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Art display in Waterfront Park (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

(Updated 2:40 p.m.) The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded a grant to Alexandria to keep some of the city’s most high-profile art projects going.

The grant funding goes to the Artist Residency Program, part of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts, which supports projects like the Waterfront Park art initiative and the art lab. Diane Ruggiero, who leads of Office of the Arts, said the grant was for $45,000.

“The Artist Residency Program integrates visual and performing artists in the community to conduct interactive art engagements at the Waterfront Park public art initiative Site See, the City’s Mobile Art Lab,” a release from the City of Alexandria said, “as well as new locations including hospitals, libraries, and senior centers and expands the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Post Graduate Residency Program.”

One upcoming event through the Artist Residency Program is a charcoal drawing and wood carving event at Chinquapin Park Pavilion in Arlandria on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 4 p.m. The focus of the all-ages event is working with natural materials to create art.

“Join artist Lianna Zaragoza at Chinquapin Park Pavilion for summer art activities like drawing with charcoal and carving into wood sculptures,” the event listing said. “Participants will create drawings and carvings that serve to record the relationships between people in the community and their surroundings.”

 

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The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Alexandria’s summer will kick off this weekend with the Portside in Old Town Summer Festival. Here’s what you need to know.

The free event, which includes the 45th annual Alexandria Jazz Fest, will be held at Waterfront Park (1A Prince Street) on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 9 p.m.

“This free festival features an array of live music, local craft beer from Port City Brewing Company and fun for the whole family on the Alexandria waterfront,” said Visit Alexandria.

The musicians were chosen by the 2023 Alexandria Jazz Fest Activation Team, which includes John Hasse, a music curator at The Smithsonian Institution, Suraya Mohamed of NPR Music and Jeremy Castillo, the director of Performance and Contemporary Music at the Levine School of Music.

Food will be provided by Borinquen Lunch BoxChalkboard Wings & BBQ, Kungfu Kitchen, Dolci Gelati and The Italian Place.

Port City Brewing Company will provide the beer, as well as:

The Portside Festival is organized by Visit Alexandria and the City’s Office of the Arts and is sponsored by Ting Internet.

The Portside in Old Town Summer Festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (Via Facebook)

Friday schedule

Poetry will be read between sets by:

During the performances, muralist Aniekan Udofia will paint a new piece from 6 to 9 p.m. Udofia is best known for the mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C.

Saturday schedule

Image Via Facebook

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The Tall Ship Providence sailed up the Potomac River to its new permanent home at Waterfront Park in Alexandria on Tuesday, and the floating Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center will start offering interactive tours for the public starting this Saturday, June 17.

The effort to build the maritime center goes back to 2018, and construction started last year. In April, the center was floated up from Baltimore and final touches have been added to the two cottages housing an education center where visitors will get an immersive lesson about sailing during the Revolutionary War.

After walking through a security gate and gangway, visitors will get handed small character cards before their dockside tour of the ship.

“The year is 1776, and you will either be a cook, a carpenter, able seaman, a landsman, or a purser,” said Tall Ship Providence Foundation President and CEO Clair Sassin. “They’ll get a bit of history from the Education Center, where they’ll be informed on the ship, their new home for the next few months. And that’s when you leave and you get on Providence to meet Captain John Paul Jones and explore the ship.”

The hour-long tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cost $24 for adults, $20 for military veterans and $17 for children ages 5 to 17. The ship will also continue sailing tours on weekends.

“The whole center can hold up to 120 people, and can also be rented out for events,” Sassin said.

The Providence, built in 1976, is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775. It was captained by famed Captain John Paul Jones, who famously said, “I have not yet begun to fight,” in response to a call to surrender in 1779.

The original Providence was destroyed to keep it from falling into the hands of the British in 1779, but throughout its tenure broke through a British naval blockade at Newport, captured 16 enemy ships and disrupted the fishing industry in Nova Scotia, which was a British food source.

A grand opening for the center with city leaders, donors and other stakeholders will be held on Thursday, June 22, from 4 to 6 p.m.

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The grand finale of Alexandria’s birthday celebration over the Potomac River, July 7, 2018 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Get your lawn chairs and picnic blankets ready for fireworks, because Alexandria’s 274th birthday celebration is happening in Old Town on Saturday, July 8.

The event at Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison Street) draws thousands of people every year. It’s always held the first Saturday after July 4, and features performances from the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a declaration from Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker, a poem from Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam and brief speeches by city leaders.

Mayor Justin Wilson, City Council members and other officials will also hand out birthday cupcakes to attendees.

The celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. and ends with a grand finale fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

Visit Alexandria recommends these vantage points to see the best fireworks:

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“Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson” (via City of Alexandria)

(Updated 4:55 p.m.) A new art exhibit meant to evoke the hull of a ship is being unveiled tomorrow in Old Town’s Waterfront Park (1 Prince Street).

The installation is the latest in a series of temporary art exhibits at the foot of King Street, replacing the kitschy I Love You display. The new artwork is called “Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson,” named from text in a ship’s manifest found in an archeological dig.

The steel pillars resemble the pieces of 18th-century ships discovered on the waterfront in 2018.

The unveiling is scheduled for 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. The artwork is scheduled to be on display through November.

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Santa Claus will ride into Old Town on the King Street Trolley this Saturday night (Nov. 19) for the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony in front of City Hall.

The party starts at 6 p.m. at Market Square (301 King Street), where Santa and Mayor Justin Wilson will do their part to reduce seasonal darkness by lighting the 40,000 lights on the city’s 40-foot-tall holiday tree.

Town Crier Ben Fiore-Walker will cap off the event, which will include a program of holiday carols.

Admission is free, and the event will occur rain or shine.

https://twitter.com/AlexandriaVAGov/status/1592980044879892480

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Rendering of the unit block of King Street with street closure (via City of Alexandria)

The King Street Pedestrian Zone was officially expanded to reach Waterfront Park on Saturday (Nov. 12).

Council voted unanimously and without discussion on the permanent conversion of the unit block of King Street and the northern portion of Strand Street.

The City shut down the 100 block of King Street in 2020 to help small businesses with outdoor seating during the pandemic. The unit block of King Street and Strand Street were later added to the pilot.

A survey of community feedback on the closure found that 91% (of 1,853 survey respondents) rated the pedestrian zone as very positive, and that 89% of wanted it to be permanent.

The Waterfront Commission also approved the plan, and suggested to City Council the following “enhancements”:

  • Strengthening temporary barricades to provide for the safety and security of pedestrians in these blocks until full implementation of street improvements
  • Installing a sign on Strand Street at the intersection of Prince Street identifying “no outlet” or “dead end” and noting limited parking available on Strand Street
  • Closing Strand Street at Prince Street and designating the metered parking spaces adjacent to Waterfront Park as Handicapped Parking and City Service Vehicles Only. Continue to allow vehicle access to the private garage at 110 S. Union Street. This would provide additional parking near the waterfront for disabled individuals, and would discourage traffic from drivers looking for limited parking in the 100 block of Strand Street
  • Designating specific resources to provide appropriate City maintenance and security of the pedestrian zone
  • Installing pavement markings on Strand Street clearly identifying the turnaround and no parking areas on Strand Street

Conversion costs will be minimal, said City Manager Jim Parajon in a note to Council.

“If the closure is approved, there will be minimal costs associated with updating parking signage and refreshing striping,” Parajon wrote. “All of these costs can be handled with existing budgets. Also, since there will be four metered spaces eliminated along the Waterfront Park to provide turnaround space and parking for police, this will total approximately $8,000 per year, or $666/month.”

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The kitschy I Love You sign in Waterfront Park is no more, replaced with a holiday tree, but the big news this week is the announcement of a new art project that will replace the tree early next year.

A new project by New York City-based artist Nina Cooke John called “Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson” will be installed in March 2023 and will remain in place until November.

The project features steel beams meant to evoke the series of 18th-century ships discovered in Old Town excavations between 2015-2018.

“Viewed from the park, visitors stand on the outside of the hull with a view onto one side of history,” said the City’s Department of Arts, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “Once inside, a fuller story is revealed. Visitors move in, through and between the installation reading the text on the ground and touching the text on the steel. Light traces the profiles, reinforcing their form and allowing for a different experience at night.”

Along with the beams there will be pained images of herring, coconuts, gin, a woman named “Jane Tailor” featured in a ship manifest, and other notable parts of the city’s nautical history.

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(Updated at 10:35 p.m. on 11/22/22) The fifth art installation at Waterfront Park will commemorate the wrecked 18th century ships discovered at the sites of the Hotel Indigo and Robinson Terminal South.

“Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson” will be erected in mid-to-late March 2023 and be up until November. The work, by New York City-based architect and artist Nina Cooke John, reveals a steel abstract of a ship’s hull, meant to illustrate the city’s historical depths.

“Viewed from the park, visitors stand on the outside of the hull with a view onto one side of history,” said the City’s Department of Arts, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “Once inside, a fuller story is revealed. Visitors move in, through and between the installation reading the text on the ground and touching the text on the steel. Light traces the profiles, reinforcing their form and allowing for a different experience at night.”

The installation was chosen by a task force of Alexandria Arts Commission members, including Claire Mouledoux, senior vice president of marketing for Visit Alexandria; Clint Mansell, director of the Principle Gallery (208 King Street); and Nicole McGrew, the owner of Threadleaf & Company.

According to the City:

Like an archaeological dig, the site is layered, with portions of different information coming through.  The sea of blue on the plaza is painted on the outer surface of the pieces.  The orange of the inner surface extends to its shadows on the ground.  Herring, coconuts and gin are painted on the ground alongside Jane Tailor, female, 5′-2″ in text pulled from ships manifests.  Also listed are two boxes of oranges and Admonia Jackson. The text is also embedded in the underside of the steel.

Cooke John has also been chosen to design the new Harriet Tubman Monument in Newark, New Jersey.

Goodbye, “I Love You”

Fabian and Angie Chavarria at the ‘I Love You’ art installation at Waterfront park on Nov. 6, 2022 (staff photo by James Cullum)

In the meantime, the “I Love You” installation was taken down on Sunday — after a farewell party hosted by the Department. The neon “I Love You” sign by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt of R&R STUDIOS opened in March, and was a favorite for selfie-takers.

A holiday tree will be put in its place, and lit up on Nov. 19. That’s in addition to the big holiday tree lighting just a few blocks away at Market Square in front of City Hall on that same date.

“I Love You” had issues with light bulb outages over the summer, and the bulbs — individually hand-crafted glass tubes containing neon gas — were reinforced by a repair crew. But in its final weeks, the bulb in the “O” in the sign’s “You” was blown out after someone tried to throw a football through it.

“So, we finally figured out a way to keep those tubes from snapping, and then somebody tried to throw a football through the ‘O’ in the ‘YOU’,” said Diane Ruggiero, the deputy director of the city’s Department of Arts, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “If this artwork weren’t temporary then it would be designed a little differently, and that’s what it is — temporary.”

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The ‘I Love You’ art installation with all bulbs out, at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The ‘I Love You’ art installation at Waterfront Park is having a rough summer. For most of June and July, the “o” in “Love” was out of commission, and all the lights were recently shut off due to flooding.

Not to worry. The opportunity to take awesome selfies with your squeeze has returned.

As of Friday (July 22), all the light bulbs were replaced and are now in working order.

The installation by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt of R&R STUDIOS opened in March and will be on view until November. It’s the fourth in the Site See: New Views in Old Town annual public art series, and maintenance of the installation is the responsibility of the artists.

The neon lights are individually hand-crafted glass tubes containing neon gas, and a repair crew “added some reinforcements to the neon tube to help reduce future breakage,” said Diane Ruggiero, deputy director of the city’s Department of Arts Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities.

The ‘I Love You’ art installation with all bulbs lit at Waterfront Park in Old Town. (staff photo by James Cullum)
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