Several key players have lined up in support of a local art collector’s plan to convert the Franklin School, at 13th and K Streets NW, into a space for temporary art exhibitions–a local version of the “kunsthalle” idea. Dani Levinas’s proposed Institute for Contemporary Expression, one of four ideas under consideration as the city looks to reopen the shuttered historic school building, has attracted interest from local arts groups, and even more critically, from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission that includes the Franklin School site. At a December 4 meeting of the ANC 2F, residents expressed support for all four proposals (which include a boutique hotel, a technology incubator and a technology research center). But they also stressed the importance of openness and public access, which may explain why they’ve sent a letter to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) that gives preference to two of the four proposals:
FURTHER RESOLVED, That ANC 2F recommend that DMPED select either the proposal submitted by the Institute for Contemporary Expression (“ICE-DC”) for a “contemporary arts, performance and educational destination”, or the proposal by Douglas Development for a boutique hotel;
Since then, two prominent local arts groups have also endorsed the ICE proposal. Leaders of the Post-Classical Ensemble, the adventurous contemporary music group that performs at venues around the Washington metro area, expressed support for the idea in a Dec. 12 letter to the city, and the Washington Project for the Arts, which fosters contemporary art and hosts exhibitions, is also in support.
Leaders of the Post-Classical Ensemble, which has a national and even international reputation for innovative programming, not only supported the idea, but committed their group to participating in the programming, and assisting with fundraising:
We have proposed to work collaboratively with Mr. Levinas to even further strengthen the artistic value of the project by bolstering the performing arts component. We jointly envision a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach that would be virtually unprecedented nationwide.
Frederick Ognibene, chairman of the WPA board, wrote:
Speaking on behalf of the Washington Project for the Arts and myself, I can state with 100% confidence that ICE, based on its location at 13th and K Streets and its proposed programming and educational offerings, will be a major lynchpin in the cultural development of Washington, D.C.
These letters suggest encouraging new signs of collective thinking in the Washington arts community, which hasn’t always been a cohesive force for major new projects. They also indicate the rising power of the region’s smaller and newer arts organizations, which would be further enhanced if they succeed in the one thing that all too often eludes the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution: Cross-disciplinary collaboration.
A decision from the city is expected sometime in January.