Metro Weekly

Artomatic marks 20th anniversary by becoming an all-virtual festival

Artomatic 2.0: A Virtual Experience begins Monday, July 20

Artomatic: Frank Warren, Founder of PostSecret

Over the course of two decades, Artomatic has become a signature event in D.C. The multi-week, multi-genre festival, held every few years, is celebrated for its unjuried, open-to-all, community-oriented approach.

“Artomatic is a kind of conglomeration of everything: All kinds of artists, all kinds of art, all kinds of workshops, all kinds of performance,” says Natalie Graves Tucker, the festival’s executive director. She adds that the “true spirit of Artomatic is walking around and seeing all the different art, all the workshops.” And don’t forget all the live performances from yet more artists, ranging from musicians to magicians.

All of that is on tap at Artomatic 2020 — well, except for the “walking around” part. This year’s 12th iteration of the festival — the first since 2017 — will also be the first all-virtual affair. It’s been further branded Artomatic 2.0 to mark the change and denote a shift from the festival’s first 20 years. (Tucker herself represents another, related shift: She was hired last October to become the first paid staff member at the formerly volunteer-run organization.)

“Artomatic 2.0 will be an online event where each visual artist will have their own personal creative page that will have their bio, their Website links, their social media links, and five images [of their artworks], which they can sell through their own channels — whether Venmo, Cash app, or PayPal,” says Tucker. Because Artomatic doesn’t charge the typical commission that other art fairs and galleries do, artists receive the full value of every transaction.

As it happens, those artists were the key reason Artomatic 2.0 was put in motion over the spring. “We asked our community,’What could we do to help?’ And we saw the artists were saying, ‘We’ve lost income. We’ve had canceled exhibitions. We’ve lost gigs. So could you use your platform to help us in a virtual sense?'” This year’s roster features the usual diverse mix of visual artists working in glass, sculpture, fiber, paint, drawing, and mixed-media, and includes many Artomatic mainstays, among them Tim Tate, Michael Janis, Terry Rowe, Liz Lescault, and George Koch, the man who founded the event in 1999.

In addition to the online visual art portfolios, the festival will be supplemented with workshops held on Zoom, and performances that will stream from participating artists’ social media pages. Tucker concedes she was unsure if they would find enough interested presenters and performers now that virtual interaction is hardly new and trendy, and when the virus itself is one of the only things anyone still calls “novel.” “You hear about Zoom overload, and that people are tired of being online,” she says. “But oh my gosh, we’ve been so overwhelmed with the responses!”

The festival’s performance lineup includes actors with Guillotine Theatre, musician Yousef Shami, and performance artist Carrie Fertig. Meanwhile, many workshops focus on doling out practical advice, from “Marketing for Creatives,” to “Leveraging Social Media,” to “Pole Dancing” — the latter a swing through the basics of “this fun, dance movement” as taught by Colleen Jolly.

The workshop series kicks off Monday, July 20, with Frank Warren’s “A PostSecret Interactive Presentation,” a discussion that will explore the backstory to the popular project — including its launch at the 2004 Artomatic.

“We’re getting people who got their start at Artomatic,” Tucker emphasizes. “They’re coming back. It’s just so nostalgic.”

Artomatic 2.0: A Virtual Experience begins Monday, July 20, and runs through Aug. 20. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested price of $20. Visit

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