As an institution whose main mission is to foster economic growth in the Americas, the Inter-American Development Bank may not seem a likely place for an artistic experience. But with a frequent rotation of exhibits displaying the artwork of its member nations, the Cultural Center is an excellent place to encounter a variety of art and artifacts from Latin American and the Caribbean.
The IDB Cultural Center was launched in 1992, on the 500th anniversary of what it calls "the encounter" between Europe and the Americas. It set out on an ambitious 10-year program -- to present two-month exhibitions that portray each of the 28 Latin American and Caribbean nations; plus the 18 European nations that are members of the bank; Israel and Japan.
The center hopes the exhibits are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also enlightening -- giving the viewer a portrait of each nation and its culture. Curator Felix Angel points out that the art of each country has a very different personality, depending on many different factors: standard of living, geography, even language.
With a street-level entrance a block and a half from the 13th Street exit at Metro Center, the IDB Cultural Center is easily accessible. Visitors enter the gallery on the ground floor of the bank's massive, modernistic office building on H Street, at its busy confluence with New York Avenue and 13th Street, and immediately find themselves in the quiet, bright exhibition space. All exhibits are free.
-- Wesley G. Pippert