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Thousands of Balls Become Underground Art Exhibit

  • Deborah Block

At an old streetcar station, in a quiet tunnel below the busy traffic of Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, adults are feeling like kids again as they put together sculptures made of plastic cubes that may only last for an hour or so.

Each cube consists of 27 small, white translucent balls that have been glued together. Hundreds of thousands of the balls have been made into cubes that can be moved and put on top of each another.

"This is really fun," said Rachel Rubenstein, a 20-something who lives in the city. "You can attach different shapes to the cube and play around with it." She and Daniel Ensign are attempting to build a wall with a window and finding it hard to keep it standing. "It reminds me of playing with Legos when I was a kid," Ensign said. "You just start building and see what comes out of it. We just wanted to see how tall we could build it."

It doesn't take long to figure out that two people are usually needed to build the sculptures, which have included letters of the alphabet and chairs. Jewelle Saunders and Alex Sceery made a spiral staircase in the tunnel, which Sceery thinks is the "perfect place" for the interactive exhibit called "Raise/Raze," sponsored by a group called Dupont Underground.

Alex Sceery building a spiral staircase with cubes made with plastic balls. (D. Block/VOA)

Alex Sceery building a spiral staircase with cubes made with plastic balls. (D. Block/VOA)

Until June 1, people can spend an hour in the tunnel creating their cubed visions, until the next person alters or dismantles it. The month-long exhibit also contains professionally crafted sculptures that are hands off -- walls and towering sculptures that reach to the high ceiling.

Two-year-old Naomi quickly figured out "what goes up, must come down," as she tossed the blocks she could reach. Her mother, Rachel Lanman, liked that the exhibit was for "all ages" and "allows adults to be childlike and creative."

Naomi, 2, is enjoying picking up the cubes and tossing them around. (D. Block/VOA)

Naomi, 2, is enjoying picking up the cubes and tossing them around. (D. Block/VOA)

Dupont Underground's Philippa Hughes said it took 1,400 volunteers from the Washington area five weeks to build 10-thousand cubes. The balls came from last year's "Beach Exhibit" at Washington's National Building Museum, where the public could play in a giant pit with 650,000 of the balls.

"Raise/Raze" is the first exhibit to be held in the abandoned streetcar station, which closed in 1963, and has mostly been empty. But Dupont Underground has leased the space for several years, and is bringing it back to life with more art exhibits and other activities.

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