Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Carolyn Lang
My expectations were high for the Art Museum of the Americas’ annual soiree, Art After Dark, but it was still a little startling walking into the stunning garden hidden away from 18th Street. I felt like I was really far away, and the glowing garden between the Organization of American States and the Art Museum of the Americas could have just as easily been in Buenos Aires or Montevideo.
Once inside the garden it became impossible to know where to direct my attention. There was a hypnotic portraiture video being projected onto the neighboring OAS headquarters that pulsated along with the music, and a plethora of white tents offering drinks and food from nitrogen ice cream to Guatemalan beer. There were also food trucks, a raffle, and an assortment of Latin American and fusion appetizers that provided a culinary foray into the different flavors of the region.
The event felt distinctly like a party, but also served as a nexus of ideas and culture infused with imagination and champagne. The crowd was comprised of a diverse and energized mix of art enthusiasts, locals and transplants.
The music of DC’s own Incredible Change was synthy and atmospheric and added seamlessly to the ambiance of the evening, along with DJ Shea van Horn and João Fênix’s kinetic sets.
The open windows of the mosaic-looking main room opened onto the sprawling garden and fountain. I read somewhere that fountains and fireworks are apt to command undivided visual attention, and that seemed the case on Friday, but the fountain, video projections, and live music made for an assortment of stimuli competing for my awareness.
The museum’s art exhibits were open, and Natalia Arias’s evocative exhibit “Femininity Beyond Archetypes” contributed to the dreamlike feel of the event as patrons streamed through the surreal photography gallery centered on examination and deconstruction of gender roles and expectations. Upstairs, Alejandro Cartagena’s “Small Guide to Homeownership” transported viewers to the city of Monterrey, Mexico in a critical and humanistic photography exhibit on the effects of urban sprawl. The exhibits were thought-provoking, and facilitated interesting exchanges on the themes they highlighted.
The proceeds of the event went to benefit the Art Museum, and it was satisfying to know that the money made that night would contribute to the Museum’s programming throughout the year.
The Art Museum of the Americas’ mission states that it works in tandem with the Organization of American States and emphasizes the principle that the arts are transformative for individuals and communities. According to the AMA website, the Museum provides a space for cultural expression, creativity, dialogue and learning, highlighting themes such as democracy, development, human rights, justice, freedom of expression, and innovation. Art after Dark seemed a celebration of these values in a forum that was at once quaint and dazzling, and was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable events I have attended this summer. Art After Dark seemed to leave a lasting impression of the power of creativity and collaboration, and allowed patrons to get a taste of the dynamic and enchanting culture of the Americas.