This year I’m participating in Artomatic in a different capacity. In the past I’ve participated as a Visual Artist where I had to volunteer for three different shifts. This year I decided to participate as a Filmmaker even though my filmmaking experience is limited to YouTube videos. I had some footage that I’ve never shown anywhere (either online or in real life) before so I edited it into a coherent 24 minute film. I’ll write more about the film later once I get a firm date from the Artomatic organizers.
It costs $15 to enter one or more films (yes, you can enter more than one movie) if the total run time of the film(s) is less than 30 minutes and $25 if the runtime is more than 30 minutes. The Filmmakers are required to serve only one five-hour shift. I decided to sign up for the first volunteer shift (10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) on the first day of Artomatic just so I can get my obligation over with.
This year’s Artomatic is being held in an office building located in an office park near the New Carrollton Metro station. (Yes, it’s Metro accessible.) Here is what I encountered when I first arrived.
I saw that a formal ribbon cutting ceremony would be held soon complete with local officials wearing formal business outfits. I saw that the front doors were locked so I became confused as to whether I should stay outside and view the ceremony or continue banging on the doors in the hopes that someone on the inside would unlock the door. Another guy who was scheduled to serve the same shift as me kept on rapping on the front door until a passer-by on the inside opened it. We told the person that we were here to serve on the volunteer shift and she instructed us to take the elevator to the second floor then turn left.
We arrived at an office marked “Area 51,” which is the official name of the volunteer lounge where we were to sign in, hide our jackets, valuables, and other things we brought with us, and await instructions on where we would go. The manager on duty gave me an apron to wear (which was a black apron that had “Artomatic Volunteer” embroidered in white thread) assigned me the duty of wiping off the chairs located on the third floor in a place known as Area 5. On my way to the elevator, I took a photo of the ribbon cutting ceremony that was underway through one of the windows.
Unfortunately I wasn’t given any kind of cleaning supplies to clean the chairs with so I went to the women’s restroom, grabbed a bunch of paper towels, and dampened half of them. Then I walked around Area 5 looking for any chairs for me to wipe off. Since it was my first time inside the building, I had a hard time navigating my way around that area in my search for chairs that needed cleaning. Since the manager didn’t specify which chairs I needed to wipe, I decided to wipe any chair that I came across with the exception of ones that were covered in cloth. (In other words, I focused on the hard chairs.) I did my best with wiping the chairs with the moist paper towels and drying them with the dry paper towels even though the paper towels tended not to last too long so I had to frequently go back to the women’s restroom to get more.
Then there was the occasional chair that needed more than just water. The one in the next photo definitely needed either turpentine or acetone to remove the paint splatters on the seat.
I ran into another volunteer who was doing a walk around making sure that visitors don’t do something crazy with the artwork (like defacing it or stealing it) and we were talking for a while. When he asked me where my exhibition was I had to tell him that I was a filmmaker and he became interested in what movie I was showing. I explained it and he asked me to send him a message once I get a firm date, which was pretty cool! In fact, for the rest of my shift, I had fellow volunteers ask me about what work I had and they became very interested when I mentioned my film. (Which gives me and incentive to pick a couple of dates and hope that I can get them very soon.)
After I finished with finding all of the chairs and wiping them to the best of my abilities I went back to the Area 51 office. The manager told me to just chill out, pick a spot somewhere in Artomatic, and just hang around for the rest of my shift. So I did what she told me to do.
I initially found a reception area where those who attended the earlier ribbon cutting ceremony were given free food. The food smelled wonderful but I didn’t take anything because I wasn’t sure if the volunteers on duty were even allowed to line up for the free food. Besides, I had brought a lunch with me from home that I packed the night before and it was in Area 51. I managed to take a few photos of the event.
By the time I finished with taking pictures, I saw that it was getting close to lunchtime so I went back to Area 51 and picked up my lunch bag that I brought with me. Then I took the elevator up to the fourth floor and I found a seat where I could eat my lunch. After I finished I decided to take advantage of the order to chill out by starting to view all of the areas of Artomatic. It’s similar to how I viewed the last Artomatic exhibits in 2012. At that time I took the elevator up to the top floor and started viewing all of the art on that level. I would usually become exhausted after visiting each exhibit on that floor so I would quit for the day and return the following week where I would visit all of the exhibits on the floor that’s below the top floor and so on. For this year’s Artomatic I went up to the highest floor, which is the fourth floor. That floor had one big sculpture in the lobby.
Each floor in the Artomatic building has been divided up into numbered “Areas” based on separate wings that diverge from the lobby area. The fourth floor has two separate areas—Area 6 and Area 7. After I saw the art in the lobby I decided to begin my tour with Area 7 because it’s the highest numbered area. This area is divided up into cubicles and offices with each having art displayed on the walls. It’s like everywhere you go there was art. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are photographs of Area 7.
Area 7 is also where the Film/Video Theater is located. So I got a preview of where my film will be shown sometime in the future.
The big challenge with Area 7 is that there are so many cubicles that the whole area is like a maze. In fact it took me a while to find my way back to the lobby so I could use the women’s restroom and there were times when I thought I was going down a new hallway only to find that I had already visited that area. Anyone visiting that section definitely needs to pick up a map (that’s located on each floor in the lobby) and study it closely in order to get your bearings because it would be so easy to get lost in Area 7. By the time I finished with Area 7 I found that I still had time left before my volunteer shift ended at 3:30 p.m. so I decided to visit Area 6. Compared with Area 7 being jam-packed with cubicles, Area 6 is open and spacious. In fact it’s far easier to navigate your way around Area 6 than Area 7. Here are some photos I took from there.
By the time I finished with Area 6 I had about 45 minutes left before my shift ended. My feet were growing too tired for me to even consider viewing other exhibits so I decided to save viewing the other floors for future trips. I went to my car where I had my laptop locked away and retrieved it. I went back up to Area 6 on the fourth floor and sat in one of the chairs in front of the stage and spent the dwindling remainder of my shift doing web surfing using Artomatic’s free wi-fi.
When my shift was up, I went back to Area 51 on the second floor, turned in my apron, retrieved my belongings, and signed out. The office also had leftovers from that reception for the volunteers to snack on. The leftovers were these pastry puffs that tasted really good.
There was a party scheduled for that night but I wasn’t able to make it because I had already committed to attending a Halloween dance that was being held at my church. There was also Halloween events scheduled for the following night on Halloween itself but I wasn’t able to make it either because I had already planned on attending a Halloween party that was held at a friend’s house in my neighborhood.