News & Press
CulturalDC is currently looking for interns to assist with gallery management and public art initiatives during the Summer of 2017. This summer will mark Flashpoint Gallery’s final season and the launch of Space4: Art – CulturalDC’s new visual arts program. We are looking for individuals who can help with planning, management, and execution of the exhibitions, as well as assisting with public art initiatives across the city.
CulturalDC is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1998 (as the CulturalDC), that makes space for art through its programs and services. CulturalDC’s mission is to encourage artistic innovation by connecting artists, arts organizations, developers, and government agencies to facilitate economic and cultural vibrancy in the District of Columbia and neighboring urban communities.
- Minimum 16 hours per week; including two weekdays per week and two Saturdays per month
- Assist with day-to-day administrative tasks for Flashpoint Gallery
- Assist with the development and planning of Space4:Art’s inaugural season
- Assist Consulting Manager with public art projects
- Perform basic office and gallery tasks
- Help with exhibition and theatre openings, panel discussions, and other events and duties as assigned
- Graduate students preferred, but undergraduate and recent graduates also considered
- Knowledge and interest in contemporary art and arts administration
- Ability to work independently and take initiative on projects
- Excellent written and verbal communications skills
- Experience with Microsoft Office, working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite a plus
- Individual must be comfortable working in a cooperative environment that represents a broad range of artistic, cultural, and social points of view
Compensation: Transportation stipend and class credit available
How to apply:
Deadline for applications: April 28, 2017
To apply, submit a resume with three professional references and cover letter to:
firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ATTN: Intern Search-[Gallery Intern]
Want to get inside the art world? We offer a range of rewarding volunteer opportunities, good for us — good for you, too! Gallery support, special events, fundraising, communications and ushering are just a few of the possibilities that can be tailored to your time and talent. Volunteering at CulturalDC is a chance to broaden your network, meet great people and be part of the team.
Upcoming events include:
Source Festival Preview Kick Off Party at Source April 12, 2017
Opening for Blair Murphy showing Footprint in the Flashpoint Gallery April 14, 2017
VisionDC at Arena Stage April 24, 2017
Opening for Khanh Le showing Making Memories as We Wait in the Flashpoint Gallery May 12, 2017
Opening for Sioux Falls in the Mead Theater Lab May 19, 2017
Source Festival at Source June 9-July 2, 2017
If you are interested in volunteering, please help us find a good match for your skills and interests by completing a volunteer info form. For more information, contact email@example.com
CulturalDC is proud to announce the Designing the Future City panel as a part of VISIONDC, Arts and Innovation Summit on April 24. At this session, local and national visionaries will collaborate across creative fields and discuss how to drive economic development, address social inclusion, and encourage cultural accessibility in a rapidly changing cityscape.
Presenters at the Designing the Future City panel include:
- Isabel Castilla, Principal of the James Corner Field Operations. As an architect and landscape architect, Castilla has directed major projects such as Section 3 of the New York High Line, Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road District, and the ICEBERGS installation at the National Building Museum.
- Demian Costa, Managing Partner for Sagamore Ventures. With Sagamore Ventures, the venture investment arm of Plank Industries, Costa works on projects concerning venture, private equity, entrepreneurship, and innovation growth in Baltimore and beyond.
- Marina Martins, Co-founder and CEO of Pigmental Studios. In 2016, Martins moved her animation studio, Pigmental, to Galludet University’s Washington campus. The artists at Pigmental Studios have worked on films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Birdman.
- Avery Ash, Autonomous Vehicle Market Strategist for INRIX. At INRIX, a global leader in connected car services and intelligent movement, Ash leads the company’s DC engagement for innovative transportation technology.
- Kevin Roberts, VP of Development for Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. With over 16 years of real estate experience, Roberts leads a range of development projects involving acquisitions, project visioning, entitlements, design, commercial leasing, construction and more.
VISIONDC is open to the public and will feature visionary conversations, site-specific installations, and performances by over 20 local artists. It will be held at the iconic Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Tickets can be purchased for the summit until April 20 at visiondc.org. Discount early bird tickets, ranging from $15 to $45, will be sold until March 24.
CulturalDC has an 18-year history of creating affordable, sustainable artist spaces in the Washington, D.C., area. CulturalDC has brokered more than 250,000 square feet of artist space, including the Atlas Performing Arts Center, GALA Hispanic Theatre, Source Theatre and Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Each year, CulturalDC serves more than 1,000 artists and welcomes 30,000 audience members and participants who patronize local businesses and contribute an estimated $1 million to the local economy.
General: 202.315.1305 • Fax: 202.315.1303 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
CulturalDC • 916 G St, NW • Washington, DC 20001
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FOOTPRINT aka THE LANSBURGH’S NOTEBOOK
April 15 – May 6, 2017
Reception: Friday, April 21 from 6-8pm
WASINGTON, DC – CulturalDC is pleased to present Footprint aka the Lansburgh’s Notebook from April 15 through May 6 at Flashpoint Gallery. The exhibition, curated by Blair Murphy, brings together photographs and other documentation to celebrate past arts spaces in downtown Washington, DC.
“Downtown is home to many artists and small arts groups, which can expect to be displaced if the area succumbs to the soul-less sterility embodied in K Street-style development. Our proposal is an attempt to spark discussion of Metrocenter development by all parties concerned, before the demolition and construction begin.”
– Richard Ridley, John Reyner, and Patrick Carey
“Paper Building,” Art Ink, Spring 1979, Published by the Museum of Temporary Art.
Footprint aka the Lansburgh’s Notebook explores the history of arts spaces in downtown DC, from the underrecognized legacy of the Museum of Temporary Art, led by Janet Schmuckal from 1974 until 1982, to the long legacy of Miya Gallery, an arts space dedicated to black art and culture run by Vernard Gray in several locations in downtown DC between 1976 and 2001. Over the last several decades, downtown DC has been home to dozens of galleries, non-profit organizations, dance companies, small theater spaces, and artist studio buildings. Nearly all of these spaces are now gone; many are also nearly forgotten. The exhibition’s title refers to The Lansburgh’s Notebook – a trove of meeting notes, letters, contact lists, and other ephemera that document efforts to transform several floors of the Lansburgh Building into a central location for dozens of arts groups from across the city. The notebook was organized by Janet Schmuckal and can be found in the papers of the Museum of Temporary Art, contained in the Archives of American Art.
The history of arts spaces downtown is intertwined with the history of DC’s development, especially efforts by the DC Redevelopment Land Agency and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation to redevelop large swaths of downtown DC. Smaller arts organizations benefited temporarily, gaining access to empty space at a low cost. However, as development efforts moved forward throughout the 1980s and 1990s, these small groups lost their spaces and relocated to other parts of the city, or shut down entirely. Footprint aka the Lansburgh’s Notebook begins to archive and document this history, with a focus on the physical locations occupied by artists and arts organizations in the downtown core from the early 1970s to the present day.
Image: Organizers and potential tenants of the Washington Humanities and Arts Center outside the Lansburgh Building at 7th and E streets NW, 1979. Photograph copyright Karen Ruckman.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Blair Murphy is an independent curator and cultural worker based in Washington, DC and the Managing Director of DC Arts Center. She was a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow of the Whitney Independent Study Program from 2014 to 2015. Her past curatorial projects include exhibitions at The Kitchen (New York, NY), Field Projects (New York, NY), Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA), Washington Project for the Arts (Washington, DC), VisArts Rockville (Rockville, MD), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), and SPRING/BREAK Art Show (New York, NY). She has written for Hyperallergic, BmoreArt, and Daily Serving, among other outlets. She holds a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and an MA from Georgetown University.
ABOUT CULTURALDC’S VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM
CulturalDC operates Flashpoint Gallery and produces public art interventions throughout DC. We nurture talented emerging and mid-career artists by providing opportunities for peer learning and mentorship. At Flashpoint, we showcase bold, new work from artists working in a variety of media including site-specific installations, performance pieces, new media, and other experimental forms. As a nonprofit gallery free from the constraints of commercial expectations, Flashpoint provides artists and curators a unique opportunity to take creative risks. An advisory panel of noted artists and arts professionals makes programming recommendations for the gallery and provides mentorship and support to exhibiting artists.
CulturalDC is generously supported by DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, DC Office of Planning, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, Daimler, Washington Gas, AT&T, Busboys and Poets/Mulebone, Lockheed Martin, Menkiti Group, VOA & Associates, Bozzuto, Torti Gallas and Partners.
BLAIR MURPHY: FOOTPRINT aka THE LANSBURGH’S NOTEBOOK
April 15, 2017 – May 6, 2017
Friday, April 21, 2017 from 6-8pm (free and open to the public)
Luce Foundation Center Artist Talk:
Sunday, April 30, 1:30pm (free and open to the public)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Third Floor
Flashpoint Gallery Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 12-6pm or by appointment
Development Associate Job Announcement
CulturalDC, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, “makes space for art” by providing affordable, accessible space and artistic programming for artists, arts organizations and audiences at our two locations and by spearheading creative placemaking initiatives (e.g. artist studios, public art) in local area communities. We create opportunities for artistic innovation, connecting artists, arts organizations, real estate developers, and government agencies to facilitate economic and cultural vibrancy in the Washington DC area. This position calls for an outstanding professional with a proven track record in fundraising and grants management.
Reporting to the Major Gifts Officer, the full-time position of Development Associate will help create and implement a comprehensive fundraising strategy that will achieve annual contributed income revenue targets from foundations, government and corporate sources, increase the organization’s revenue streams and donor support, and build greater brand awareness of CulturalDC’s mission and impact.
The Development Associate will:
- Support Foundations, Government and Corporate sources of fundraising
- Maintain on-going relationships with Foundation and Government donors and prospects
- Develop and track proposals and reports for all foundation, government and corporate fundraising
- Develop detailed and competitive written proposals, reports and project budgets for foundation, government and corporate fundraising grants
- Ensure compliance with foundation and government funding regulations
- Assist in the preparation of fundraising reports (including financial) and records of fundraising achievements for Executive Director, Board and external stakeholders.
- Process donations and prepare acknowledgement letters and other correspondence.
- Using Raiser’s Edge Database:
- Maintain foundation, government, corporation and individual donor files.
- Create monthly fundraising reports and other database reports as needed.
- Maintain and update RE database records.
- Other duties as assigned by the Executive Director and Major Gifts Officer
Board Support and Advocacy
- Work with the Major Gifts Officer and key volunteer leadership to develop advocacy strategies for local and federal government officials and agencies.
Leadership and General Management
- Participate in the annual budget planning process to ensure that Government and Foundation fundraising strategies and goals align with the overall budget and programmatic needs.
- Stay current with developments and trends in the industry and those affecting the organization and its constituents.
- Work in close collaboration with the Major Gift Officer and staff to achieve integrated communications that consistently promote a dynamic brand image and attract support for CulturalDC.
Preparation and Knowledge
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field.
- Demonstrated experience in foundation, government and or corporate fundraising desired.
- A minimum of 3-5 years of development experience that includes grant and proposal writing experience.
- Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Raiser’s Edge Database management experience.
- Excellent verbal and written communications skills
- Ability to present information concisely and effectively, both verbally and in writing
- Ability to organize and prioritize work
- Ability to work independently with little supervision
- Excellent interpersonal skills
Salary: Commensurate with experience
How to apply:
To apply, submit a resume and cover letter to:
916 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Deadline: Applications accepted until the position is filled.
Communications Manager Job Announcement
CulturalDC, a non-profit organization that creates opportunities for artistic innovation, connecting artists, arts organizations, developers and government agencies to facilitate economic and cultural vibrancy in the Washington DC area, is accepting applications for the position of Communications Manager.
This position requires experience in communications, marketing and public relations, branding, planning and implementation of short and long term strategies, audience development, and the integration of fundraising and marketing to reach organizational goals. This position requires high level strategic marketing planning, as well as day to day operational work. This position reports to the Deputy Director and, in collaboration with the CulturalDC staff, will develop and execute CulturalDC marketing plans with strategies and tactics to support the organization’s development and program/services goals.
- Serve as the brand master for CulturalDC’s organizational identity and visual brand; centralize internal and external communications.
- Implement CulturalDC’s Communications Strategy and Plan.
- Manage marketing and publicity for CulturalDC events including exhibitions, theatre performances, additional programming and events.
- Implement email marketing and social media campaigns to ensure effective messaging.
- Work with program staff to develop messaging, timelines, annual marketing and communications plan and budgets and create audience development and ticketing strategies.
- Create and/or manage all CulturalDC print and electronic materials including website, media releases, invitations, programs, annual reports and e-newsletters.
- Liaise with media; develop and administer organization’s media contacts and coverage and other external listservs.
- Liaise with the PR and Marketing committee of the Board of Directors and volunteers.
- Supervise the work of an intern and/or Fellow.
- Perform grant writing and reporting as needed.
- Other duties as required.
- Bachelor’s degree in Marketing or Communications.
- Three to five years’ experience in arts marketing, communications and/or public relations preferred.
- Outstanding writing and oral skills with a strong design sensibility.
- Experience with both digital and print-based marketing.
- Experience tracking and analyzing the efficacy of websites, emails and web-based marketing efforts, including Google Analytics and tracking URLs over social media.
- Knowledge of MS Office, PowerPoint, desktop and Internet publishing software, including HTML, Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.
- Knowledge of Raiser’s Edge1 a plus.
- Attention to detail and ability to organize and manage multiple tasks on an ongoing basis.
- Knowledge of contemporary visual and/or performing art, particularly in the DC area.
- Collegial working style and ability to work well in a team environment. Calm approach in pressure situations.
- Comfortable with deadline-driven responsibilities and the capacity to handle multiple priorities at one time.
- Has established relationships with print and digital media outlets.
- Ability to participate in evening/weekend events.
Salary: Commensurate with experience
How to apply:
To apply, submit a resume and cover letter to:
916 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Deadline: Applications accepted until the position is filled.
April 24, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – CulturalDC, Washington’s leading arts place-maker and presenter, will host VISIONDC, Arts and Urban Innovation Summit. The event will provide an opportunity for artists, real estate developers, policymakers, business leaders and the public to consider the creative trajectory of growth in the District.
Featuring Washington’s first ever ART TANK, an initiative inspired by ABC’s popular television show, “Shark Tank,” VISIONDC promises urban development in real time as a group of investors judge concepts for groundbreaking arts projects. Attendees will have the unique opportunity to watch as winning concepts are funded ON THE SPOT.
“The inaugural ART TANK competition epitomizes Washington’s ongoing dedication to art and urban investment,” says CulturalDC Board Member and President of Urban Atlantic Development, Vicki Davis. “With ART TANK, VISIONDC delivers revolutionary exposure to upcoming trends in the metropolitan landscape.”
At the summit, nationally recognized entrepreneurs, artists and commercial developers will explore:
- Gentrification in Washington’s neighborhoods and strategies that are being considered to foster equitable growth;
- How creative thinking can be employed to address challenges and drive economic development while considering social issues in urban areas; and
- How crowdsourcing can be used to invest in developing creative communities in Washington.
VISIONDC is open to the public and will feature visionary conversations, site-specific installations, and performances by over 20 local artists. It will be held at the iconic Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Tickets can be purchased at visiondc.org. Discount early bird tickets, ranging from $15 to $45, will be sold until March 24.
February 21, 2017
Each month, the Luce Foundation Center partners with neighboring Flashpoint Gallery to bring local artists to speak about their artwork and how it relates to SAAM’s collection. This Sunday, February 26, we welcome Sparkplug Collective, eight local artists from the D.C. Arts Center, to discuss how collaboration and continued education help local artists thrive. We chatted with Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin and Jerry Truong, two artists within the collective, to discuss how their community fosters creative growth, what they think of the D.C. arts scene, and how their current exhibition, Selfie: Me, Myself, and Us, draws on long-time themes of self-portraiture also seen within the Luce Center.
Eye Level: How would you describe the visual arts scene here in D.C.?
Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin: Describing the D.C. art scene is a complex question, and we would all probably answer it differently. I have lived in the D.C. metro area for over twenty years and have seen it ebb and flow. Right now, I see local artists pushing the boundaries with materials and content as well as building on established ideas about art. The work in Selfie: Me, Myself, and US exemplifies this as we all started with self-portraiture and developed the idea with different concepts and media. Over the last five years, I have witnessed a surge of energy from artists themselves to create a place for their work. As more traditional galleries have closed, artists are exhibiting in alternative spaces such as Artomatic, Delicious Spectacle, and Pleasant Plains. One thing I think we can all say about the D.C. art scene is that there are numerous opportunities to see a variety of art from local museums to open studio events and everything in between.
EL: Can you tell us a little bit about where Sparkplug artists gain their inspiration and how the community fosters creative growth?
FAY: Being a diverse collective of people, both in artistic practices and cultural backgrounds, inspires creative growth through the dialogues and experiences we share with one another. We can see the same subject from multiple points of view, allowing each individual to consider things they may have not been able to consider before. We are all looking to develop and grow as artists and as people, and creating a stimulating environment allows a constant flow of inspiration.
EL: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a part of Sparkplug?
FAY: Having the opportunity to learn and connect with one another is the most rewarding aspect of Sparkplug. The past two years have given us room to experiment. Most of us are exploring different media because of our exposure to one another’s artistic practices. Being part of this collective allows us to expand our network and become more connected to the D.C. art scene. We help each other advance in and out of the studio.
EL: Describe Sparkplug’s creative process in the collective’s Flashpoint exhibition, Selfie: Me, Myself, and Us?
FAY: We met once a month to check-in and talk about what was going on with us—artistically as individuals, but also about what was happening locally, nationally, and globally. We hosted critiques at our studios which helped fuel ideas and inspiration; then went back to our studios to think and create. Each artist’s creative process was different, sometimes private and always personal. In my case, it continues to be an ever-changing process depending on the ideas I want to develop.
EL: What motivated you to use the selfie as a starting point for an exhibition?
FAY: We developed the idea of an exhibition about the self/selfie because artists have been engaging in self-reflection for thousands of years. It also speaks to the current cultural obsession with using digital representations to create an identity. This duality spoke to the Sparkplug Collective as an opportunity to individually express the way we encounter social media and representation, and, at the same time, tap into a long history of self-reflection and creation methods.
EL: What are two points you hope a visitor takes away after seeing the exhibition?
Jerry Truong: One of the most satisfying aspects of this exhibition is being able to show the different approaches to the theme, which is that the mundane act of taking a selfie has connections to the long history of self-portraiture. We hope viewers will leave with an appreciation of the varied ways in which portraiture is practiced today and how far some of the artists in the collective could stretch that definition. While the act of taking selfies could easily be dismissed as superficial or pointless, we wanted to show that the things we experience in everyday life are worthy of investigation and artistic inspiration can, ultimately, come from anywhere.
EL: Lastly, why art?
JT: We all came to art in different ways. Some of us have been creating art since we were children; others came to it more recently by way of music, performance, and even journalism! For each of us, art has given us space to ask questions of ourselves and the world we live in. It allows us to explore space, color, time, material, and, of course, ourselves.
Please join us this Sunday, February 26 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Luce Center for Sparkplug Collective’s presentation and a short Q & A afterward. More information about the event can be found on our Facebook page.
When drunk Australian Nathan “Hopey” Hope fell and bit through his lip in 2002, he didn’t know he was about to make linguistic history. “Sorry about the focus, it was a selfie,” he wrote on an online forum alongside a photo of his injury — the first known use of the term on record.
“Selfies are ubiquitous and unavoidable. They’re everywhere,” says D.C.-based artist Brendan L. Smith. That’s why he and seven other local artists decided to put together a show exploring the practice, “Selfie: Me, Myself, and Us.” “Selfies raise interesting ideas about identity and how we project this false concept of ourselves online,” he says.
Don’t look for glamorous Kim Kardashian-style pics in this exhibit, which opened Saturday and features multiple pieces from each participant. The artists — many of whom avoid social media — explore self-presentation and virtual worlds through sculpture, abstract painting and collage. One contributor, Jerome Skiscim, had never taken a selfie until a week before the show opened, when he needed a photo of himself to promote an artist talk.
“I took 10 or 12 of them before I got something decent,” he says. “It’s the most awkward thing I’ve ever done.”
Cultural DC’s Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW; through March 11, free.
‘Etch A Sketch Bust,’ Michael Booker
Booker wanted to juxtapose the ephemeral with the eternal, so he painted the image of a marble bust as it might appear on an Etch A Sketch. “With an Etch A Sketch, you shake it and it’s gone, while marble sculptures are supposed to last forever,” he says. Both art forms, as well as selfies, represent an ultimately impossible quest to freeze time. “Even the bust is going to crumble eventually,” he says.
‘Self-Portrait With Stars,’ Jerome Skiscim
Skiscim created this work by layering objects on a piece of photographic paper, painting it with chemicals and then exposing it to light, a process known as chemography. The rectangles with the geometric shapes inside (created with stickers and stencils) represent the analytical, digital realm, he says. “To me, it looks like math or logic.” The circle at the top represents a more organic, spiritual existence. The background, which Skiscim created by applying cooking spray before the photography chemicals, “represents the noise of the world and the noise of your thoughts,” he says.
‘Selfie With Lips,’ Megan Maher
Maher’s piece is a mixed-media self-portrait. “I lived in rural Indiana for a little bit as a kid, so I included a contour map of the county I lived in,” she says. She studied her lips closely before drawing them. “I was noticing all the cracks and lines that have shown up now, so I drew those, but then I also drew some [more lips] on a day when I was wearing lip balm, when the lines were filled in. It kind of reinforces what we do with our selfies on social media — taking photos over and over and trying to hide our imperfections.”
‘Humanity Digitized,’ Brendan L. Smith
Smith’s sculpture uses technology from a variety of eras to show how the urge to capture one’s image has spanned centuries. “There’s a Brownie camera from the ’50s as the head, and around the body there are a bunch of old tintype photos and cellphone circuit boards.” Taken together, the figurine captures “the idea that this human form is becoming a computer,” he says. “Eventually, maybe we just become our digital selves, like [in] ‘Tron.’ ”
By: Lenore T. Adkins Special to the AFRO | February 15, 2017
The enigmatic selfies Maryland artist Michael Booker paints are more than skin deep — they tell stories about Black culture and Black excellence.
“It’s just something that feels so vain to me to just take pictures of yourself all the time,” Booker told the AFRO, explaining why he’s not into traditional selfies. “It’s limiting and I feel like there so many more ideas that we can discuss and get out there.”
Michael Booker, Etch-A-Sketch Bust, 2016. Oil on woven canvas. (Courtesy photo)
For example, in “Etch-A-Sketch Bust,” Booker painted a bust of his visage within a cracked “Etch-A-Sketch.” He said the cracks represent the idea of nothing lasting forever — busts are usually around for a very long time, but not when they’re drawn on an Etch-A-Sketch.
“As soon as you shake it, that image is gone and so I wanted to play with that idea of time and that temporary permanence,” Booker said. “It’s alluding to where we stand in time and how we’re remembered throughout time.”
Booker, 31, a Mississippi native now living in Laurel, Md. will serve up his alternate takes on the selfie in a forthcoming exhibit with seven other local artists at Flashpoint Gallery in Northwest D.C. called “Selfie: Me, Myself and Us.” It is scheduled to run from Feb. 11 through March 11 and it looks at our obsession with selfies and the narcissistic desire to capture and alter those digital images.
The exhibiting artists hail from the Sparkplug Collective, a group D.C. Arts Center created to foster a community that lets local artists meet, network with and lean on each other. Booker is the only Black artist showing work in the upcoming exhibition.
The two-year program grooms participants to become even better artists. It gets participants together to critique their work, visit each other’s studios, talk about exhibits, and meet curators, collectors and established artists.
“Part of our mission is to support emerging or underrepresented artists in the area, and many of these artists are young or starting up a second career,” said Carolyn Law, program manager at D.C. Arts Center and Sparkplug’s manager.
Sparkplug typically taps 10 people to join from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. There are nine total artists this time, and two, including Booker are Black. Booker joined the collective because he had just moved to the area from Mississippi and was looking to connect with other artists in the area.
“I was attracted to the other members who came to be part of Sparkplug as well because we have very diverse members — Blacks, Mexicans, Native Americans,” Booker said. “People from all walks of life coming together to share ideas about art.
Booker said he uses the obscured faces in his selfies to draw larger lessons about American culture.
In “Crown,” the other painting Booker will show at Flashpoint, a faceless Black person — the gender is open to interpretation — dons a brightly colored, Coogi hoodie. The hoodie has taken on a sinister meaning in American culture and it inspires fear when black men wear it. But Booker turns the hoodie into something more regal — a crown.
“The hoodie has become a symbol for Black Lives Matter after Trayvon Martin,” Booker said. “I see it as a symbol of strength, of power. You don’t get to see the face — you see the power that’s enveloped by the hoodie. So it’s a concentration on people, not the person.”
Selfies are nothing new. The concept of self-portraiture has been around for thousands of years, starting with cave wall paintings. The Sparkplug artists came up with the idea for the selfie show, seeing it as a subject that will resonate with audiences, Law said.
The exhibit questions whether selfies represent the downfall of American culture and whether we’re drowning ourselves in our digital reflections. Black people should take care and them to not only make political statements, but to also export the richness of black culture to the world, Booker said.
“Be careful to not be too vain with the selfie and it becomes something that’s about you alone and being too indulged in yourself,” Booker cautioned.