Art in Unexpected Places

Local Galleries Highlight The Creativity of New Artists

Posted February 26, 2010 at 4:10pm

Washington has no shortage of art. The august institutions of the Smithsonian offer visitors the chance to view both priceless classical paintings and innovative modern work, while private museums, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection, offer equally impressive repositories of stunning creativity.

But the focus on larger, more established spaces can draw attention away from smaller galleries that strive to showcase the work of burgeoning local artists, many of whom have never had the opportunity to put their art before the public. Here are a few alternatives for art enthusiasts who are looking for something a little less well-known:

Hamiltonian Gallery

Tucked into a block of U Street alongside bustling cafes and bars, the Hamiltonian opened in 2008 with the goal of supporting emerging artists through its nonprofit fellowship program, Hamiltonian Artists, which selects promising young artists and pairs them with mentors. Each fellow receives a stipend and five opportunities to exhibit his work. Gallery Director Jacqueline Ionita said the Saturday night launches for these exhibitions draw an eclectic crowd of people — curators, artists, students andaccidental attendees who drift in during a night out.

“Our openings are a lot of fun,” Ionita said. “It’s definitely a good place to meet new people.”

Currently on display is “Evacuate,” a series by artist mentor Alex Kondner, as well as “Golem and Lithe,” “Words in Space” and “In the Garden,” courtesy of fellows Ian MacLean Davis, Bryan Rojsuontikul and Linda Hesh, respectively.

Long View Gallery

Located on Ninth Street between M and N streets, Long View recently received a fair amount of media attention for hosting the wedding of local artists Dana Ellyn and Matt Sesow, whose work hangs on the gallery’s walls.

Long View’s 5,000-square-foot warehouse, complete with concrete ceilings and paint-spattered brick walls, allows Director Drew Porterfield to accommodate large audiences at openings. It also gives him space to display both established artists, like Ellyn and Sesow, and less-recognized local artists.

“That’s what the excitement is for me in what I do,” Porterfield said. “It’s exciting to find new artists and connect them with collectors who like this work and want to invest in it.”

Studio Gallery

This gallery (2108 R St. NW), tucked among the stately stone townhouses of Dupont Circle, has a slightly more upscale feel — the second-floor entrance opens onto gleaming hardwood floors and a series of vibrant Tuscan landscapes by Suzanne Yurdin. But up a creaky flight of wooden stairs is a space devoted to works by a rotation of six less-acknowledged artists handpicked by the gallery’s interns.

While many of the artists featured are young and just embarking on careers in painting and photography, there are also paintings from Mark Giaimo, a former political cartoonist for the Naples Daily News. It is one small example of a gallery trying to aid artists in a town where the profusion of art being created far exceeds the spaces in which to place it.

“Washington is a fantastic museum town, but we’re not a fantastic gallery town,” Director Adah Rose Bitterbaum said. “There’s just so few galleries in Washington, but we have a lot of artists.”

Studio Gallery also participates in First Fridays, a long-standing tradition in which a group of Dupont Circle galleries open their doors on the first Friday of every month, plying guests with free wine and snacks. The adjacent Hillyer Art Space usually features music on these nights, in addition to its programs aimed at benefiting lesser-known artists.

“It’s wonderful because it’s multiage,” Bitterbaum said. “People are really looking at art and talking about art and thinking about it, and [the artists] really get feedback.”