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Washington DC, Hillyer Art Space, the capital

Cohesion - Daniel Shanken

Cohesion – Daniel Shanken

Hillyer Art Space, 15/05/14

This is my first time in DC and I’m surprised by how much I like it, the low rise buildings and handsome architecture, combined with the unavoidable sense of intrigue, make it feel warm and dynamic at the same time.

Hillyer Art Space is centrally located at Dupont Circle, it sits nestled behind hotels and embassies, right in the middle of the capital. I realise it’s the first contemporary art gallery that I’ve shown the programme at, and it feels very welcome.

The space is managed by two full-time staff, Allie Frazier (Events and Public Programme Coordinator) and Allison Nance (Gallery Director), working alongside interns to deliver the programme, which is a combination of short-term exhibitions, screenings and artist talks.

We sit in the gallery space with iced coffee (it is a warm, muggy day) and talk about the funding situation in Washington DC and the infrastructure for film in the city. It appears the main support structure for showing film in the city is via festivals, including DC Shorts Festival, DC Independent Film Festival and 48 Hour Film Project. A couple of other gallery spaces show artists’ film, but mainly as exhibited work, rather than as screenings, these are: Hamiltonian Gallery and Project 4 Gallery.

We talk about funding for the arts. DC Commission for the Arts sounds like a god-send for the city, which funds individual artists and organisations with non-project funding, received following an application to the commission. Unusually the city has a decent amount of funding, compared to other US cities. Finance is gathered by the commission through the city’s planning gain programme, i.e. by requiring new construction in the city to provide funds towards cultural activity in exchange for being given planning rights.

I have a good conversation with Allie and Allison about the possibility of working together, and I’m hoping there might be a way for us to collaborate in the future. I hope so, because the Hillyer Arts Space team and space are inspiring. And I like Washington DC – a lot.

The screening takes place in the centre of the gallery space in the evening, and has an excellent turn out; helped along, I am sure, by the free, freshly made popcorn. The films are received really well, lots of discussion ensues afterwards and I feel really proud of the programme and the artists who made the work.

Afterwards, the Hillyer guys take me to an amazing dive bar, which I am failing to remember the name of. It sold the most wonderful variety of craft beers, including banana beer, which was surprisingly very good. I’ll update with a name when I have one. Allie, Allison?

And now, home…

Phoenix, No Festival Required, old and new

Cohesion by Daniel Shanken on screen at Space 55 with No Festival Required

Cohesion by Daniel Shanken on screen at Space 55 with No Festival Required

Cloudy LA skies are welcome today following the brilliant, burning desert skies of Phoenix and Tucson for the past week. I even, perversely, imagined British winter chill for a moment in the deep heating sun. Just for a moment.

Model audiences. If you want model artists’ film audiences go to Tucson’s Exploded View Gallery and also arrange a screening with No Festival Required in Phoenix. My enormous thanks to Rebecca and David at Exploded View and to Steve Weiss of No Festival Required (who got me totally drunk in a Tiki bar in Phoenix, so drunk I woke up sideways on the hotel bed with my clothes and shoes still on).

Phoenix, with its mixture of sparkly new cultural venues (Phoenix Art Museum is well worth a visit, a mixture of permanent and temporary, contemporary and historic exhibits in a very nice building) and more raw, established and experimental spaces (Modified/Arts being a classic example), has a rich seam of art and culture running through it. The screening of Selected 3 takes place at one of the latter type of venues, an exciting performing arts space entitled Space 55; its delightful bar space with old couches and memorabilia beckons drinking.

The screening goes well, and the audience receives the work with pleasure; lots of discussion follows, with much interest in Sophie Beresford’s work, Making Adidas Mermaid, which fascinates, and with Nicholas Brook’s Arrastre. I’m deeply appreciative of Steve Weiss’s gathering of such model AMI fans. Other suggested organisations to consider from Steve include: Arizona State University, which has an excellent Intermedia programme; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (where No Festival Required has a regular programme); and, as mentioned, Modified/Arts.

I’m going to update on Tucson in a second post to follow…