The exhibition is hosted by Transformer, a locally-based non-profit visual arts organization. They’ve been working in the local arts scene since 2002, meaning their collective is nearing two decades of innovative collaborations, creative community building and platforming budding creatives.
“We are really the only nonprofit organization based in D.C. whose mission is specific to connecting and promoting emerging visual artists,” says Victoria Reis, co-founder of Transformer, and the current executive and artistic director.
“Back in 2002, in the landscape of D.C., there was a mix of commercial galleries and nonprofits, but they were really focused on more mid-career artists or established artists,” she continues. “[We focused on] emerging artists, artists who didn’t have a consistent platform for showing their work.”
She mentioned to me that back when Transformer was first founded, a significant proportion of her creative acquaintances would engage in a mass-District-exodus — preferring to plant their artistic roots in the likes of New York or Los Angeles. Part of the reason why Transformer was created was to establish fertile, nourished soil for locally-based artists, right here in the District.
Along with the in-person exhibition, there will be an accompanying virtual auction — giving online attendees the opportunity to purchase artworks and support the artists in the comforts of snug homewear, lounging on couches and office chairs.
“We’ve got a diversity of works — a mix of sculpture, painting, photography, collage — really all different works and all different price points,” Reis says. “There’s something for everyone.”
The auction will take place through a live bidding platform called Handbid. Through the website, potential buyers can take a look at the available pieces and place bids based on their market value. There’s also a buy-now option in case a buyer doesn’t want to leave the fate of their favorite piece up to chance.
Reis is hopeful for the virtual approach to the auction. She believes that it’s an honest (and safe) reflection of the times, but also hopes that it makes the art realm more accessible to a wider audience.
“We’re definitely hoping that since it’s digital, we can reach more people, who will have access to both seeing the work and buying the work,” Reis says.
And while the comfort and convenience of the online auction on its own is alluring, Reis encourages folks to make it over to the in-person exhibition. She believes the hybrid approach is the best way to engage with the exhibition and auction — far beyond a mere collection of pixels on a screen.
“Envisioning” will feature over 100 works from a slew of artists engaging in a wide array of artistic mediums. Reis and the Transformer team have established relationships with tons of the locally-based artists being featured in the exhibition, but their ability to connect and draw folks in extends far beyond just the District.
“It was really important that from the get-go [at Transformer] that we were not just D.C. focused, that we were supporting D.C. based emerging artists in tandem with their peers, nationally and internationally,” Reis explains.
The works within and the work behind “Envisioning” are meant to reflect the illimitable kinetic energy of creatives and the arts, and are products of perseverance from a truly unprecedented 18 months.
“Artists are really resilient,” Reis says. “They’re creators, they’re visionaries. They help us to see and think in ways that we might not otherwise. I think artists are always envisioning possibilities and are the innovators that help lead people into alternative ways of viewing the world. I think the creative spark related to ‘Envisioning’ has been really strong.”
“In tandem with that, though, these are challenging times,” Reis continues. “So that’s part of why we were really committed to pursuing this [through] whatever platform we could.”
The exhibition, however, is not merely a celebration of survival — it is simultaneously a glimpse into the future, hence, “envisioning.” There’s an act of envisioning a better future, with the pandemic forcing all of us to take innumerable moments of reorientation.
“Envisioning” makes the most of a make-the-most-of-it world, and does so with a head held high and innovation coursing through its veins. Whether visitors simply want to see the artwork on display, or see it hanging in their foyer — there’s a more-than-suitable option for everyone.
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