Saturday, August 26, 2023

Still Life with Robin: An Open Air Art Gallery

by Peggy Robin

A long, long time ago (that is, sometime in the 1970s) I was playing host to a friend from from Los Angeles. This was so long ago that there was still a fair amount of on-street parking to be found along the side streets of the Mall, and it was a completely plausible for tourists to drive in for the day with a plan to find a free parking space within a short walk of the most popular museums.

On the day we visited, I was unlucky. As we cruised around all the little streets between Constitution and Independence Avenues, we passed rows and rows of parked cars, with no available spaces to be seen. Between the sides streets were those large, flat, neatly clipped rectangles of grass, block after block of open green space, with not a thing on them but a few tourists who had strayed from the broad gravel pedestrian paths.

"What a waste of space!" my Angeleno friend exclaimed. 

Before I could say anything in defense of the unbroken stretch of grass that connected the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the US Capitol in one stunning panorama, she added, "Just think how many cars they could park in this space!"

Fast forward close to half a century later, and apparently some others have been thinking in a similar way: too much empty, green space here -- but our modern park designers have come up with a far, far better use for it than a big parking lot for tourists' cars: It's now a grand exhibition space for large sculptures and interactive art installations.

All I can say is WOW! ....And it's a whole lot more creative than a pile of parked cars!

The show is called "Beyond Granite," and it's free and open to all, no reservations needed. I won't describe the visitor's experience;  I'll leave that to the professional art critics, who very much liked what they saw.

The excellent write up in DCist not only covers the art experience, but provides practical tips for visitors, such as locations of each of the six art installations, links for signing up for art walks, finding the "welcome stations," and a site map (see below)

I hope I needn't remind you, if you go, don't try to drive and park nearby!
"Still Life with Robin" is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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