A nonprofit community arts center, VisArts fills its studios with amateur artists learning techniques of creative expression, and acts as an exhibition opportunity for seasoned creators. Classes span a wide artistic spectrum, including concentrations such as ceramics and glass, many of which can be specifically tailored for the educational needs of children or resurrected Renaissance men in need of a new hobby. VisArts also enriches the community with a trifecta of galleries—the Kaplan, Gibbs Street, and Common Ground—and a thriving resident-artist program.
Satisfy sky-centric curiosity with the College Park Aviation Museum's 27,000 square feet of cloud-plowing attractions, set on the historic grounds of the world's oldest continuously operating airport. This Smithsonian-affiliated museum's pride is a restoration shop, which makes once-grand beauties look as flight-ready as a seagull strapped to a jet pack. Ten vintage and reproduced aircraft are arrayed in the main gallery, including a reproduction of the Wright Model B from 1910 and a 1941 Boeing Stearman. Exhibits chart the nonvehicular history of flight, such as the Fly Now! showcase of international aviation posters dating back to 1860. Petite pilots may explore kid-friendly displays, sitting in the cockpit of the Imagination Plane, a 1939 blue Taylorcraft, or go to the hands-on room to dress in flight-ready uniform.
Considered to be the country's only public museum devoted to the history of global espionage, the International Spy Museum teems with multimedia displays, hands-on activities, and educational events. Filled with low-lit halls and mysterious doors, the museum backs up its exhibits with experience; many of its board members, staff, and speakers are former spies. Executive Director Peter Earnest, for one, spent more than 35 years in the CIA and its National Clandestine Service; frequent speaker Oleg Kalugin once held a position as major general of the KGB. Through special talks and an array of exhibits, the group reveals several hundred years of spy techniques and gadgetry, showcases connections between real spies and pop culture, and draws from international backgrounds to grant a global perspective.
In the Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains exhibit, visitors explore the most memorable villains from throughout the James Bond film series, discovering the role the series played in shaping public perception of spying and exploring how the villains changed to reflect their times. Featuring over 110 movie and historic artifacts, a series galleries allows visitors to learn about the wide variety of evildoers from many perspectives. For an additional charge, guests can opt to embark on a simulated covert mission entirely based on real intelligence case files in Operation Spy, a one-hour interactive exhibit during which participants ride in simulated truck beds and use video surveillance to find leaked nuclear-trigger technology in a fictional country.
In June 2010, after a late-night session of painting, drinking, and generally rousting about with a group of friends, magazine editor Michael M. Clements found himself pondering an unshakeable question: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this at a bar?” The seeds of ArtJamz sprouted almost immediately into a traveling party, where the caterers brought not only beer and wine but also all-you-can-paint palettes, for-sale blank canvases, and invaluable artistic expertise. In the two years since that fateful, paint-spattered night, ArtJamz has become a citywide phenomenon, organizing collaborative events with the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and finally realizing the founding fathers’ vision of a tie-dyed capitol building.
Although these creative enablers still operate pop-up events at galleries and retail spaces across D.C., the brand-new, 1,800-square-foot permanent studio in Dupont Circle has an open-house policy to enable paint parties seven days a week. Freestyle paint sessions and classes are offered, charging separatley for studio time, canvas, and drinks. Day hours keep artists aged 5–18 in mind, whereas nightly sessions feature beer, wine, and creative cocktails for the 21+ set. More than 32 distinct colors await inspired brushes, and the walls of the cozy venue are fair game for a fresh coat. A trained staff is always on hand to offer advice if needed or requested, and to make sure nobody loses an ear.
William Wilson Corcoran believed in American artists at a time when most collectors bought only European paintings. The financier-turned-philanthropist made friends with masters such as Thomas Doughty and George Inness, bought what interested him, and even opened up his home twice a week so the public could view his collection. And that practice was the seed which grew into the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The formal location opened in 1874 with 98 paintings and sculptures from Corcoran's personal collection. Today, that collection exceeds 16,000.
The focus on 18th- to 20th-century American artists such as Mary Cassatt and Andy Warhol remains—but that doesn't mean the gallery has blinders on. It also holds works by European luminaries such as Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas. The collection even extends into decorative art such as the Salon Doré, an 18th-century French period room once housed in Paris's Hôtel de Clermont.
In the same way the Corcoran Gallery extends beyond American art, it pushes its purpose beyond simply displaying masterpieces. Year-round events include lectures from prominent critics as well as live performances and wine mixers. The Corcoran even nurtures the next generation of talent with after-school and weekend classes that teach students how to draw everything from landscapes to landscapes covered with bowls of fruit.