Artomatic 2016’s opening weekend at Park Potomac showcased art created by and for the people of the nation’s capital. It was a roaring success! Featuring over 300 visual artists across two floors of exhibition space, Artomatic crafted a dynamic environment where creativity was all but radiating off of the walls.
As a part of Children’s Day on Sunday, November 6th, visitors of all ages engaged with artists and tried their hands at arts activities ranging from printmaking to claymation. Children expressed their creativity while painting a dinosaur and Minions-themed mural with artist Christopher Hoppe and learned about the ancient art of origami with artist Paige Friedeman. Squeals of delight rang throughout the performance space as children and their guardians danced to the music of Karen Buglass of Sweet Strings and experimented with dulcimers and other unique instruments. This excitement could even be seen in the childlike scribbles found in artists’ comments books, with Artomatic’s youngest attendees exclaiming “I love it!,” “wow!,” and “good job!” in unsteady writing.
This childlike sense of wonder extended beyond the elementary schoolers roaming the stalls. “Artomatic is the best rejuvenator for me as an artist,” Friedeman, who is exhibiting under the name Peijisan Art, says. “Walking around the space inspires me to make new, fresh art and do things I haven’t tried before.” Having participated in Artomatic since 2009, Friedeman saw this year’s festival as an opportunity to take risks and experiment with her art. She drew on her personal interest in Japanese culture –which she both studied in high school and experienced during an exchange to Japan— to create a cohesive collection of oil paintings and an accompanying kimono sculpture. “This Japanese-inspired work is completely different from what I’ve shown in the past,” Friedeman says. “Although it’s based off my own interests, I want viewers to see a positive, fun, almost childlike version of Japanese culture,” through the artwork.
Other artists echo Friedeman’s point about the stimulating atmosphere of Artomatic. “I am just so excited to be here,” first time exhibiting artist Kim Foley says, “the art and environment of Artomatic is so eclectic and inspirational.” A full time marketing professional, Foley heard about Artomatic from friends and quickly applied. “I feel validated to be exhibiting at Artomatic,” says the painter of more than 30 years, who installed her abstract paintings and copper sculptures on the second level of the exhibition space. Adding to Artomatic’s strong sense of community, Foley gives classes to fellow exhibitors on how to digitally market themselves and their artwork to a 21st century audience.
Around the corner from Foley sits veteran Artomatic artist Joanne Lamm, surrounded by her pastel seascapes of the Delaware coastline. Having presented pieces ranging from abstract paintings to sweeping landscapes of Mount Everest in her first two Artomatics, Lamm decided to try something new with her en plein air, impressionistic coastal scenes. “These paintings are nothing like what I’ve done before,” Lamm says. “I’m more confident and taking risks with art. It’s interesting to see how my own process develops along the way.” Lamm notes that Artomatic provided the space for her to explore new artistic methods and, eventually, produce her Delaware series. Even as we’re talking, Lamm pulls her sketchbook out from her smock and begins flipping through the pages. “I always carry a sketchbook with me,” she says, “you never know when inspiration will hit.”
Wandering among the stalls at Park Potomac, it feels as if inspiration has struck already. Perhaps first time exhibiting artist Jordan Clough, who designs geometric sculptures using live plants, said it best: “people should take away the fact that there is a thriving arts scene in D.C., with depth and variety.”