Friday, June 23, 2023

Why waste precious print space?

One of the constant threads of this blog in its two-decade history has been my perennial complaint about the Washington Post's lack of adequate coverage of the visual arts in the Greater Washington, DC region (a.k.a. the DMV - a term which I apparently invented).

In fact, DC ART NEWS' first ever blogpost (see it here) was me bitchin' about the WaPo and its lack of visual arts coverage.

In the nearly two decades since that post, the WaPo's visual arts coverage of our area galleries and visual arts spaces have gone from scant - to nearly non-existent. Back in 2003 there were two weekly columns in the Arts Style section of the paper - both on Thursdays: the Galleries column by Ferdinand Protzman, then Jessica Dawson, then a string of freelancers, and the Arts Beat column by Michael O'Sullivan, which rather often "augmented" the Galleries column.

Today we have Mark Jenkins' Galleries column - Arts Beat ended years and years ago... and we are grateful for that column and Mr. Jenkins' travels through the DMV covering various visual art shows in both independently owned commercial art galleries as well as non-profit art spaces. He's the only one who does that - apparently Mr. Sebastian Smees only does museums.

And thus I am somewhat baffled as to why Mr. Jenkins (who as far as I know is probably a nice, regular guy) would waste precious print space in the column to take a swipe at a physical location which is host to some of the top art studios, schools, and galleries in the region.

In today's review of the Laurel Lukaszewski exhibition at Artists & Makers in Rockville, Jenkins opens with:

Not exactly a garden spot, the gallery exhibiting Laurel Lukaszewski’s ceramics is a windowless room in the Artists & Makers complex, which sits in a charmless, light-industrial section of Rockville.

That opening seems out of place, as it has nothing to do with the show, or the rarity of an actual building in our area full of art studios, art schools and art galleries.

The complex where Artists & Makers calls home in Rockville is an important part of the DMV's art scene - much like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria (which the City of Alexandria seems focused on screwing up), or the warren of art studios and galleries in the Gateway Arts District, or STABLE, etc. 

Artists & Makers Rockville

Located in the heart of Rockville’s White Flint/Twinbrook business district, Artists & Makers Studios is a 13,000 square foot complex  consisting of 43 studios, and it is home to three galleries and 65+ creative and talented minds.

Gallery at Artists & Makers

And as any artist in our region who struggles to find affordable studio space knows, the power that comes from being part of a hive of creative minds (such as the tenant artists of this wonderful space know), is key to keeping the artistic juices flowing and easily overshadows any issue raised by location and prettiness of the bricks and mortar that house the artists.

And as any city dweller knows, including I suspect Mr. Jenkins, in most cities the "garden spots" are usually taken by chains and franchises and cash-rich organizations who can afford the best commercial locations and not the "light industrial" sections.

And as any light student of real estate operations also knows, it is in places such as this area where artistic endeavors such as Artists & Makers can establish a footprint and work hard to keep it and offer a visual arts presence to an otherwise gray and boring city scene.

As a keen observer of the DMV's art tapestry for over three decades, I also personally know how hard the leaders and the executive director of Artists & Makers have worked over the decades and continue to work to ensure that places such as this jewel not only continue to exist, but prosper well into the future.

I am far from subjective on this issue, but that does not bother me when I send them a message: "Continue to do what you do so well - and thank you for all that you do!" 

Simul Prosperatur

More on the City of Alexandria and the Torpedo Factory

Last month I was pretty harsh in examining, reviewing, and criticizing  the City of Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory “new” artist/studio selection process, which as the many, many comments both here and in various social media platforms gave evidence to, has been and remains a contentious point at the Factory.

My focus was on the process, but some commenters felt that my critical approach to the process problem also reached to the new artists’ themselves – that was not my intention and for that I apologize, and must note that as recent as December of last year I lauded several of the new artists.

Bottom line: The process; not the artists.

Next month, after communicating with various City officials, I will have part two of my thoughts on the City of Alexandria and its handling of the Factory and its artists.

Last year, former Congressman and former fellow U.S. Navy Officer Joe Sestak authored a brilliant OP-ED here titled “No Higher Honor” Than to Preserve Torpedo Factory Artist Space Against City’s “Vibrancy” Plan.

Sestak notes:

The Council needs to decide if the Torpedo Factory’s new purpose is to become like Tik Tok — or remain the inspiration and appreciation one can only imagine from visitors watching such an artist making fantastic art...

This Op-Ed is more than worth the read -- it's also an intelligent view and opinion from someone who "sees" the Torpedo Factory from an angle that me (as an opinionated insider) and artists (as subjective participants) and City officials (as ????) cannot. 

Read it here.