Arts Desk

Artomatic Returns in May

Artomatic 2009

Artomatic, the massive come-one-come-all exhibition that for more than a decade has been one of the region's most feverishly attended art events, has been off the grid for a few years now. Its last free mega-exhibition took place in 2009 on M Street SE. Last year, the nonprofit licensed its name to an otherwise independent event in Frederick, Md.

This year, Artomatic is finally back. Its next unjuried exhibition is set for May 18 to June 24 at the Transwestern Presidential Tower in Crystal City, and organizers say it'll be the biggest Artomatic yet. Eric Shutt, Artomatic's marketing coordinator, says they'll have more than 300,000 feet. Unlike the last two Artomatic venues, the Transwestern Presidential Tower isn't a new building but one that's about to be renovated. "It’s an old building, so we’ll have more flexibility in how we can use the space and what kinds of installations we can do," say Shutt. Expect more artists, more performances, and more music.

The 2009 Artomatic had work by 2,500 artists and drew 76,000 visitors, the organization says. But finding another vacant property that was large enough for Artomatic's needs proved daunting, so the concept sat dormant. Last year, Artomatic board member Patrick Oberman told the Washington Post that the group was looking at two buildings near Nationals Park, another in Northeast, and a location in Crystal City.

"This one is just the one that worked out in terms of the availability, the timing, and the permits and all the logistical considerations," Shutt says of this year's Crystal City venue. It helps, of course, that the Crystal City BID offered Artomatic "significant financial support," he says. Artomatic took place in a different building in Crystal City in 2007.

Artists: Registration details aren't up yet, and the fee is still up in the air. Shutt guesses it'll be similar to previous years. At Artomatic 2009, artists paid $100 and volunteered 15 hours.

So: Is this good news? Blake Gopnik wouldn't say so, but I liked City Paper critic John Anderson's 2010 defense of the Artomatic concept:

To declare Artomatic a sprawling display of schlock that has all the personality of a dormitory (minus the scent of incense and the aggravation of sexile) is easy. On the other hand, what a sprawling display of schlock! The fabulous thing about Artomatic is this: It creates a community in which hundreds of people, trained and untrained artists alike, work together.

Photo by flickr user isteve under a Creative Commons attribution license.

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