Physics Professor Aims to Teach Art Students the Business

Monday, May 28, 2007

Picture it: The abandoned building at 14th and U turned into an art gallery where graduate art students can learn how to sell and market their art.

This idea brought to you by Paul So, physics professor at George Mason University.

So, currently on a sabbatical, bought the building at 1353 U Street NW, next to the Republic Gardens, last year for $1.3 million. It is his dream to provide a space and program for art students so they can learn the business side of art, like how to write grants and how to market their work. Those selected would get two-year fellowships that would also include lectures and seminars by local educators, gallery owners and artists, So said. He likens his idea to getting a post-doc in art.

"It's difficult for young artists to exhibit their art. There are not many spaces for that here," he said, adding that he would like to keep local artists here, rather than see them run off to New York City. "When they start out, they are taught the artistic aspect of their art world and not really taught to market themselves, make a good portfolio, or know where they can sell work. I'd like to provide that."

A painter since his undergrad years, So's work is mostly acrylic on canvas. His paintings were recently on display at Artomatic, a show for hundreds of Washington area artists and performers. "I want to help young artists," he said. "There are a lot of artists in the city who are working right now but not seriously thinking about showing their work. Those I'd like to target also."

It may take a while. A construction plan should be complete by June. He hopes to get a building permit by July or August. Then he expects work to take as long as nine months. He will add office space for rent upstairs, and a couple of condos. That way, he said, he can afford to run the gallery and nonprofit group.

"I'd like to see an opening sometime next year this time," he said.

-- Amy Joyce

© 2007 The Washington Post Company