MID-CITY ARTISTS STUDIO TOUR, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Article and photos by Anne Jenkins
For a truly refreshing view of the nation's capital, ignore
the politics, intrigue, lobbyists and world class art museums when you head to
Washington, D.C. and take a tour on the real side of life and discover the
local art. The funky, vibrant neighborhood, around 14 th Street NW between
U-Street and Q Street (or DuPont & Logan Circles), hosts the Mid-City Artists
Studio tour twice a year in spring and fall. The fall one is coming up the
weekend of October 13-14, but keep checking their website for the next one if
you miss this one.
There are a lot of studios, filled with excellent art, it
would take more than the two days to visit all of them properly, but a large
group is clustered all within easy walking distance. Most of the studios are in
the artists home, so it makes it much more personal, relaxed and interesting.
|Peter Alexander Romero's large skyline paintings line the
stairway of his house
The first studio I visited was located on a tree-lined side
street of beautiful row houses. Peter Alexander Romero's three story home and
studio is easy to spot, it�s painted blue on the outside. Step through the door
to a world of wonder, the walls are chock full of vivid paintings of skylines
and bursting circles of color. Romero also sculpts fascinating small to medium
pieces depicting figures or groups of women among other subjects. These often
whimsical, often ephemeral pieces line shelves and tables throughout the house.
Romero's quiet demeanor belies his joyful art and small chaotic studio on the
second floor. He was a gracious mine of information on the area and the artists
giving us time and all the information without looking hassled by all the folks
wandering around his house.
Around the corner and up a narrow windy staircase, you reach
Miguel Perez Lem's studio on the 3rd floor filled with large landscape
paintings - many with dramatic clouds, and just as fascinating as his varied
art are the many old manual typewriters or vintage model cars on display. Lem
also was generous with his time and attention, and happy to sing the praises of
his fellow artists are the tour. A visiting artist, and one of Lem's students,
Ryan Harding was a guest in the studio, with a few small intriguing pieces
depicting balloons and people. He talked excitedly about heading to Europe to
|Miguel Perez Lem's cloud filled landscape greets the visitors to his
Artist Brian Petro's studio a few store
fronts along the street and down some stairs at the back of a furniture
store is a bright, wild cornucopia of large canvases filled with words,
collage and grocery items. He has a multitude of themes and groceries is one
of his current themes. Petro is an enthusiastic, expressive and very
prolific artist who paints with energy and verve, not to mention humor which
is always an asset. He explains his work with forthright honesty and modesty
as you gaze on his world of intense design and color.
Artist Brian Petro (L) explains his art to a visitor
Across the street is Regina Miele's gallery, arts@1830. In
contrast to the studios, it's the only gallery on the tour that I visited. A
bright welcoming space complete with Scout, the happy pooch and gallery
greeter, the visitor is drawn straight to the art on display. There is no
intimidating silence, or severe earnest stares. Miele is a top rate artist
with an impressive resume but she is a friendly soul with a natural touch of
humility and an intense interest in women artists. Her large, soaring canvases
of skylines are evocative of her home city of New York and her adopted city of
Washington, D.C. and her series on figurative works are luminous. Miele's work
has been exhibited in the Corcoran Gallery in DC and at the Florence Biennale
among many other places. Apart from her own work, the gallery also offers
ever-changing exhibits by visiting artists plus framing and workshops.One of
the featured artists at the gallery during the spring weekend was the
imaginative sculptor, Mark Morgan, with his �Bottled Up� collection. He
fashions used detergent plastic bottles in to whimsical sculptures of animals.
His depiction of a kangaroo was just captivating. He calls it upcycling -
trash to art.
In his artist statement, Morgan explains, �Each sculpture
is an expression of previously unexpressed emotions stiffed due to years of
avoidance. Today, when faced with an emotion - anger, sadness, joy or fear - I
grab a knife and a gun (carving knife and heat or rivet gun) and turn to an
unsuspecting bottle order to release that emotion. The result: two new
creations - the bottle and me.�
The resulting new creations brought a smile to everyone who
saw them and many found new homes.
Mark Morgan shows a couple of his up-cycled sculptures
| Scout the official greeter
Down another tree-lined side street of pretty row houses is
photographer Charlie Gaynor's home and studio. Among traditional photo formats
he also exhibited large photos of close ups of boats or pastels on aluminum.
This is becoming a popular way to display photography and his was very
polished and well presented. Down the passageway from the main room the walls
were lined with travel and still life photos.
|Charlie Gaynor's studio in a tree-lined street of row houses. All the
studios are well signposted.
There are plenty of trendy pubs and restaurants in the area
to fuel your artistic voyage of discovery. But if you want to load up on chili
dog carbs, the famous Ben's Chili Bowl is in the area. Well, if President Obama
can take President Sarkozy there, we felt we ought to eat there too. It would
help if you are a hot dog fan. I'm not, but the atmosphere was quite something!
And I loved the bright colorful painted bear outside, so it qualifies as an art
The beautiful painted bear outside of Ben's Chili
The group put out an excellent map and listing of all the studios on the
tour. Be sure to get one ahead of time and spend some time looking at the
artists styles. I'm glad I did and I was very happy with my selection although
I would love to see every single artist on the list. On a practical note,
parking can be a headache, so it might be easier to take the Metro to U Street
(the green or yellow line) and walk.
It was an inspiring day among the capital's local artists and
if their work, and their personalities, are anything to go by, the D.C. art
scene is an exciting place to be an artist. And it sure makes a nice refreshing
change from political shinannygings when you find yourself in the nation's