With Studio Space Scarce In D.C., Fillmore School Building To Offer Reprieve

With Studio Space Scarce In D.C., Fillmore School Building To Offer Reprieve

March 18, 2016 |

The trope of the “starving artist” is an old one, but in the Washington region, the “nomadic artist” might be more accurate. In a hot real estate market, the cost of studio space makes it hard to find an affordable place to paint or sculpt, perfect a play, or write a new song. In the tony Georgetown neighborhood, local artists have a unique opportunity to apply for half a year of studio space — rent free.

Kate Goodall is Chief Operating Officer at S&R Foundation, a D.C.-based nonprofit. “Our mission is to support emerging creatives to make a positive change in the world,” she says, “and that goes for social enterprise and arts and science.”

Goodall is standing in the historic Fillmore School building on 35th Street Northwest. It was built in 1893 and her foundation bought it last year.

“Now we’ve decided to open a studios program, free complimentary studio space to D.C. artists, particularly those focused on social practice,” she says, “And we will enlarge that program after a period of renovations toward the end of this year and throughout most of 2017.”

The goal is to renovate this schoolhouse and turn it into an arts incubator.

“It hasn’t changed at all since we purchased it really in June, so the studio spaces are going to be quite raw, but very large and most of them are quite airy,” she says.

Each floor and room has its own vibe. In one large and well-lit space, a dance troupe could comfortably rehearse. In another, metal ropes connected to electrical outlets hang from the ceiling like strange, symmetrical vines. On other levels, photographers or printmakers could make the environment their own.

Based on the artists’ feedback, S&R will be able to make informed decisions about what kind of changes the building needs. First, it’ll have to select the people who will spend half a year in the Fillmore School. Goodall says more than 140 artists submitted applications within the first four days of the Studios Program launch.

“We’re trying to strike that balance between people who have need and people who are very talented and people who are working on social practice,” she says, adding that social change will be even more of a focus once S&R establishes its full program at Fillmore School in late 2017.