It’s been ages since street art was merely of and for the streets: These days, star street artists move seamlessly from wheatpasting and tagging in alleys to having their work displayed in museums. Ora Nwabueze hopes that his new gallery, VeraCruz, opening July 10, off the U Street corridor, will be a new stop in their career trajectory — he’s founding a space that will invite local and international street artists to install murals on the gallery’s walls on a rotating basis.
“I won't say [street art] is becoming more mainstream, but I think it is a function of artists and patrons wanting more of it, and people with spaces accommodating more of it,” said Nwabueze. VeraCruz is “specific in its focus on murals, but a logical extension of the quality of the work exploding.”
VeraCruz’s first mural installation will be by Brandon Hill, a.k.a “The Babychicken,” a mural and street artist who has previously exhibited at the G-40, the Lamont Bishop Gallery and a number of pop-ups. Hill will be installing his mural this week, and the space, on the second floor of 2106 Vermont Ave. NW, will open to the public Tuesday, July 10 at 7 p.m. The gallery will be filming timelapses of Hill’s and any future artists’ work to be displayed on flat-screen TVs in the gallery so visitors can see the mural progress.
“When you get people engaged in the process, their curiosity piques a bit and they’re more interested in the work,” said Nwabueze.
The gallery’s leadership — curator Peter Chang, of the No Kings Collective, and managing partner Justin Young of ReadySetDC — are experimenting with ways to sell the work of the featured artists. Nwabueze said they are considering making panels of the murals removable for collectors, and they will also offer separate, smaller works by the artist for sale. He says he does not plan to take a commission.
Nwabueze will run VeraCruz as a multi-purpose creative space, similar to his other gallery in Columbia Heights, The Dunes, which hosts concerts, parties and screenings, in addition to exhibits. He has modeled it after art spaces he visited in Brazil, which incorporated food, restaurant and entertainment into their art programs. He said the space has obtained a liquor license, and will serve a Latin-inspired menu of beers, tequilas and tacos, which will be contracted out to local restaurants.
“We have kind of turned a corner on what a gallery is,” Nwabueze said. “It is completely up for grabs.”