I went over to visit the new exhibition, “Artists at Work” while the Smithsonian Summer Camp was in session. The sound of kid’s voices rang through the gallery in the S. Dillon Ripley Center, and when I peeked into one of the rooms, the children were creating art of their own. It was the perfect backdrop for a show that features art handcrafted by the staff who work at the Smithsonian Institution—research fellows, curators, interns, security guards and docents.
The exhibition of paintings, sculpture, wearable art, photographs and prints made by 63 staffers was selected from 186 entries put before a team of jurors: Barbara Johnson, the founder and artistic director of the Art Works studio School in Mount Rainier, Maryland; Dennis B. O’Neil, a professor and head of the fine arts department at the Corcoran College of Art + Design and Walter Kravitz, a gallery director and professor of painting and drawing at George Mason University.
Much of the work is inspired by current events, like the painting Blu by intern Fulvia Ciarla, which recalls the devastation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Others reflect on the work that is done at the Smithsonian, like Jody Mussoff, who works in the Smithsonian Libraries and whose ceramic piece entitled Woman with Bird is inspired by the “vast array of images I come across in my work.” And there are some wonderful surprises: a quilted “Homage to the Hubble: 1″ by Joan Stogis, a volunteer for the Smithsonian Associates; a diptych, “Celestial Speculations” by intern Jenna Swift, for the Folklife and Cultural Heritage Center; and an elegantly crafted cigar box guitar by volunteer Steven Noel for the Natural History Museum.
We’re please to note that an image by Smithsonian magazine photo editor Molly Roberts is among the 63 works in the exhibition.
Roberts, a photographer at the Washington Post before she joined Smithsonian, recalls that she shot the picture entitled Richmond 2010 while strolling, camera at the ready, through the Virginia capital one fall afternoon. As she rounded a corner in the arts district near Carytown, Roberts says, ”I happened upon these metallic arms akimbo, apparently drying for future use in an assemblage or art project and it made me smile. That’s the moment I’m sharing by making and exhibiting this image.”
Roberts spends her days making assignments to Smithsonian‘s award-winning team of freelance photojournalists, who travel the world for the magazine. Each year, she edits thousands of images to select the visuals that illustrate the magazine. Yet Roberts still finds time to pursue her own art. “My goal is to photograph daily. I carry a purse camera just to be prepared. My photography is an essential part of my life.”
“Artists at Work: The Smithsonian Community Art Exhibition,” is on view in the S. Dillon Ripley Center through October 2.