D.C.’s second annual By the People arts festival is here! The citywide arts celebration is filling all four quadrants in D.C. with a mixture of international, national and local art. From art barges in the middle of the Potomac to Smithsonian takeovers, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The festival officially kicked off last Saturday (and goes until June 23), but we wanted to give you some backstory behind all the amazing art pieces flooding into D.C., so we did a little digital correspondence with local artist Rania Hassan. Read all about how she got into knitting, her favorite D.C. artist and her amazing piece at the Arts and Industries Building.
How did you get involved with By the People? What are you creating for the festival?
I responded to their call for entry in January, while I was in the middle of working on two shows: a solo show titled “UNRAVEL,” and another large installation at Arlington Arts Center. For the festival I’ve made a site-specific installation for the Arts + Industries Building. It features a hand knit sculpture suspended from their 40-foot ceiling. The piece is part of a series called “Paths”—it’s about the choices we’re given, the paths we choose to take, and all of them leading you here.
I grew up traveling and moved here from Beirut 19 years ago. One of my favorite features of D.C. is all of our airports, so many people coming through, and so many places we could be. Any time I feel like it’s time to move away, I hop a plane.
Who taught you how to knit? Which came first, knitting or painting?
In my art, painting came first. My friends taught me how to knit in 2005 and I picked it up quickly. Mom says this is because she taught me when I was little. Even though I don’t remember this at all, it was pretty apparent my fingers hadn’t forgotten.
Your work (especially your fiber work) feels so ephemeral and dreamlike; what attracts you to that style?
I like the surprise in discovering something others might not notice. Similar to the fascination when coming across an intricate spider web, then stopping to look in closer to see more. It takes a lot of time to make something subtle, and there’s a joy in discovery.
Themes of connection/community also seem to pop up again and again in your art. Why is that theme important/interesting to you?
My work is about interconnectedness, and how our experiences shape and define us. The five main themes are community, synchronicity, memory, identity and time—and the common interest is that all of these things don’t exist without others.
Who is your favorite artist in D.C.?
Oh wow I can’t pick a favorite! How about the last artist I bought artwork from? That would be Rose Jaffe! I adore her both as an artist and community/arts organizer.
When do you feel most connected (to people, to art, to the earth, whatever that means to you)?
When I’m experiencing something new.
If you could change anything about the D.C. art community, what would you change?
More art collectors! All the interest in art parties is great, and buying art encourages artists to make more. I buy art; you should too!
Photos by Chris Ferenzi