There are plenty of event spaces available to rent in D.C. But few of them are as carefully calibrated to inspire D.C.’s creatives as the newest to join the mix: Ulysses Room, a multipurpose art space in the 52 O Street N.W. artist studio building.
“We built out the space to be beautiful on its own,” said Carla Cabrera, the blogger behind The President Wears Prada, and one of the four founders of the space. “There’s a lot of empty white boxes that you can rent out for events, but nothing that looks dramatic... I think the space is very inspirational. We put a lot of effort into giving it that feeling.”
With Cabrera, the space is a collaboration between photographer Marshall Johnson, DeNada fashion designer Virginia Arrisueno, and her husband, mural artist Kelly Towles. It will serve as a photography studio for Johnson and showroom for Arrisueno, but will also be a rental space for pop-up shops, seminars, classes, and other creative events. Johnson is already planning to teach photography and design courses there, and the group sees their space as being an incubator for creative businesses in D.C.
“We felt like there’s this growing creative community in D.C., but there’s not really a learning infrastructure to support it,” Cabrera said, “partly because there’s no space where we could host these courses.”
The group built out the raw space itself — “The kitchen area was just a plastic sink,” Johnson said — enlisting family and friends for help with the electrical wiring, plumbing, and curtains. Two shelves above the sink contain a carefully-curated collection of thrifted kitchenware, including silver vases and glass decanters. Arrisueno and Towles built racks to display her braided and knit scarves.
The space opened on Saturday, to an invitation-only group of fashion bloggers and creatives who sipped D.C.-distilled Green Hat Gin as they browsed racks of DeNada knits. The founders hope that the events and classes in the space will bring together the disparate groups that comprise D.C.’s fashion and art communities.
“I think what we want to do is blend [genres] as much as possible. There’s so many people in the creative community in D.C., and there’s different cliques,” said Johnson. “We’re very ambitious about what the creative scene in D.C. can be.”