Guyann Toliver-Bowle dances amidst the sculptures of Peter Manning in the shady part of the Mall in front of the National Gallery. About 50 people watch.
Meanwhile, to the west, an Irish setter fetches a ball. To the south, two couples walk by, slowly gazing at the dancer. Two bikers and a jogger stop and watch. To the southeast, a family breaks open a picnic.
To the east, one couple says Toliver-Bowie's dance reminds them of the Philippines, another couple recalls exercise class, and then both couples leave. Five minutes later, the whole configuration has changed, except that Toliver-Bowie still dances and Manning's sculptures still stand.
The National Park Service's Artists-in-Action program pays each of several performers $25 for an hour's work, and the 30 to 40 painters, potters, leatherworkers, jewelry-makers, etc., manning little booths to the north of the performance area get to keep 90 percent of the money from what they sell.
Silkscreen artist Joseph Craig English represents the typical Artist-in-Action, at least in terms of mobility. He spends the afternoon stretched out reading on a lawn lounge while hundreds of Sunday strollers pass his photorealist silkscreens.
"This is totally no-pressure situation," English, a veteran of the local art scene, explained. "I park my van in front of my stand, take out my art. No hassle coming or going. Although I don't come expecting to make money, I always do make something."
Painter Sally Biondi, as immobile as English, but in a chair, has sold more than 150 paintings since she became an Artist-in-Action. That's 150 paintings in 28 days -- 14 weekends. Her top price is only about $10.50, but the money is the least of it.
"The ego-stroking is nice. One woman came out of the National Gallery," Biondi recalled, "and said she just had to buy one of my paintings. They were such a breath of fresh air."
Many people looked at Kay Templeton's first portrait and said it looked like Elvis. Actually, it's a portrait of her son. But once the ice was broken, many a Mall-wanderer left Templeton's booth the proud owner of a flower painted on velvet, only $15.
There are occasional critical comments on the art displayed. One young woman who wished to remain anonymous offered this evaluation: "Yuck."
Martha Ramage, coordinator of the program for the Park Service, admits that fine arts suffered in the selection process. "The Park Service didn't advertise for artists, so only about 160 submitted applications. We picked any artists whose work was pleasant. I think the crafts are fine quality."
Indeed the jewelry-makers seemed to be carrying the brunt of the business.
Ramage is quick to point out that she had nothing to do with soliciting the talent. Her innovation has been the use of that 10 percent from the artists' sales to pay for the live performers who will attract more people to buy more art.