The Arlington Arts Center (AAC) currently is hosting an exhibition – “New Visions/Vibrant Memories” – in which five artists use their photography and painting skills to express their diverse views of the community.
The exhibition runs through Sept. 5, and features work by Simone Agoussoye, Doug Ball, Hasnain Bhatti, Courtney Nguyen and Will Salha. The artists all have studios as part of the Art Studios @ ARC3409, two blocks from the arts center.
The Sun Gazette recently asked Arlington Arts Center executive director Catherine Anchin and curator of exhibitions Blair Murphy about the exhibition and the center’s broader reach into the community.
What was the goal of this exhibition, and what do you hope viewers will come away with from the experience?
MURPHY: For the artists, it was an opportunity to present their perspectives on Arlington, its past and its future. There are five artists in the exhibition, with different approaches and opinions, so the show provides a platform for a conversation of sorts through the artworks.
AAC was really excited to be able to partner with the Art Studios @ ARC3409. So, one of our goals was to build a closer relationship with the artists who are part of that program and to share their work with the community.
I hope viewers come away with a new appreciation for the artists working right here in their community, and maybe a new or expanded perspective on that community.
What surprised/delighted you about the pieces that are on display?
MURPHY: Simone Agoussoye took a fascinating approach to thinking about Arlington by focusing on the people who live or have lived here. She has two works in the show – one is a portrait of Selena Norris Gray, who helped to found the Arlington neighborhood Green Valley. Before the Civil War, Gray was enslaved and was the personal servant of Anna Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee’s wife. Agoussoye’s other work depicts Sofiyat Ibrahim, a contemporary Arlingtonian and influencer.
I also really appreciate how painter Courtney Nguyen approached two different buildings in Arlington, both very architecturally distinct, and presented her own perspective on them. She incorporates a more abstract approach into her depictions of the built environment and the landscape.
Do you think the experience will be different for those who are longtime Arlington residents vs. those who are new (or have never been in Arlington before)?
MURPHY: Long-term residents will see some familiar sites, certainly, and the show will give first-time visitors a look at many facets of Arlington.
Doug Ball approaches the topic as someone who lived in Arlington many years ago and then came back. He’s capturing the tension between the older landscape of Arlington and the new development, looking at the subtle and surprising ways Arlington’s past is still present.
Will Salha captures aspects of Arlington’s landscape that may be familiar to outsiders, specifically the view of the Key Bridge and the U.S. Marine War Memorial, but brings a unique approach that gives viewers a new perspective on these familiar sites.
In his photographs, Hasnain Bhatti captures quiet and everyday moments that might look familiar to visitors from many different places.
It’s often said, sometimes with pride and sometimes with exasperation (and often somewhere in between), that Arlington is “unique” – how do you think Arlington’s uniqueness is shown here?
MURPHY: Doug Ball’s work really encapsulates the tension between Arlington’s past and its present, as represented through depictions of buildings and streetscapes. There have been a lot of changes in Arlington over the last 10 or 20 years, but at the same time certain values and approaches have persisted through those shifts. That change and growth, alongside the commitment to a core set of values, feels very unique to Arlington.
How is the Arts Center faring as we are now in Year 3 of COVID, and what hints can you give about future plans?
ANCHIN: AAC is constantly evolving as COVID continues to impact ways in which we gather and connect the community to contemporary art and artists.
AAC is excited about the future and increasing its programming. We look forward to many future possibilities for the community to visit and see local through international art exhibitions, participate in art-making classes and public programs, as well as meet the artists in our artist residency program.