For some D.C. locals, the task of developing an artistic community has proven itself quite the undertaking.
“Unfortunately D.C. is a very apathetic town. Often people come here for a job, and because they’re here transiently, they don’t get involved in D.C. culture,” said GW alumnus Eric Boucher, who is also the editor-in-chief of Bigyawn.net, a year-old website dedicated to revitalizing the D.C. music community. “There’s a ton of history here, from Punk to Hardcore to Go-Go, but often people view (D.C.) as a cookie cutter town. Our goal is to get people here involved in the scene.”
The website recently selected a lineup of local artists to perform at an installment of the Artomatic festival, a month-long event organized entirely by volunteers and more than 1,000 local artists. Although the event hinges mostly on visual art, it also includes film, music, theatre, dance, poetry and performance art. Since Artomatic’s humble beginning in 1999, the annual event has drawn up to 50,000 visitors.
“Anyone who’s interested can take part in the event,” Boucher said. Among the six emerging local rock acts he selected is GW’s own Exit Clov, which has garnered a strong local indie base. “I thought since this was a different sort of event, it was a perfect opportunity for (the band) to reach an audience they normally wouldn’t reach.”
Exit Clov guitarist and GW senior Aaron Leeder said he is “psyched” to play with the other musicians on the bill, including The Sounds of Kaleidoscope, French Toast, Brandon Butler, The Chance and Portions Toll with the 9:30 Club’s DJ Wren. As Exit Clov typically sticks to lounge and rock venues along the East Coast, Artomatic is the first type of mixed media art event the band has been involved with.
“It’s cool that D.C. is doing this and if it works, it’s definitely something we would pursue again,” Leeder said. Exit Clov’s newest EP, Sasquach, is scheduled for release in January 2005.
Artomatic is unique in the fact that it is free for spectators and an open call for any artist. The event looks to gain the widest possible local representation regardless of age, genre, cultural background or level of experience. While visual artists must pay a $60 entrance fee and commit to volunteer a minimum 15 hours, admittance requirements for other performers and educational presenters are tailored to each case. Artists range in age from 16 to 60, said public relations chair Kim Reyes, who added that she is pleased with the number of young people and college students who get involved.
Artomatic has no permanent home. Each year its committee looks for transitional building spaces that it can temporarily take over and transform into multiple stages and galleries. This year’s event is being held at the former Capitol Children’s Museum before it will be converted into condominiums.
“Artomatic is not really an organization yet,” Reyes said. “But because of its recent success, there’s been talk of going nonprofit and continuing at other galleries throughout the year.”
The Artomatic event sponsored by Bigyawn.net is Friday at the Union Station stage, 800 3rd St. NE, from 7:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. Artomatic runs until Sunday. Admission is free for all events.