VSA & Mandarin Fan Out into the Community

Written by Andrea
November 2, 2010

For nearly fifty years, the Mandarin Oriental has been synonymous with luxury accommodations and fine dining.  Recently, it joined the growing ranks of private companies to support local arts and education here in DC. In September, it offered up space and refreshments for a DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Congressional Black Caucus Annual Conference weekend art auction, featuring the Black Artists of DC.  For this November’s exhibit, they’ve picked another important local educational - cultural institution, the WVSA ARTs Connection, a singular charter school non-profit that contains two distinct academic programs and a special community outreach art gallery.

WVSA Arts Connection is made up of three components:  First, a K through 8 arts-infused charter school, called School for Arts in Learning (SAIL).  Its Seminar for Advanced Scholars that debuted in 2010 prepares accelerated students for advanced placement, college prep, and international baccalaureate high school programs.  Its second academic program, a life-skills program with arts-infused educational and vocational training for DC residents over 16, provides life-skills, employment, and GED preparation for special needs young adults. Budding artists ranging from 16 to 25 learn painting, drawing, crafts, photography, graphic design, and framing and can show and sell their work at the gallery.  Finally, VSA’s community gathering space, the Articulate Gallery, located on the premises of the school, provides an opportunity for students of both programs to showcase their work.

The school-gallery is located at the corner of 16th and L, just a few blocks from the White House, K Street Corridor, and Golden Triangle, and a host of galleries, museums, and downtown cultural institutions that form a perfect backdrop to the students’ arts-steeped learning.

The  I’m A Fan Juried Art Exhibition is not VSA’s first outreach event, though it is a first-time collaboration with the Mandarin Oriental.  The school-gallery, a willing partner for the hotel’s revived community outreach, was transported to the Mandarin’s community room for a few weeks so that the benefits for collaborators and attendees were multiplied.  

For the exhibit, on public display through December 31st, VSA ARTiculate Program’s special needs students created multi-media work to celebrate the Mandarin Oriental’s logo and 42 hotels, 10,000 rooms in some 27 countries, with several more locations currently under construction. The exhibition includes 15 20-inch fans and fan-mobiles inspired by Mandarin Oriental’s Asia, Europe, and Americas based properties, that consistently receive worldwide recognition for their hotel spas, restaurants, and accommodations.

Prior to its FAN-ciful evening at the Mandarin, VSA sponsored monthly outreach through its Third Thursday open houses, inaugurated last year, and including appearances by the Gandi Brigade-supporting Swadeshi Studios, Liberian percussion artist Dehconte Nyepan, and the Women’s National Democratic Club.

In the coming months, we can look forward to additional opportunities to support VSA’s three-pronged DC educational - cultural programs:  In just a few weeks, a Third Thursday pays homage to portraits of man’s best friend and a December holiday art sale offers up unique student-made crafts perfect for the person on your list who has just about everything but students’ one-of-a-kind creations.  Both giver and recipient can feel good about a stocking stuffer that supports a locally-based educational - cultural cause.  

Kudos to VSA Articulate Program and the Mandarin Oriental for their public-private collaboration to benefit DC students and amateurs of the arts.  Local arts and education initiatives and private firms in DC and other urban centers could easily ‘fan out’ their own development and community relations profile by following the Mandarin VSA lead. 

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