Arts Beat

More Affordable Housing For Artists Is in the Picture

(Jonathan Padget - Twp)
By Jonathan Padget
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 9, 2006

Cultural Development Corp. unveiled plans Tuesday for 80 units of affordable housing for artists in two Northeast Washington neighborhoods. Nearly 20 artists turned out at Flashpoint, the corporation's downtown arts incubator, to learn more about the housing initiative. They also toured a unit in Mather Studios, the building where Flashpoint opened in 2003 along with 12 discounted live-work spaces for artists and 38 market-rate loft apartments.

"It's a no-brainer," says Anne Corbett, executive director of the corporation, an eight-year-old nonprofit supported by public and private funds. "How can we not be involved in housing? Affordable housing is the burning issue in Washington, whether you're a secretary or an artist."

Using feedback from more than 200 artist housing surveys, CuDC is partnering with real estate developers to transform a warehouse in Ward 5's Woodridge neighborhood into a 40-unit artist condominium by 2008. A site in Ward 7's Marshall Heights is being sought to build 80 rental apartments, half designated for artists, whose value as catalysts for community revitalization is increasingly valued, Corbett says.

After taking a look at a filmmaker's home at Mather Studios, Stacey Williams, 41, was excited by the potential of the Woodridge and Marshall Heights developments.

"I'm doing something I absolutely love, but it doesn't bring in enough income," says Williams, who spends her days as the business manager of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival but also pursues belly dancing and writing. (Eligible artists include those in visual, performing and literary mediums.) Living with artists, she adds, "would be great. Ideals and relationships can be built. Artists can do projects together."

Candidates for artist housing are screened by a CuDC panel to evaluate their experience in their discipline and their income eligibility, currently defined as making 30 to 80 percent of the area's median income.

"Communities need to be well-rounded -- economically and culturally -- to be sustainable," Corbett says. "We're also bringing something different to the market."

At Flashpoint, where the corporation has its headquarters, as well as a gallery, theater, dance studio and business center for emerging arts organizations, a busy season continues.

During a weekday visit last month, the gallery was bustling as artists installed a group show. Gallery manager Rebecca Lowery noted that she had received 35 proposals for next season's eight exhibition slots (the deadline has passed).

Flashpoint often highlights young, experimental artists mounting their first exhibits. "It's a great learning experience," Lowery says.

Jefferson Pinder is a Hyattsville artist who participated in the collaborative project currently on display. Flashpoint proved to be an invaluable opportunity, he says. Pausing to look around at the mix of video installations and multimedia works reflecting themes of race and gentrification that filled the gallery, he concludes: "We might not be able to get a commercial gallery to do this."

For more information about Cultural Development Corp. programs, call 202-315-1305 or visit http://www.culturaldc.org/ .

Fusebox's Last Hurrah

Fusebox on 14th Street NW will soon go dark -- Saturday is the influential art gallery's final day -- but the torch will likely be passed to Irvine Contemporary, a Dupont Circle gallery that opened two years ago.

Since announcing last month that they are moving to San Francisco, Fusebox founders Sarah Finlay and Patrick Murcia have been looking for a gallery to take Fusebox's place. Finlay said yesterday that they have settled on Irvine.

"We're very flattered and hope to rise to the occasion," said Martin Irvine, confirming that final negotiations are underway for a move to Fusebox, whose 2001 opening set the stage for a cluster of high-profile galleries in Logan Circle, including Adamson Gallery, G Fine Art and Hemphill Fine Arts. Irvine hopes to move within two months, but the plan still has to be approved by the Fusebox building owner.

The final Fusebox exhibition -- works by Vesna Pavlovic and Ian Whitmore -- continues daily noon to 6 through Saturday at 1412 14th St. NW. Finlay and Murcia will throw a public closing party Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, call 202-299-9220 or visit http://www.fuseboxdc.com/ .


© 2006 The Washington Post Company