Alternative Arts in DC
By Hope Cagle
Every spring, thousands of people descend upon Washington, DC to take in the cherry blossoms, museums, and monuments. Students on spring break, families dragging young kids on leashes, and those people who ONLY want to see Dorothy’s red slippers at the National Museum of American History - they’re everywhere. I find crowds unbearable, so I tend to seek out the lesser-known sites in the city during the months of March-June. Thanks to Atlas Obscura, I’ve been able to explore the art scene and find pieces of history while avoiding eye contact! With this list, you can avoid (most of) the throngs of people and sink your teeth into the historical, artsy, and sometimes downright weird side of DC.
Here are some of my favorites:
The Blind Whino
The Blind Whino, operated by SW Arts Club, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is a community arts and cultural collective. Housed in a colorful 130 year-old church, it hosts rotating exhibits, pop-up galleries, and has its finger on the pulse of urban DC arts. Every square inch of the place is a celebration of the diversity and intricacies of culture in Southwest DC.
The Space Window at the National Cathedral
The National Cathedral itself is such an interesting place - especially all of the gargoyles - but I had no idea that a piece of the moon is embedded into one of the stained glass windows. It was brought back by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins (who everyone always forgets about because he had to stay on the spaceship, which is why I’m naming him here) from their Apollo 11 mission. The stained glass window was built to house the moon rock, and is located on the south side of the Cathedral. It’s an unexpected tribute to science in a very unexpected location.
The Titanic Memorial
Location: SW Not only is this a moving tribute to the tragedy that was the sinking of the Titanic, it’s also a great spot to recreate the whole Jack-and-Rose-at-the-Stern pose. More importantly though, it was created by none other than Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, whose design was selected in a contest open only to female artists.
Barbie Pond on Avenue Q
This one is just plain hilarious. The Instagram tagline is “Lowering Logan Circle property values since 2014.” The guy who curates the pond is like the Banksy of Barbies - he wants to remain anonymous, but the pond has garnered a massive following. The setup changes with the seasons and holidays, and features Barbies celebrating Pride Month, Halloween, or imploring people to fulfill their civic duty by voting.
The Knife Edge
Location: NW Downtown
If you happen to stop by the National Gallery of Art, check out this architectural marvel - a 19.5 degree edge on the East building that, when standing underneath it and looking up, seems to cut the sky. I.M. Pei really knows how to make a scene.
Images: Hope Cagle