Washington Post’s “Peeps Show”

*Check out this video of a 2010 Peep Show submission, a tribute to “Up.”

By Lanie Rivera

The Pope reigns in the world of Peeps, too.

This year’s grand prize winner of the Washington Post’s seventh annual Peeps Show was a submission called “Peeps Mourn Their Peeps: Twinkie, Rest in Peeps,” by Lani Hoza and Leslie Brown.

The diorama featured a scene in which the Peep Pope returns from his retirement to conduct the funeral for Twinkie.

Every year, the Post urges readers to hone their artistic skills to create a diorama made with America’s favorite Easter treat.

Out of this year’s 650 entries, five finalists were chosen. One memorable finalist was “Peep’s Chili Bowl,” a reproduction of the District’s very own Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant created by the staff of the Corporation for Enterprise Development. 

Check out more of the finalists’ work here.

Fillmore Arts Center faces significant budget cuts

*Video produced by students of the Fillmore Arts Center.

By Lanie Rivera

DC Public Schools (DCPS) recently announced budget cuts facing the District’s Fillmore Arts Center for the 2013-14 school year, according to this letter from the Friends of Fillmore group, a non-profit volunteer board that supports the Fillmore Arts Center.

The downsized arts budget is baffling, as it conflicts with assurances from city officials such as DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson, as well as the District’s $6.8 million arts budget increase from fiscal year 2012-13 (a $2.3 million arts funding increase was proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray for fiscal year 2014 but has yet to be approved).

Henderson, who has recently been under fire for closing D.C. schools, promised that local schools’ arts programs would flourish after 15 schools close. Additional revenue that funded the schools will be allocated to those schools that remain open.

But an article on the Georgetown Dish noted that the arts budget decrease contradicts Henderson’s predictions:

“This year’s cuts to arts and music education at the eight schools come at a curious time: When Henderson announced her citywide school closure and consolidation plan last November, she that said by [closing] 15 schools … the school system would be able to fund more programming, including arts and music, at those that remained open.”

In response to the budget cuts, the Friends of Fillmore group, housed in the same building as Hardy Middle School, created a petition to rally parents together on the issue. Their goal is to force Henderson to stop the impending cuts and restore $300,000 to the program.

Fortunately, the Friends of Fillmore petition has already received tremendous support from Disrtict residents who also value the arts program.

According to a March 22 blog post by the Kelly Richmond, board chair of Friends of Fillmore, “over 250 Fillmore ‘friends’ sign[ed] the petition [since March 21] and reading all the tremendous comments of how Fillmore touches the lives of children past and present who have been able to attend touches my heart.”

Established in 1974, the Fillmore Arts Center provides art education to students at eight public schools in the District. Students are bused to one of two Fillmore locations in the District for two hours of art instruction, which includes classes in music, painting, graphic design, ceramics, theater, dance, architecture and sculpture.

So, I raise this question: why are programs such as Fillmore’s facing threats of budget decreases despite Henderson’s promise? And why cut funding when the District’s budget for arts programs recently increased?

The author of an article on Georgetown Patch posed a related question while noting that Fillmore provides a comprehensive, unmatched service to children through the arts:

“Why would DCPS take money away from a school that offers more in-depth programming —including an auditorium, graphic design lab and kiln — than any neighborhood school could provide on its own?”

In response, Peter Eisler, treasurer of Friends of Fillmore, told Patch that DCPS is “strapped for cash” and it is easier for them to take money from a comprehensive program rather than a single school.

Eisler also told Patch he assumes that Fillmore was subjected to drastic cuts because of the program’s schedule:

“Fillmore lacks the same level of dedicated constituency that you might find in a neighborhood school in part because the children only attend class there once a week, Eisler explained.”

Although Eisler implied that Fillmore has been pushed under the rug, DCPS differed in its response. A DCPS representative told Patch that the cuts were the schools’ fault because several schools stopped using Fillmore’s services.

Nonetheless, the budget cuts have undeniably upset the community. Many city officials do not support the budget decrease, including Councilman Jack Evans of Ward 2.

“I don’t agree with these kinds of cuts,” he told Patch.

When will authorities realize the valuable role art plays in the development of young children?

According to Facts and Figures, a 2012 report compiled by Americans for the Arts and Vans Custom Culture and cited by the Friends of Fillmore website, students who spend four years in art and music education earn an average SAT score of 100 points above those students who are exposed to one-half year or less of arts education.

The budget cuts will inhibit the award-winning program and will surely be a loss to students in the area. Luckily, many parents have recognized the importance of the program for their children’s education and are fighting against the funding decrease.

[WC: 730]

D.C. arts budget for 2013 raised by $6.8 million

Photo by Lanie Rivera

By Lanie Rivera

Despite frequent budget cuts for the arts, such as the funding decreases facing the Fillmore Arts Center, the District’s fiscal year 2013 budget increased funding for the arts by 133.2 percent from the allotted amount in 2012, according to this news release from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).

Although this raise is second to Michigan’s 271 percent increase, the District of Columbia’s $6.8 million arts budget restoration is the highest of any state.

D.C. is now ranked the fifth state for total arts spending, following Maryland, New Jersey, Minnesota and New York, according to this article by Elevation D.C.

The District will spend a total of $11.1 million on the arts.

The summation of all state arts appropriations raised by 7.4 percent; it is both reassuring and inspiring to see D.C.’s arts boost exceeding this increase, demonstrating the community’s high regard for the arts.

Jonathan Katz, the CEO of NASAA, agreed, but he added that this stimulation for 2013 cannot be the end of support for the arts in the District, according to the organization’s news release.

” ‘The recent increase in state arts funding is a welcome and encouraging sign, but the road to recovery remains long,’ he said. ‘Since 2001, state appropriations to the arts have declined by nearly 40 percent, leading to cutbacks in arts programs and services that have been keenly felt at the local level.’ ”

He added that art is an asset to any community, and legislators would be wise to invest in the arts.

” ‘These [art] agencies can help elected officials achieve almost every goal they have: creating jobs, improving education, attracting businesses, rebuilding distressed regions and promoting a distinctive state brand identity,’ ” he said.

One million grains of rice

Photo courtesy of High Fructose Magazine

By Lanie Rivera

Artist Saeri Kiritani has defied all traditional sculpture mediums of marble, granite, clay and wax with her recent life-size self-sculpture — Kiritani used upwards of a million grains of rice for her piece, according to this press release.

Kiritani earned her spot at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery  when the 100 pound, five-foot tall sculpture won the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Kiritani is one of 48 artists who were selected to showcase their work in the gallery.

The New York native used rice as the medium for her sculpture, titled “100 Pounds of Rice,” because she wanted to reflect her Japanese culture, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase, “you are what you eat.”

“I grew up in Japan, where rice was the biggest part of my diet. It still is. You could say that the cells of my body are made mostly from rice,” Kiritani said, according to an article in Hi Fructose Magazine, a contemporary art publication.

Kiritani’s rice sculpture will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery from March 23, 2013 until Feb. 23, 2014.

Open Walls provides outlet for legal street art

By Lanie Rivera

Are you looking for an outlet for your intrinsic artistic yearnings?

Contact Open Walls, an initiative that allows District residents to leave their mark on the city by painting a mural on a public wall space (legally, of course). Open Walls is sponsored by Albus Cavus, an international artist organization that improves public spaces while promoting neighborhood engagement through art.

On the project’s website, they list many benefits to their cause, including the enhancement of local culture, improvement of education, promotion of open expression and creativity, economic benefit for property owners and most importantly, the “improvement of public health.”

An article on the Elevation D.C. website recently observed that one of these murals commissioned by Open Walls in 2009, located along the Red Line’s tracks at the Rhode Island metro stop, has been crowded by illegal graffiti.

But the mural represents a legal, beneficial and artistic contribution to the area, changing typical assumptions about street artwork.

“… it stands in loud defiance of both the surrounding gray cityscape and stereotypes about graffiti,” wrote Elevation D.C.

Current Open Wall spaces in the District include Garfield Park, Edgewood, Sherman Wall, Perry Center, Ivy City and the Raritan River Art Walk, according to the project’s website.

To participate, follow the steps listed here. Paint the city.

*Video courtesy of Liane Kay. It tells the story behind the mural on the 700 foot wall on Rhode Island Avenue, Washington, D.C.

George Washington University Commencement speaker to emphasize importance of university’s arts program

English: Kerry Washington at Metropolitan Oper...

English: Kerry Washington at Metropolitan Opera’s 2010-11 Season Opening Night – “Das Rheingold” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Nicole Lafond

George Washington University’s school newspaper, The Hatchet, responded to student disappointment over the University’s celebrity pick to speak at Commencement, in a staff editorial on Monday.

The university announced last week that actress and alumna Kerry Washington would headline the Commencement ceremony at the National Mall in May, but students were, reportedly, less than thrilled.

“After working so hard and paying thousands of dollars to go to one of the best schools in the country this is the best you can do[?] This is who is meant to inspire me after years of hard work, [I’m] so disappointed GW. Thanks for showing you[r] lack of faith and respect in the class of 2013” a student wrote on The Hatchet’s online report of the announcement.

The editorial staff for The Hatchet responded to student frustrations yesterday, claiming the University’s decision on Washington shows the importance of the school’s art program.

“At a school that prides itself on political science, international affairs and journalism programs, and that has poured millions of dollars into a new Science and Engineering Hall, the arts and humanities programs often go overlooked. But the decision to invite Washington is an indication of the University’s commitment to these programs.”

As a member of the local D.C. community, it is great to see an emphasis, however slight, put on educational art programs, especially at a university with the prestige that George Washington holds.

DCist Exposed photography show reception sold out, exhibition open for free until April 7

Photo from Long View Gallery home page

Photo from Long View Gallery home page

By Nicole Lafond

Tickets for the DCist Exposed photography show at Long View Gallery sold out today, as 1,000 people signed up for advance tickets for the opening reception tomorrow night from 6-10 p.m, according to the DCist.

Tickets will be available at the door for $15, but those who ordered advance tickets will have priority. The exhibition is also open for free during the gallery’s business hours, until April 7.

The exhibition features 42 photographs of “life and culture” in the Washington, D.C. area. Photographs will be available for sale at the reception and food and drinks will be served. Music will be provided by DJ Sequoia and v:shal kanwar.