aac exhibition


AAC Art Venture Spring-Summer-Fall 2013

GREEN ACRES at AAC is a multi-seasonal, multi-faceted, interactive art venture focused on art and agriculture that comprises several elements: the Gourd Palace Spirit House; the GREEN ACRES exhibition, with Arlington Site Projects; and a series of public programs. It will incorporate broad community involvement across the county and the region. The goal of the venture is to visually and spatially engage the public in a discussion around topics related to food, agriculture, urban farming and livability, and to expose the investigations artists are making in these areas.




The Harrison Studios' indoor farm; Anya Gallaccio's Motherlode; Mei-ling Hom's mushroom work;
photo from Dan Devine's Sheep Farm series; the XYZ Spaceframe Vehicle from N55; algae farming;
Shannon Young's shopping cart; Soil Olympics from Permaganic Co.

AAC’s venture takes its name from the exhibition GREEN ACRES: Artists Farming Fields, Greenhouses, and Abandoned Lots, curated by Sue Spaid. Following its run at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center, GREEN ACRES will come to the Washington DC area: to AAC in June and to American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center in September. Developed by independent curator Sue Spaid, the exhibition explores a global art movement that has been developing over the past 40 years, wherein artists have developed and realized novel farming practices to inspire self-reliance, improve food quality, demonstrate sustainable farming techniques, engender community actions, and foster local identities.

AAC will include the historically significant refabrication of Newton and Helen Harrison’s Survival Series (1970—1973), projects from Permaganic Co., as well as the work of artists  J. J. McCracken, Mei-ling Hom, Anya Gallaccio, Dan Devine, Mara Scrupe, Patricia Johanson, Matthew Moore, Ecological Greenhouse, the Land Foundation, and Sakarin Krue-On.

This exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. The Exhibition Award program was founded in 1998 to honor Emily Hall Tremaine. It rewards innovation and experimentation among curators by supporting thematic exhibitions that challenge audiences and expand the boundaries of contemporary art.

Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award


Doug Retzler: The Gourd Palace Spirit House at AAC


Gourd Palace


The Arlington Arts Center, in collaboration with Arlington Public Art, is hosting Baltimore-based artist Doug Retzler for a public art residency focusing on urban agriculture. Retzler will oversee the construction of the Gourd Palace Spirit House, which will grow and develop over the summer on AAC’s front lawn. The artist creates living sculptures that illustrate our connection to nature and the important place that nature has in the lives of children and adults alike, particularly in an urban environment. The AAC site will become a community meeting place, where reading sessions, workshops on agriculture and environmental stewardship, music performances, and art-making projects for children and families can take place.

The underlying structure of the Gourd Palace Spirit House is a bamboo armature; the bamboo comes from Arlington’s Banneker Park, thanks to Sarah Archer, Invasive Plant Coordinator of Parks and Natural Resources. After constructing the armature in May, the next step is planting its perimeter with gourd seedlings. As the seedling grow, they produce vines, which must be trained to grow on the armature, covering the whole structure to create a leafy green shelter.

This spring Doug Retzler went to two Arlington schools—HB Woodlawn Secondary Program and Tuckahoe Elementary—to show slides of habitations in other countries made from natural materials, including bamboo, and to explain some of the challenges inherent in building a large living shelter. Students first made sketches of their ideas and then built models, using pipe cleaners and foam core. Their preliminary sketches and many of the models are on view in AAC's Jenkins Community Gallery. A design team assessed these ideas with Doug and assisted in coming up with the final Arlington Arts Center Gourd Palace design. Design team members: Alyson Steele, Quinn Evans architecture; Kimberly Haun, Arlington County horticulturist; Suzanne DeSaix, GREEN ACRES farmer/artist. We are very grateful to Faylinda Kodis, art teacher at HB Woodlawn, the fourth grade teachers at Tuckahoe, and Nancy Libson who organized the Tuckahoe event. Children in AAC’s Spring Break classes also submitted sketches and models. We thank all the students who participated with such enthusiasm.

Photos of the Gourd Palace Spirit House design and construction at AAC



Susan Leibovitz Steinman: The Straw Bale Farm

Straw Bale Farm, Susan Leibowitz SteinmanStraw Bale Farm, Susan Leibowitz Steinman

Artist Susan Steinman has designed a public sculptural installation to be planted with organic vegetables using Permaculture techniques. Four Arlington community volunteer gardeners will maintain the gardens throughout the summer and donate part of their produce to the local food bank. The installation is sited on the west side of AAC, with a view of the Gourd Palace to the north. Steinman's unusual media include straw bales, metal trash cans, PEX pipe, mulch, and concrete blocks.


Shannon Young: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Young’s outdoor art installation incorporates shopping carts as transportable gardens. After their installation on AAC's front lawn opposite the Gourd Palace Spirit House, the carts will be wheeled to other Arlington sites during the summer.