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Sculptures Take Root

Project Brings Art To Gardens on East Capitol St.

East Capitol Street might soon become the new route of choice for artistically inclined Hillites looking to spice up their morning commutes.

In a collaborative effort between local artists, Capitol Hill residents and several D.C. art foundations, the stretch of East Capitol Street from the Folger Shakespeare Library to Lincoln Park has been turned into a sort of open-air gallery featuring 18 sculptures by area artists displayed in residential gardens.

The exhibit, planned by the Capitol Hill landscape design firm ArtGarden Design, opened Saturday in conjunction with the Capitol House and Garden Tour and as part of a series of events celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Washington Sculptors Group. The main sponsor for the event is the D.C. Commission for the Arts and Humanities, which also launched the city-wide “Pandamania” public art display this week.

The sculpture project matched up local artists’ works with residential front-yard gardens in an effort to create a public art corridor along both sides of East Capitol Street.

“Here they are in the midst of our everyday living environment,” said Anya Sattler, owner of ArtGarden Design and organizer of the Sculpture Project. “You see them as you would in your own garden but they are free and open to the public.

“We wanted to feature local sculptors in the Washington area because there’s relatively few galleries around for exhibiting outdoor work, especially for local artists … it’s a show that’s tailored for sculptures that are too small for a typical art show — these really are garden-scale works.”

Tom Rooney, a 79-year-old artist who has taught in the art department at Catholic University, contributed one of his pieces, titled “No. 7,” to the sculpture project.

“This is kind of unique,” Rooney said. “It’s a great idea to put them in a place where the public has access to them.

“This isn’t like a print or a painting that you can hang on the wall, you have to haul these around and find the right spot for them,” he said. “Anya did a great job of that. She placed the individual sculptures in particular front yards because they looked good there.”

The sculptures will be on display through Sept. 30, and all 18 of the exhibits will be available for purchase at the end of the show. Eighty percent of the proceeds will go to the artists themselves, and 20 percent will go to either fund next year’s Sculpture Project or to start a fund to commission permanent sculptures for local parks on Capitol Hill, Sattler said.

Along with various other local arts organizations, the D.C. Commission for the Arts and Humanities donated funding for $1,000 honorariums for each participating artist, she said.

“The D.C. Commission for the Arts and Humanities was very excited about the project,” Sattler said. “They are very supportive of events happening in neighborhoods as opposed to events just happening on the Mall.”

She said she hopes the sculpture project becomes a sort of traveling show that would appear in different neighborhoods around D.C. each year and be used to bring local art to various District communities.

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