WASHINGTON — Wedged between a vacant retail space and a Potbelly Sandwich Shop, in an area occupied mostly by austere government buildings and the occasional Starbucks, is one of the coolest, most creative places in D.C.
But you’d never know it from the outside.
Upon entering 1238 Maryland Ave. SW, guests in a white-walled lobby are checked in by attendants and led down four flights of stairs to a dim and chilly room.
A wall on the left says, “Welcome to Artechouse.” Flashes of light and sounds of laughter escape from the door on the right.
What’s inside? Chances are, you’ve seen it on Instagram.
Artechouse is a new gallery in D.C., dedicated to the emerging medium of art and technology. Just one week after opening to the public, it has quickly become the darling of social media, thanks to its current interactive digital installation, “XYZT: Abstract Landscapes.”
Unlike at most museums, visitors at Artechouse are encouraged to touch the art, step on it and even play with it.
“I’m watching, all day, the people just interacting and it’s like very organic performances. You watch life, and that’s definitely different from any other museum,” said Artechouse co-founder and artistic director Sandro, who, along with his partner and managing director Tati, prefers to go by first name only.
“I think as humans, we appreciate art and we connect to it when we can be a part of it, when we can interact with it,” Tati added.
The artistic duo, who also founded local arts organization Art Soiree nearly a decade ago, has been wanting to open a space focused on art and technology for several years. They found their current location, just blocks from the National Mall, two years ago and say there’s never been a better time to launch a space devoted to the medium.
“Artists are using more and more technology to create. Technology is also playing a great role in our everyday lives and contemporary art, in general, should be reflective of today’s world,” Tati said.
Opening a space that showcases the latest forms of art is also important for inspiring young art enthusiasts.
“A space like this is very important for new generations, because the technology is becoming very smart and strong and very powerful. And as humans, I think it’s very important to use it creatively, and the generations should know these machines can be used creatively, positively,” Sandro said.
The current exhibit, from French artists Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, is on its first U.S. tour and is at Artechouse through Sept. 3. Future exhibits have yet to be announced.
Tati and Sandro are not blind to the fact that their gallery has taken the social media world by storm. And while they say that interacting with the installations over the internet doesn’t do it justice, they’re happy visitors are sharing their positive experiences.
“We wanted to showcase art that is not dark, is not political, it’s not provocative,” Sandro said.
“It’s immersive and that’s what art should be. It should be something that inspires you and it should be something that you walk away with that lights your day up.”
Tickets to “XYZT: Abstract Landscapes” at Artechouse are available for purchase on the gallery’s website — only a few are reserved each day for walk-ins. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for everyone. In the evening, the bar opens and the crowd is limited to those 21 and up.