Following the “Beach” Balls Underground

I will freely admit that one of the biggest draws of seeing the current “Raise/Raze” exhibit at the Dupont Underground was just to get inside the underground space. There’s been a lot of buzz of the use of these abandoned trolley tracks as a public art space and I was excited to see it for myself. Tickets to the exhibit were sold out within 24 hours so I clearly was not alone.

“Raise/Raze” is constructed from the thousands of plastic balls used in last year’s very popular “Beach” exhibit at the Building Museum. The balls were re-purposed for this exhibit in another interactive display allowing visitors to create blocks and build structures with the balls. The intentional lighting and shadows create opportunities for some great pictures.

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The black hole within the glowing white balls.

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Entering the Raise/Raze exhibit.

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My somewhat somber underground selfie.

Ironically and completely by chance, earlier that day I also visited the National Building Museum on a field trip with my son’s school. Last year, I took my boys to experience the “Beach” installation at the Building Museum which was essentially a huge ball pit mimicking a beach scene. We had so much fun! I literally had to drag them out of the “water”. Seeing the balls in their new space today was that much more compelling after being reminded of that unique experience. I love that both exhibits were interactive which allows patrons to connect more authentically with the artwork. And the contrast between the balls in a light and airy beach scene and now literally in a dark, underground passage was striking.

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A decidedly more lighthearted selfie playing with the kids at the “Beach”.

The National Building Museum is an amazing space in its own right, filled with tons of light and soaring, majestic ceilings. Pretty much the opposite of being underground.

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On this trip to the museum, my son was learning how to plan a city to make it the most livable and accessible for its residents. He and his classmates learned about the different uses of buildings, i.e. residential, commercial, industrial, etc. They then each built their own structure and figured out the best location in the town for their building based on its purpose and the needs of the people living in the space.

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The city map displaying some of the awesome creative structures built by elementary students.

It struck me how much the kids’ lesson demonstrated an ongoing theme of the use of public spaces in creating viable cities. The “Beach” and “Raise/Raze” installations specifically demonstrate the real world necessity of art in such spaces for building community, raising awareness and exploring important themes of our collective well-being.