Escaping to the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Free.

That is the only four-letter word with the ability to entice college students to brave the summer heat in search of an afternoon of art.

And a heavy dose of free art is exactly what students can expect on Saturdays at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Supported by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Summer Saturdays opened Memorial Day weekend and will run through Labor Day weekend, hosting summer exhibitions and programming for free.

Randolph Williams and David Ibata, Corcoran College of Art and Design graduates, create art on the gallery’s sidewalk, using chalk to replicate the works waiting for visitors inside. Williams or Ibata will be outside the Gallery every Saturday this summer.

Opening day of Summer Saturdays at the Corcoran presented Body, a display of performance art by interdisciplinary artist Chajana denHarder. Visitors were invited to respond to the questions, “What do you most desire?” and “What have you lost?” by writing directly onto one of eight life-size casts of the artist, each representing one of the eight wards of D.C. The final performance featured denHarder collapsing the body casts together to engulf her own body.

“That was really exciting for me, because when I proposed this piece to them I didn’t really know it was going to be on a free Saturday,” denHarder said. “One of the things that were really important for me was to do this piece for people who come from lower incomes, that they too could come see it and be a part of it.”

Ranging from Dutch and Flemish masters to French Impressionists, works by John Singer Sargent and Frederic Church, the capital’s oldest art museum has impressive foreign and American collections.

The first Summer Saturday also featured tours of two upcoming exhibitions, Painting Big by Chris Martin and Washington Color and Light, by artists associated with the Washington Color School and their contemporaries.

Martin’s large-scale abstract artworks, three of which tower over viewers at 26 feet tall, are responses to the world around him, integrating everyday objects into his work.

Upcoming Summer Saturdays are scheduled to include sketching a live model in the gallery’s atrium, “Take Your Painting on a Walk Day” with featured artist Chris Martin and a group collage activity.

Joanna Anderson, manager of student and educator programs, said Summer Saturdays began in 2009 in hopes of widening the gallery’s audience base and reaching visitors who would not usually come to the Corcoran.

“We have a goal to bring the best quality and most relevant programming to the public,” Anderson said. “We try to make everything free or cover some of our costs for workshops so it is as accessible as possible.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.