid-Atlantic artists. The second floor houses the residency program, where local artists are given studio space to work. In return, the second floor also has a gallery displaying the recent work from these residents.

Lastly, in the basement of the building, you’ll find classrooms where the Arlington Arts Center offers educational classes for local adults and children.

The first place to check out when you head to the Center is the main exhibit on the first floor. Currently, the exhibit, “On the Road,” is featured and will be showcased until April 3rd. The exhibition features works from artists leaving the comfort of their studio and heading out into the world. The results are fabulous.

In the Charles E. Smith gallery, which is an open hallway right beyond the entrance, are striking works by Gregory Thielker, who traveled to Norway to complete a series for the exhibition. There Thielker painted small landscapes of a single road in Scandinavia, Gamie Strynfjellsveg. The artist drove the road every day and stopped every couple of kilometers at dusk to paint the highway and its surroundings. The works, done using oil paints on aluminum panels, are haunting images, colored in silvers and faint blues, depicting a desolate, snow-swept world.

Also showcased in the “On the Road” exhibit is a piece by Michael Ruglio-Misurell, entitled “Project Number 10.” It’s a tattered camping tent wedged under a wooden staircase made from inexpensive two-by-fours. The work symbolizes the life of vagrants. The tent is filled with trash, mimicking the possessions of a homeless person. Adding a local slant, all the garbage was collected from the streets of Arlington.

On the second floor, among the artist studios, are presentations of their current work. Among the more impressive pieces is a wood panel painting by Danielle Mysliwiec. In “Untitled,” Mysliwiec uses oil paints, painstakingly and thinly applied, to give the appearance of string. From afar, and even close up, the work appears to be made from an enormous number of tightly-knit strings. It’s only when you get very, very close that you realize the work is crafted from raised paint, left from the gentle stroke of a brush.

In the basement of the Center, work from a recent photography class is on display. The course was offered at a local high school, and students took photos all around their hometown of Arlington.  The shots are so impressive, you’d only know it was captured by high schoolers by reading the description.

A trip to the Arlington Arts Center does not require setting aside a whole afternoon or evening. The space is not large, and all the exhibitions can be seen in an hour, making it a nice, brief way to indulge in some art, as well as an excellent opportunity to support the local community.


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