The visual overhaul of the old Friendship Baptist Church on the corner of Delaware Ave and H St SW has Southwest residents excited. A group of artists assembled by Ian Callendar of SuiteNation and Shane Pomajambo, Executive Director of Art Whino, renovated the church in March 2013. Named Blind Whino, the space will be used for the G40 2013 Art Summit from September 13th – October 6th and will become the SW Arts Club thereafter. As plans to refurbish the Randall School building into a Bing Thom-designed modern art museum move forward, this corner of SW is primed to become a major arts hub in the city. Sam Marrero sat down with Callendar to get all the details.
Q: How did you guys find out about the space? Whose idea was Blind Whino?
A: Shane Pomajambo, of Art Whino, connected with the owner of the property, who lives in the neighborhood, and created a unique concept to add some color to a once blank canvas. Blind Whino was a collaborative creation from both Shane and I as we attempted to develop a meaningful name for the project. The name Blind Whino was a combination. Whino stems from Shane’s Art Whino Gallery, named best Gallery in Washington, DC five years in a Row by the City Paper. Blind Whino introduces the Speakeasy concept were people met to mix and mingle in places that were hidden, but not for long, as word got out of their existence. These places were destinations for art, jazz, and social gatherings. Perfect combination of culture and the arts!
Q: Friendship Baptist Church had apparently been vacant for two decades. Did you sense any resistance in your attempts to re-paint/refurbish it? Was the city cooperative?
A: We have received overwhelming support in our efforts to reactivate the 700 Delaware property from both the Southwest Community and the city collectively.
Q: What have been your impressions of Southwest since you’ve arrived? What is your vision for Southwest regarding the arts community.
A: With Mera Rubell’s Family Collection and Redevelopment coming to the old Randall School, this quadrant of Southwest is set to become a booming Arts District. It IS similar in story to the Wynnwood Arts District in Miami. Most are unaware that Mera Rubell is one of the original founders of Art Basel in Miami, as well as the Wynnwood Arts District. Still others are not aware that the Rubell Family is one of the world’s top contemporary art collectors. Having them across the street from Blind Whino SW Arts Club can only mean that the art culture is destined to grow and thrive for years and years to come in the nation’s capital. Further, the city has the potential to join other international cities as a major center for art, like Miami.
Q: Chris Bradshaw’s nonprofit ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ has been micro-gardening on the grounds immediately outside the space. Have you met? Collaborated?
A: I think what he is doing is phenomenal with our youth. Finding nontraditional ways to give back to our community is always something special. We plan to work with his organization in some fashion to be determined in the future, as we are neighbors at 700 Delaware.
Q: How did these artists come to be the artists for the job? (Exterior [HENSE – ATL] and interior [MEGGS – AUS])
A: Shane handpicked these two amazing talents and offered them a rare opportunity to paint in the nation’s capital. These artists are well regarded and their stature is growing in the art world. They loved the opportunity to add their creativity to our project. They considered it an honor to paint in Washington, DC, a mere 4 blocks to the US Capitol Building.
Q: What flavor of events programming can we expect from SuiteNation? Suits & ties? Hip Hop & dancing? Sipping wine and chatting in front of art? DIY spray-paint parties?
A: We plan to keep everything respectful of our surroundings. We are looking to make this a hub of art driven activity. With that we can have an array of activations: Art, theater, fitness, music, and more! We welcome ideas from the SW Community.
Q: Will the church be completely refurbished (beyond just paint) in time for the G40 Arts summit? All rooms finished? How likely is complete refurbishment considering initial donation tallies.
A: Of course! We are working ’round the clock to provide an amazing experience and we have already received significant private donations. We were even contacted by a local boy scout troop who will help out as part of an eagle scout project.
I also urge readers to access the G40 histogram, you will see how unique this program truly is that Art Whino has originated.
Q: Have you connected with the Skyline Hotel owners/management? (They are art collectors, as far as I’m aware). They seem to be confidently moving forward with the development of a modern art museum/creative space. Loads of creative and artistic potential for that nook of SW looking down the road…
A: Yes. Mera Rubell (Capitol Skyline Owner) is aware and she enthusiastically supports our efforts. We are looking forward to the redevelopment that she is planning for the Randall School with Bing Thom. It will be a spectacular project with the art museum as its centerpiece and it will serve as a catalyst for broader redevelopment for the area with the upcoming SW Small Area Plan Visioning Process set to begin in September. As I mentioned earlier, DC is very fortunate to have the Rubell presence, specifically in SW. It is exciting to be involved in all this at the very beginning.
Q: Is anyone from the Arts Whino/Blind Whino/SuiteNation crew going to stick around after the G40 Arts Summit? I understand ArtsWhino and SuiteNation are based out of DC, so who will be looking after the space? After the Arts Summit, who will be the person to contact about programming, use, and promotion of the space?
A: Blind Whino SW Arts Club is not just a temporary project, we are a nonprofit organization with a purpose to build community arts programming and cultured activity for youth, neighborhood residents, and artists. We plan to house planned town hall meetings, art groups and organizations, and even special events.
Q: Are you going to do education stuff? (i.e., invite neighborhood kids and teach them about art, music, style, etc.)
A: Yep! That’s the anchor to our community efforts. Provide a platform for our youth to build their imagination and creativity in the arts whether through visual, musical, and performance.
Q: Will senior citizens feel welcome at the space?
A: Of course. Art is for all ages.
Follow upcoming editions of The Southwester for further coverage of the G40 Arts Summit 2013 and the new SW Arts Club. To donate to this project, please visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/blind-whino-sw-arts-club-x-g40-art-summit-event-space.