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Performance and visual talent, writer, and teaching artist Holly Bass moves between genres.

FEATURES

The Art of Living

By Kristen Schott

Photography by Greg Powers

11.27.18

Inspiration comes in many forms—music, dance, art—and those with the talent to deliver it or the passion to support it in DC are bringing beauty to each experience, and adding joy and hope to our world. Here, the District’s finest creatives and patrons take a bow.

 THE ADVOCATE
Holly Bass

Sharing the untold story is this artist’s mission.

This is a woman who looks at everything she does—dance, poetry, visual arts—as a form of writing. “I can write with words, write with bodies, write with images,” says Holly Bass, a beloved DC-based multidisciplinary talent who highlights subjects like race and gender via her art. “There are stories I feel that need to be... amplified, particularly about black life in America.” (Her inspiration is Toni Morrison; the author started writing novels because there were books she wanted to read that didn’t exist.) It’s why Bass supports adjudicated young people; for the past four years, she’s run a program at the Youth Services Center in Northeast that offers poetry and hip-hop writing workshops. She’s a teaching artist for Shout Mouse Press and an adjunct professor at GWU. And she’s received a grant from the DC Arts Center for a new performance series with Sherman Fleming that will debut in June as part of the organization’s 30th anniversary. After all, she says, “I like exploring the directions society could take and using that to create art that envisions a more just world.”

THE PRESERVATIONIST
Rachel Goslins

She’s leading the rebirth of the AIB with new ideas.

Arts and Industries Building director Rachel Goslins is drawn to “big, juicy ideas.” It’s what makes the DC resident, formerly the executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities under Obama, perfect for the title she’s held since 2016: She’s restoring the venue as a hub for inspiration. (It opened in 1881 as America’s first national museum and has been largely dormant since 2004.) She spent her first year learning from previous work; now, she’s stepping into a forward-facing role to shed light on the space, which has shown technology such as Edison’s lightbulb and served as the first home for almost every other Smithsonian collection, like first ladies’ gowns. On Dec. 7, the building will open for one of the few times over the last 14 years for the second Long Conversation, with speakers like actress Alfre Woodard and writer David Brooks. “The [speakers] come with one idea from their field that makes them hopeful,” says Goslins. As for the AIB’s future, she is working to open it permanently and achieve her goal: “It will be the place the DC creative community comes to play.”

Kim Sajet with Kumi Yamashita’s “Profile” (1994, wood, single light source and cast shadow) part of the Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now exhibit “Profile” by Kumi Yamashita photo by Mark Gulezian

THE VISIONARY
Kim Sajet

The Portrait Gallery is thriving under her eye.

Ask Kim Sajet how portraiture will change, and she’ll say, “[It’s] becoming hip!” Nigeria-born Sajet has much to back that up: She recently toasted her fifth anniversary as director of the National Portrait Gallery, which turned 50 in 2018. It’s been a banner year, with an uptick in visitors (thanks to the depiction of the Obamas); events like a chat with model Patti Hansen and photographer Ivan Shaw; and Eye to I: Self-Portraits From 1900 to Today, the closing show of the festivities (on display through Aug. 18). “We wanted to end with a celebration of portrait artists,” she says. “It’s fascinating to see how [they] have turned into themselves. Most are not only introspective, but unnervingly so.” Another major effort is Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence (March), one of seven exhibits the venue is producing as part of the Smithsonian’s five-year recognition of American females in honor of the 19th Amendment. It shares the true suffragist movement—the struggle of African-Americans and more, she says. The gallery is also gathering leading ladies to “amplify the message that women are powerful,” she says. We agree.  

THE PATRONS
Alexia and Rod Von Lipsey

This duo champions the arts in countless ways.

Athens-born Alexia von Lipsey bought her first work—an Arabic calligraphy piece—in Cairo as a teen with summer-job earnings. It now hangs in the Massachusetts Heights home she shares with husband Rod, a Philadelphia native and a managing director at UBS Financial Services and trustee at the CNA Corp. and the Aspen Institute. He recalls flipping through books in his family library. (Think Irving Stone’s biography of Michelangelo: “It was terribly inappropriate for a [child,] but I devoured it.”) Now, they collect art that often incorporates language (Edel Gregan is a favorite), admire performance icons like Michael Kahn and are active in various efforts. “We like helping new organizations and are into the idea of intellectual ‘seed capital,’” says Alexia. Transformer, the Washington Project for the Arts, STABLE (they helped secure a 10-year building lease) and the National Endowment for the Arts (Rod’s on the museum panel) are some organizations they’ve supported this year. On their radar: the Fortas Chamber Music concert series with Imani Winds in January, The Warmth of Other Suns at The Phillips Collection in June and acquiring pieces like a copper sculpture by Gregan. Says Alexia: “It is a cogent comment on the passage of time.”

Alexandra Arata is pictured with works from her Rhythm series in her studio in Potomac, which she is in the process of redesigning for more space.

THE GLOBALIST
Alexandra Arata

The international artist colors our world.

Artist, interior architect and entrepreneur Alexandra Arata has had quite the journey—born in Argentina from Italian parents, lived in the country at a time of crisis, saw her husband get kidnapped twice before moving to the United States and settling in Potomac in 2003. Perhaps that’s why her artistic motto is to live colorfully. “It means to live with passion, take risks, dance, love and laugh.” Her works speak to that—with painting, she likes to explore. “[Hues] flow with more freedom,” says Arata, whose contemporary piece “Rhythms” was commissioned for a senior executive at the White House. But she calls sculpting a “building” process. “I need to do both... to get balanced.” A common thread, of course, is happiness. Her Joy painting series will be displayed at a show at the Embassy of Argentina in DC beginning Dec. 12 and in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in January as part of the EsteArte fair. She also has an upcoming exhibit in London. Also this month? She’s jetting to Art Basel once again. “There is so much to see and experience.” Discover the color, most certainly. 

THE MAESTRO
Evan Rogister

WNO’s principal conductor makes music sing.

It was at age 4 that Evan Rogister discovered his love for conducting, after watching a video of Leonard Bernstein. “According to my mom, I’d request my favorite records, stand on the hearth and wave my arms along to the music,” says Rogister, the principal conductor of the Washington National Opera through the 2021 to 2022 season. “When walking into The Kennedy Center, I get goose bumps remembering that I’m working at an institution inaugurated by Bernstein.” Rogister, who lives between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Brussels before he moves to DC, begins his work by hearing auditions (he looks for passion, a collaborative spirit, expressiveness) and will lead the annual gala May 19. He’s also conducting the Göteburg Opera’s first complete cycle of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, ending in 2021—the city’s 400th birthday. (He calls it a dream.) While we’ll wait till February to learn his first opera, he has this to say: “Conducting is a mysterious art. There are so many elements in motion that it’s almost a miracle when everything coalesces. But it does, and the feeling is pure joy.”