Art is essential to a university's learning environment and invites research partnerships across all disciplines, said George Mason University Curator Don Russell. A new arts space in Arlington—Mason Exhibitions Arlington at 3601 Fairfax Drive—is one such partnership that is already generating a buzz.
“It’s great to have a really prominent artistic footprint for Mason in Arlington,” said College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) Dean Rick Davis. “Arlington County has a well-deserved national reputation for having a thriving arts community and a welcome commitment to arts and cultural facilities and programs.”
Mason Exhibitions Arlington was conceived of seven years ago as a jointly operated, jointly funded space that would be appropriate for visual arts, small performances, and meetings, but intentionally not as a classroom. The space is a partnership between Mason Exhibition, and the Film and Video Studies and Arts Management Programs, all with guidance from Davis.
“We’re not trying to build out the Arlington Campus a block away,” said Davis. “We created something that’s distinctive and necessary for the neighborhood.”
After many years of collaboration between Arlington County, the Latitude Building developers, and Mason, Russell said it’s an honor to join the community. The 2,300-square-feet space complements Mason’s existing art gallery in Van Metre Hall on the Arlington Campus and the four galleries that serve the Fairfax and Science and Technology Campuses.
Russell said the space will feature exhibitions, murals, screenings, lectures, readings, and events. Film and Video Studies classes will also use the space occasionally.
“It’s just an ideal addition to our portfolio, and one of our most visible,” said Davis.
Walking together: for them and for us, the first exhibit at Mason Exhibitions Arlington, is a collaboration with Rofa Projects and curator Gabriela Rosso, who Russell said has exceptional access to contemporary Latin American artists as well as a distinctive curatorial perspective. The exhibit features the work of 15 artists, mostly women but not exclusively, who live in or are linked to Latin America.
“We wanted to bring these artists' voices to the community to more deeply consider violence against women,” said Russell. “Gallery attendance has been hampered by COVID, but visitor response has been very favorable, including excellent visits from Latin American embassies of the artists on view.” The exhibition was also reviewed in The Washington Post.
Davis said the exhibit is very powerful. “It’s a difficult subject, but one of the things that art can do is provide a bridge for us to encounter difficult themes in ways that are more engaging than just rhetoric,” he said.
“Art at its best can transform the deepest darkest moments of human experience in a way that allows us to approach it,” said Davis. “Great poetry, drama, music does that, and certainly great visual art does that, because we can stand in front of it—it invites us in.”
Russell said he and gallery manager Alissa Maru are planning upcoming exhibitions, including a group exhibition about motherhood curated with Laurel Nakadate and Lily Siegel. Future exhibit themes will include environmental photography and art and divination.
Russell also said art projects will be commissioned for a large outdoor electronic sign board, which is adjacent to the gallery.
“We view this as a great laboratory for our arts management students as well, many of whom come to us with a visual arts background,” said Davis.
The current exhibit runs through March 12. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday