By Cecile Oreste
Cultural Development Corporation is a non-profit organization that makes space for art. But what exactly does that mean?
This year Cultural Development Corporation will tell the story of what they do every day through a series of pop-up art spaces, two of which are located in the U Street area. The various projects have resided in the city for the last two weeks and will come together on Saturday at their annual gala at Long View Gallery on 9th Street NW.
Cultural Development Corporation created teams of artists, architects and developers to make space for art. Each team responded to a key word–live, work, play and create, which could be interpreted as literally or figuratively as each team wanted. According to Morgan Greenhouse of Team Work, their team took the key word ‘work’ quite literally.
Team Work is comprised of representatives from Lakritz Adler, Sorg Architects and artist Edgar Endress. They collaborated with residents of the Shaw and U Street neighborhoods to create their pop-up project, which plays with the idea of value. They asked residents to provide objects that represent how they make a living in exchange for a Shaw Buck, redeemable for discounts at local outlets like Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant.
The mementos were organized in a wooden crate at an empty retail space below Moderno at 12th and U Streets. After the gala, the team intends to ship the crate with a letter of explanation to a local institution, essentially elevating the value of the mementos.
When asked about how they came up with the concept, Greenhouse said it was a collective team effort. “There were varied levels of physical and intellectual contribution, but it was a constant collaborative effort,” she said. “We thought about the context of the space and what the vacant retail space meant. We came up with the idea of adding value which became central to the project.”
“It was interesting talking directly to the residents when we knocked on doors to collect the objects,” said Endress, who is part of the Floating Lab Collective and also the artist collaborator for Team Work. “The project started as questioning the nature of art in the context of development, but has become more about community and culture–how do you define yourself, what stays and what is memorable.”
The wooden crate displays a variety of objects including an empty Evian bottle given by an Evian distributor who lives in the Shaw neighborhood, an employee complaint report from a human resources representative and a Civil Procedure book given by a lawyer. Endress describes the project as exposing a series of layers which allows the viewers to draw their own conclusions. “It is a puzzle in a way. You need to read into it in order to find the meaning of the piece,” he said.
Team Live also chose a space on U Street for their project ‘Pop-Up Living.’ Studios Architecture and JBG Companies, along with artist Andrew Wodzianski, designed and constructed the 10′ x 10′ pop-up habitat where Wodzianski has lived since April 19. To comply with regulations, he ‘lived’ in the habitat during scheduled performance hours–the longest stretch starting last Thursday night and ending Monday morning. “Come Sunday night, I was tired, pissed and I didn’t want to talk about this or that. I was thinking, ‘I’ve gotta get out of here.’ For once, I was actually looking forward to my Monday commute,” Wodzianski said.
Choosing the empty retail space on U Street between 13th and 14th was a no-brainer, according to Wodzianski. The location gave 24/7 visibility in a high traffic area. As an added bonus, U Street restaurants such as Aroma and Creme welcomed him to the neighborhood, providing multiple meals during his performance hours.
According to Wodzianski, the concept was one of those crazy epiphanies that came about while he was speeding down the Beltway. “It really tapped into the strengths of each team member. JBG specializes in the development of efficient condos, Studios Architecture’s portfolio includes some of the most bad-ass, unique spaces of all time, and it gave me the opportunity to work on my performance art,” he said.
Wodzianski hopes that the passersby who see Pop-Up Living will recognize that life can be enjoyed with less. For those who stop to take in the experience, “I hope they start questioning the deeper ramifications. The separation of reality versus fiction, public versus private, voyeurism and participating. Efficient living and smart design.”