Some 40 artists and arts groups will explore race, gender, immigration and other “layers of identity” at a pop-up art show this weekend that will bring the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building to life for the first time in more the decade.
“CrossLines: A Culture Lab on Intersectionality” features artists of multiple ethnicities and heritages working in a variety of media, curator Adriel Luis explained.
“Museums are known as places that segment,” Luis said. “This is about crossing lines between different communities and different forms of art.”
And the historic Arts and Industries Building — the second- oldest Smithsonian structure and the first built to display its collections — is an inspiration. The building on the Mall is showing its age: The decorative painting over its arches is chipped, the floors are distressed and white plaster walls are scarred with cracks. But the interior is breathtakingly vast and open, thanks to soaring ceilings and skylights.
“The building opened in 1881 with a grand vision of America, to unveil innovative ideas of the day,” Luis said. “Our society has transformed in so many ways since then, and we’re thinking about how America looks now and what innovation looks like.”
Sponsored by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, the culture lab is free and will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It will feature poetry readings, musical performances, workshops and art installations.
“We’re not just asking (the artists) to talk specifically about race or specifically about gender, but about the ways we identify as a community and with each other,” Luis said.
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew has created an interactive installation called “The Virtual Immigrant” that looks at the experiences of Indian call-center workers who Americanize their names and voices during the workday.
“It gets people to think about the identity of immigrants, and the globalization of society,” Matthew said.
The website Nerds of Color will be doing podcast interviews, #Museumsrespondtoferguson will host “Museums and Race 101” and Wooden Wave, the duo of Matt and Roxanne Ortiz from Hawaii, have a prime spot at the building’s northern entrance, where they are creating a mural with visitor input. “It’s like a crash course in how you will interact with everything else,” Luis said.
The Arts and Industries Building closed in 2004 for a $55 million renovation. A congressional bill designating it as the site for a proposed Latino museum has languished for years, and the Smithsonian’s 20-year plan to remake the area around it offers no clues to its future. It was the setting for the installation ceremony of Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton in October, and starting next month, it will host the marketplace associated with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.