2015 | 2015

Visual Arts Festival Takes Over Vacant Office Space in North Bethesda Saturday Night

PRAVA Festival at Pike & Rose brings in local artists to exhibit inside a unique space

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Workers inside the office space where PRAVA Festival will take place on Saturday night at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda

Andrew Metcalf

On Thursday afternoon the vacant office space in North Bethesda was still pretty bleak—cement floors, white walls and a vast empty space dotted with a few pieces of audio visual equipment.

But come Saturday night the space will be transformed into a series of exhibits, ranging from an installation of black light reflective strings resembling motion sensing lasers to the Charm City Roller Girls skating around the top floor in a choreographed skate. The event, which runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday night, is free to attend, but requires an RSVP.

Two of the people producing the PRAVA Festival—Ethan Vogt and Ken Farmer from the New York City-based art production team Nuit Blanche New York—explained the concept Thursday.

“The show will feature musicians and artists interested in sound and images and how they’re presented,” Vogt said.

“We’re doing something experimental and ephemeral, but striving for a level of production and presentation that you would see in a museum,” Farmer said.

The space for the show takes up 40,000 square feet of space spread over the two top floors of a six-story office and retail building at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda, just off of Old Georgetown Road. It’s being produced in partnership with the project’s developer, Federal Realty. Musicians expected to perform include Uno Hype, a Rockville rapper; D.C. dream-pop duo Gems and Baltimore electronic musicians Matmos.

Installations will include a speaker made out of a block of ice that plays sounds when touched by New York City artist Emilie Baltz; and a take on the modern office environment by Baltimore-based artist Milton Croissant III.

New York performance artist Tamar Ettun will be inflating a hot air balloon in the space and performing inside it.

Taken together the show should provide something unique for the North Bethesda/White Flint area, where developers—including Pike & Rose owner Federal Realty—are investing billions to create what amounts to a new city along a stretch of Rockville Pike primarily known for strip malls. Part of that process, developers have said, is to create a new cultural identity and branding for the area; that process began last year when the name “Pike District” was coined for the area.

Farmer, who was wearing paint-stained jeans, wool socks and retro shoes on Thursday, said partnering with private developers is a new source of funding for visual artists, who have for years been doing pop-up shows in abandoned warehouses or smaller galleries.

For Saturday night’s show, Vogt is hoping the audience will understand that they’re participants in the show as well as guests. The visual and musical artists have worked the audience into how their work is displayed and understood, Vogt said.

“I want people to come,” Vogt said. “I hope there will be great crowds.”

The event will feature a bar with drinks available for purchase. The organizers are encouraging people who come to the show to take public transportation. Free parking will be available at the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center at 12055 Rockville Pike and a shuttle bus will be on hand to transport visitors to the show.