Arts on the Block Plans Move to Silver Spring Library

Arts on the Block has been chosen to occupy about 4,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the Silver Spring Library, moving from its Kensington location.

The nonprofit, which has been in the county for 15 years, trains interested students from age 12-21 to design and produce mosaics for individuals, corporations and public entities. The work provides practical experience in the arts, and workforce training for students who would like to go into an arts-related profession.

“We’ll be expanding our mosaic studio,” said Anne L’Ecuyer, executive director. “We’re going to add a design studio onto that. [It’s] kind of dual purpose there. One, we really need it to serve our clients. We need to produce a lot of digital images before the actual mosaics are done.

“It also allows us to expand our curriculum,” she added. “Kids who are interested in perhaps in graphic design or illustration or animation will have some more tools to work with.”

Students will be able to go up to the library’s computer lab to make use of a 3-D printer and other machines in the lab as well as the AOB equipment.

The group also will have its administrative offices in the new space, L’Ecuyer said.

“The big news is we’ll open a gallery and retail store,” she said.

There will be two entrances off of the Wayne Avenue entrance, which is a high-traffic area that will provide high visibility for the store and the works that will be on display in the lobby’s cases.

The location also will be highly visible through the glass that faces the future Purple Line station.

The organization serves “kids that have independently expressed an interest in art and design,” L’Ecuyer said. AOB also maintains a network of high school art teachers, nonprofits and others who help identify students with an interest or aptitude for what AOB can offer.

The nonprofit fills a gap, she said, as these potential AOB students might not normally be exposed to AOB’s type of work or possible career paths.

“The benefit of our program is that they get to work directly with our clients,” L’Ecuyer said, “and experience a kind of real-world project so that they get a sense of how designers work.

“We work really hard to network our kids with other people who can share experience and information about the career path they might be interested in,” she added.

In addition to works for private clients, AOB students, known as apprentices, have produced a number of public art projects. One of the best known in the Silver Spring area are the two mosaics along Georgia Avenue under the Metro overpass near South Silver Spring, titled Silver Pass 1 and 2.

Since the installation more than 10 years ago, the two mosaics have deteriorated somewhat. AOB has submitted a proposal to the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County to replace missing tiles and generally to restore the works.

One recent AOB public project was the installation last fall of mosaic medallions along the Rockville Pike for the Department of Transportation’s RideOn Extra service.

AOB has also been chosen by the DOT to create public art of each stop on the planned U.S. Route 29 Bus Rapid Transit service.

To that end, AOB students are participating in local meetings such as the open houses held this week and next.

“That’s a real skill builder for our kids,” L’Ecuyer said. “One of the things in design careers is you need to be able to listen to a lot of people and ask the right questions in order to understand where there might be little insights about design inspiration.”

L’Ecuyer said each station’s stop would be site-specific for the community in which it’s located.

“Our role in the project is really to help connect that site to the community around it,” she said.

There will be public presentations of each proposal (she anticipates showing three drafts for each location, some of which will have multiple insets), as well as revisions based on the input heard at those meetings.

In the meantime, AOB expects to get access to the library space March 1, 2019, once the post office moves out, begin construction and be open for operations in the early summer.

AOB apprentice artists show design work to clients. Photo courtesy Arts on the Block.

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