5 wonderful, free things to do in Greater Washington this weekend

An Art Week spanning a slew of exhibits, fundraisers, parties and more culminated last night with the gala launching MOCA Miami Beach, the oldest cultural institution in Southern Florida. This year marked Art Basel Miami Beach’s final year, with which the Art Institute of Chicago will partner with MOCA to fill the void.

Art Basel Miami Beach has been the de facto go-to for when it comes to art in the U.S. They draw such crowds it becomes a double-edged sword for local institutions: They draw from the in demand of both the galleries that artists have made a name for themselves (and those who can’t get in) and the individuals who are able to attend for the weekend, but without much of a real amount of work put into creating meaningful art.

Over the course of the art week, one sees galleries and museums brand, install and set up. Making an art week unique is trying to find the balance between that and a people’s gallery for a more granular approach where the curator is getting to meet you and engage with you and sell you something. I am not a nerd, nor a politician, nor in charge of any government agency or federal funding. I am only here to tell you about five great events happening this weekend (all free and free of any sign-ups). You’re not supposed to plan your entire experience around seeing great art. But here we are!

1. Montalbán (San Lorenzo) 5:30-8:30 PM on Jan 30

Two years ago, friends of mine suggested a dinner for the owners of Two Forked Spoon, an African-inspired vegan cafe in Virginia Square. It’s a little on the old-school side, with beautifully designed décor. Members of its staff, brought in during a meal, to work with the owners took their time with everyone. It’s rare to see what the culture community does to a restaurant. They asked diners to donate to the capital campaign, which they sold to patrons, partners, and friends, and then opened it up to everyone else. The capital campaign exceeded all expectations and set the stage for another excellent meal in a great spot in the Alexandria metro area.

2. Family Planning (Coral Gables) 7:30-10 PM Jan 30

Saturday night marks the launch of a new exhibit from 4D-artist Marina Mrandi, and it will be free and open to the public from 7:30-10 PM. All major aspects of her work are monumental. Here, Mrandi discusses her choices and the process behind them.

3. Kendall Square Art First (Kendall Square) 8-10 PM on Jan 31

The second annual art fair up in Kendall Square draws over 200 artists with one-of-a-kind pieces that don’t always hang in other art fairs. The lineup features a variety of specialty shows, as well as a public art installation called Magic Forest.

4. Colf (South Beach) 8-11 PM Jan 31

While curating a show is a huge undertaking, in a position to do it, most curators are going to start with some semblance of their ideas or the works that shaped them growing up. In this case, photographer Catherine Rogers came up with the inspiration of “Crowned Mavens” while curating her “Aquarius” exhibition. So you can be reassured it’s going to feel like your favorite Friday night at home.

5. MOCA Miami Beach (Miami Beach) 8-11 PM on Feb 1

Milestones happen quickly. A quarter century after its founding in Miami Beach, MOCA’s announcement today marks the culmination of a brief transitional period in which Miami Beach adds to its cultural and creative footprint. Miami Beach has been a tough act to follow, but MOCA Miami Beach was a short-lived parent organization for the MIA, just last year, leaving the museum in a box, receiving little to no funding. So much for a “new dawn.”

This tour is not being paid for or sponsored by any local organization, network, government agency, or company. A) A lot of these events are sponsored by an established organization that is reaping an admirable return on its investments b) There are plenty of other locals’ activities happening this weekend too and often at a fraction of the cost 3) If you have plans to see another local art gallery this weekend, see those. 4) All of these events are free, free and free (for now)

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