Renwick Gallery

The Place: Renwick Gallery

Where: Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Streets NW

Why Live Near Here: You love art and have a particular liking for contemporary craft and decorative arts. Maybe second to that, the thought of being close to GW co-eds puts a smile on your face while being uncomfortably close to the Orange Cheeto doesn’t put the fear of God in you.

Things to Know: Originally built with the purpose of being DC’s first art museum to house William Wilson Corcoran’s large art collection and designed by James Renwick, Jr, the Renwick Museum was designed after the Louvre’s Tuileries addition and at the time of its construction, it was known as “the American Louvre”.

When the Civil War broke out, the building was near completion and was seized by the U.S. Army as a temporary military warehouse for the records and uniforms for the Quarter Master General’s Corps. Later it was converted into his headquarters office and was eventually returned to Corcoran. It was completed and opened to the public in 1874 but it quickly outgrew the space and relocated to a new building nearby in 1897.

By the 1950s, in need of more space, a proposed demolition to the building was made however, it was saved by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1963. In 1965, President Johnson signed an executive order transferring the Renwick building to the Smithsonian Institution for use as a “gallery of arts, craft and design.”

In November 2015, the “Wonder” exhibition opened to celebrate the completion of a two-year renovation of the Renwick Gallery. The exhibition featured nine major contemporary artists invited to install site-specific works on the theme of wonder in the nine exhibition spaces of the gallery. They included works built with over 5,000 bugs, stacks of index cards, woven willow branches, and marbles, to name a few. Wonder closed after eight months, drew 732,000 viewers, and sparked dialogue about art, social media, and one’s connection with art.

Personal Anecdote: This Spring, “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” opened up and took things a step further when it looked to involve viewers by asking them to answer questions on chalk boards and scribble messages to decreased loved ones on wooden pieces as part of the grand temple. As a 4 year (and counting) Burning Man part-time employee and attendee, I was happy to see people who otherwise may never be able to participate in the incredibleness that is Burning Man catch a glimpse of the art and ingenuity that is such an important part of the event.

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