Jul 26, 2023

A Year To Remember with Artspace Immersion: D.C. | THE ARTSPACE QUARTERLY

Group photo of Artspace Immersion: D.C. cohort

The Artspace Immersion: D.C. Cohort. Steve Gonzalez.



Artspace Immersion is a year-long virtual cohort program that celebrates and supports organizations as they build impactful creative spaces. Facilitated by Artspace Consulting, we take our four decades of experience in the industry to break down real estate for creative communities. Our mission drives our work to empower arts leaders to make informed decisions about space, turning big ideas into achievable plans. Artspace Immersion ran its pilot program in Detroit eight years ago, expanded to four other regions, and is now facilitating concurrent cohorts in Minneapolis and New Orleans


In May of 2022, Artspace welcomed 10 creative organizations from D.C. to embark on a deep dive into their space-planning journeys. Washington, D.C., renowned as the political epicenter of the United States, is not solely defined by its governmental institutions. Within the city lies a thriving arts and culture creative economy that pulsates with vitality and expression, playing a pivotal role in shaping the city's identity and attracting visitors from around the world. It was exciting to launch Artspace Immersion in D.C. because the nation’s capital city is home to an extraordinary array of museums and galleries, performing arts centers, and creative districts that incubate artistic expression and entrepreneurship. The U Street Corridor, historically known as "Black Broadway," is a melting pot of music, art, and culture. D.C. is also known for its prestigious educational institutions and international appeal. 


The beginning of an Artspace project or program always starts with an invitation from the community and is vetted by local leaders and connectors as we build relationships on the ground. The same was true for D.C., hiring native Washingtonian Michael Watson, MPS, a yogi, educator, actor, and artist as our Local Program Liaison. Michael was instrumental in introducing our team to arts organizations from grassroots to glass towers. He also showed us some of the best places to visit and eat while our work ramped up and the application process was underway. 


After many applicants and interviews, all who had something special and interesting space-related projects, we chose 10 organizations—Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center, Constellation Theatre Company, D.C. Youth Orchestra Program, Dia de los Muertos D.C., The Exposure Group, Life Pieces to Masterpieces, Project Create, Washington Improv Theatre, Washington Project for the Arts, Words Beats & Life.




Artspace Consulting with Board Member Gary Cunningham

Artspace Consulting with Board Member Gary Cunningham. Steve Gonzalez.



Month by month, we gathered in our digital dimension to navigate topics on leadership, project concept, cost analysis, location, funding, communications, real estate, and racial justice. Our cohort was eager to learn and connect, and in our line of community work, we will travel to build trust. We made two trips to D.C. One trip was made at the halfway mark of the program in September 2022 where we held in-person events that partnered our cohort organizations who have spaces with cohort organizations that were still looking for a home. The second trip was just this past May to properly wrap up our exciting year. We were even joined by a member of our Artspace Board, Gary Cunningham, Former President and CEO of Prosperity Now, which was a treat! We had such a fun time, sharing in the energy of our full cohort, filled with hugs, stories, and animated updates. Some groups decided to stay in their current space, some began planning for renovations, some secured new commercial leases, and some were able to begin the acquisition process to purchase a building to own. 


Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center set up a hard hat tour of their upcoming retail space in a larger, social impact development that offers neighborhood businesses incubator spaces.


Dia de los Muertos DC moved into their fabrication space and was so excited to give updates on how they're building it out. They are already building their giant Dia de los Muertos event structures for local events and internationally recognized events, like Burning Man. 




Hard had tour with Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center

Hard hat tour with Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center. Artspace Projects. 



Our metric of success is not measured in how many groups were able to secure space, but rather if they had the confidence to make choices and turn their big ideas into achievable plans. The Artspace Immersion: D.C. cohort exceeded their own expectations; it was like watching the plumes of a peacock fan open and display all its colors. These organizations shined as programmers and community engagers. 


The arts and culture creative economy in Washington, D.C. is a testament to the city's commitment to fostering creativity, expression, and cultural exchange. From its world-class museums and galleries to its vibrant performing arts scene, the city offers a rich tapestry of experiences. Creative districts, festivals, and art education institutions contribute to the city's economic growth and cultural vibrancy. Washington, D.C. stands as a shining example of how a robust arts and culture creative economy can shape a city's identity and enrich the lives of its residents and visitors. In order to keep that fabric woven tightly, it is important for artists to have space that meets their needs so that they can carry out their promises to the community through their mission-based work. Having permanent space, be it long-term leases or ownership, helps anchor creatives and neighborhoods thrive. Artspace Immersion assists organizations working towards maintaining space in their cities, and the D.C. cohort is a part of the fabric, generating a quilted cool of connection in the nation’s capital. Though bittersweet that our monthly meetings have ended, we will always extend our support to the groups as they move forward in their space journeys. Thank you, D.C., for a year to remember.




This piece was written by Crystal C. Mercer, a Program Manager with Artspace Consulting. In addition to her work with Artspace, she is a folk artist (specializing in textiles), poet, activist, and published author. Working remotely in her hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, she knows, shows, and cares about what’s going on in the hood.