by June 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm 0

From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]

Paintings by Alden Leonard, Jared Lauer and Lauren Jeffords. Images courtesy of Alden Leonard

Local artists Lauren Jeffords, Jared Lauer, and Alden Leonard will have a group show at Tabula Rasa on Capitol Hill this weekend.

The works will be on display to the public from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23. The pieces in the show incorporate classic, nostalgic summertime themes.

The three artists have been planning the show since January, and approached Tabula Rasa in March about hosting the show. “We were impressed by the space and [owner Amanda Clarke’s] flexibility.”

Clarke was enthusiastic about the show and the three artists’ collaborations. “I thought it was a great idea [for them] to come together as young artists.” Clarke added the she welcomes other local artists to approach her to use Tabula Rasa as a potential venue for their art.

Tabula Rasa, an event and meeting space that opened in May 2012, hosts many art openings in addition to pop-ups, corporate events, and private parties. The venue also recently started a partnership with ArtSee to display the works of young and emerging artists in the space for two weeks out of every month.

The Details:

  • What: Art Open House
  • When: Saturday, June 22, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.; Sunday June 23, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m
  • Where: Tabula Rasa, 731 8th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003

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by June 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]

"Alden Leonard"

Alden Leonard. (Luis Gomez Photos)

DC-area native Alden Leonard’s first displayed his art professionally just two and a half years ago. Since then, the young artist, public relations professional, and Borderstan contributor continues to develop a distinctive artistic style while exploring varied themes and subject matter.

His interest in politics and self-professed “strong sense of loyalty” to D.C. have inspired him to portray the city and — its historical political figures — in many of his most memorable works to date.

However, Leonard doesn’t limit his paintings to the Capitol City, or to politics. Some of his recent works will be on display at Tabula Rasa in Capitol Hill, with an open house on June 22 and 23.

Borderstan: When did you first become interested in art, and what prompted you to dedicate more time to painting, in particular, in 2008?

Leonard: Actually I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in art. On road trips as a kid, I would go through a ream of printer paper every few hours, just drawing Ninja Turtles and Batman and that kind of thing.

Leonard: I studied painting and drawing in high school and college, but it was really after graduating that I began to explore artistically. I think the structure of school made it hard for me to create — I was always reacting to an assignment, not really making something new. It also probably didn’t help that I majored in [political science].

Borderstan: How did your first show in 2010 at Philip Morton Gallery in Delaware come to be? What about that experience motivated you to pursue your art further?

Leonard: As my portfolio grew, I began looking for a gallery to hang my work. A lot of my subject matter at the time was from Rehoboth Beach, so I approached a few galleries in town and signed with Philip Morton Gallery in late 2010. Looking back, I feel lucky to have found a gallery that is understanding of my artistic exploration and flexible as my style changes (and my canvasses grow).

Borderstan: Describe how your artistic style has evolved into what you call “energetic impressionism”? How do you blend realist style with more expressive techniques?

Leonard: My technique is always evolving, and I think I like it that way. I am a representative painter at heart — I depict things so they are easily recognizable and “true-to-form” — but I will always be re-evaluating what that means.

A few years ago I was making loose, painterly pieces (I called it “energetic impressionism”) that gave interesting but very literal results. At that time I wanted my art to look just like its source photo, and over the course of a few years I was able achieve that result consistently. I’m proud of this, but I also felt the need to push my boundaries. So, recently I have been painting scenes and subjects less literally, but with more emotion and mood. I am less concerned with action and movement, and more focused on feelings like nostalgia and calmness.

Although these new scenes are quite still, I think the paintings maintain a lot of the energy of my older works because of the experimentation behind them. I still mostly work in oil, but have also delved into mixed media and acrylic. One piece, “Ladies of the Beach,” I re-worked probably 10 times. It took almost a year in total, and I think you can tell by looking at it how much I cared to get it exactly right. So this newer stuff has an excitement that I think may have been lacking in some of the paintings from my last “phase.”

Borderstan: You have some formal training in art, but also describe yourself as self-taught. How have these two different learning experiences influenced your artistic approach?

Leonard:I would be nowhere without the teachings of two professors — Susan Pollard at Saint Stephens and Saint Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia and Nicole McCormick Santiago at The College of William & Mary. Each taught me focus, patience, and a few sleights of hand with the brush and pencil. I think of them often when I paint.

Still, a great deal of my artistic growth has taken place on my own since graduation. Learning this way has its drawbacks – criticism and praise from others give the artistic process a nice safety net — but it also provides me a lot of freedom.

My growth as an artist in recent years has also been helped along by the emergence of self-published artists and their blogs. This resource wasn’t around a decade ago, and provides green artists like me an important new channel of inspiration, reference and guidance, as well as a place to show new work.

Borderstan: Please tell me about any upcoming exhibitions, projects, series, or artistic endeavors. For example, I know you don’t focus on one overarching theme in your work, but have you been exploring most recently with your art? 

Leonard: Next month I’m putting on a show with two fellow DC artists at Tabula Rasa on Barracks Row. We each represent different styles of painting, and I think our portfolios are going to work really nicely together. The pieces I will hang are from my work over the last year, all of which deal with this nostalgic summer subject matter. Family vacations, tennis, and the like.

The show has open houses Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23, from 11 am to 3 pm. Please come by!

Borderstan: Despite having lived in many different places, you consider DC to be your hometown. Did you grow up in the city? When did you develop your “artistic fixation” on the city, and do you plan to continue exploring the city and its political figures in your work?

Leonard:I did most of my growing up across the river in Alexandria, so the DC skyline is one I know well. I find it comforting and regal, and I find a lot of people — whether they’re natives like me or just summer transplants — feel the same way. DC, despite its imperfections, inspires a very strong sense of loyalty, and my art often reflects that.

The same goes for the politician portraits. These are flawed individuals with checkered pasts, yet people adore them. Seriously —  I’ve had two people commission portraits of Richard Nixon. I’m always pleased with how well that loose painting style conveys these spotty histories, while still being flattering, truthful portraits of noted Americans (and one British).

"Alden Leonard"

Alden Leonard’s Studio. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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by December 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,285 2 Comments

"Erik Wemple"

Erik Wemple. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

Here at “Borderstan People,” we like to profile local movers and shakers who are spicing up the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Recently, we caught up with journalist Erik Wemple to catch his beat.

Currently a media critic at The Washington Post, Wemple formerly served as editor of the Washington City Paper and did a stint with with the short-lived In this interview, Wemple discusses everything from trying to keep up with today’s fast-paced and integrative field of journalism, to Borderstan coffee shops and safety tips.

Borderstan: Where did you grow up?

Wemple: I grew up in Schenectady, New York a few hours north of New York City on the New York State Thruway.

Borderstan: What got you interested in politics and/or the media?

Wemple: I think my interest in politics and media came from my father, who served nine terms in the New York State Assembly. He very much enjoyed “working” the media. And I’ve just always had a knack for writing and reporting.

Borderstan: How did you get your start as a journalist? What does a “typical” day entail? What recommendations or tips do you have for journalists getting their start?

Wemple: I worked my way in to journalism slowly, beginning decades ago when I edited a newsletter on federal export regulations. It was a lot of work – a lot of reporting, a lot of meetings in dingy federal office settings, a lot of calling around to industry types and asking precisely what were their problems and priorities were. Never underestimate the corporate confusion over U.S. re-export controls.

Then I started freelancing for Washington City Paper and the InTowner, among others. I really began to get into it, and I got a job at City Paper, eventually becoming the publication’s editor. After eight years, I caught on with TBD and hired the staff there. From there I moved to the Post. It’s really not a very compelling career story, to be honest.

Borderstan: You’ve been in roles from editor to blogger. What has been the most rewarding, memorable, or challenging?

Wemple: It’s tough to attach a superlative, but this current gig is plenty challenging. The challenge is to have something to say about media-related news stuff, as well as to do conceptual stuff and quirky fare. Keeping things fresh is a handful. Thank god there’s cable TV out there – without it, there’d be a fodder deficit. was also quite a challenge, needless to say. We were charged with trying to launch a profitable local, web-only news site from scratch, and we failed (though we didn’t have a lot of time to succeed). That said, I really loved working on the project. The lesson from it, and it’s a pretty narrow one, is that any organization that tries to knit together a traditional TV news operation with a news site driven by print folks has a lot of managing ahead of it.

Both media cultures have their strengths, but they also have sharp incompatibilities. And I’m not talking only about the different personalities of the folks who do TV and those who do print. A good TV story needs, first and foremost, visuals, something that most print journalists think about secondarily, tertiarily, or not at all. Usually not at all.

In this vein, it’s hard for me to compare working for the Washington Post to, which I’m frequently asked to do. Both are media organizations, and right there the comparisons stop.

Borderstan: How has journalism’s shift to the online environment changed the profession, and how have you adapted to these changes?

Wemple: Journalism’s shift to the online environment has changed every aspect of the profession. I’ve adapted to these changes by scrambling, quite frankly. Scrambling to keep pace with the social media imperative. Scrambling to understand search, scrambling to figure out why my embed code didn’t work, scrambling to figure out why the copy desk says it can’t get access to the post I just filed, scrambling to appreciate why “via” is such a key component of a good tweet, scrambling to watch three cable news channels at virtually the same time and gauge Twitter feedback at the same time, scrambling to nail interviews via phone, e-mail, DM and FB, all at the same time. Just scrambling.

Borderstan: It seems your interest in politics brought you to DC, but what brought you specifically to Borderstan? When did you come here, and what about the neighborhood caused you to stay?

Wemple: I bought a two-bedroom at the corner of 15th and O Streets NW in 1991 for a song. The neighborhood attracted me because at the time I was concerned about my environmental impact on the world; I wanted to live where I wouldn’t need a car too much, where I could commune with others who felt the same way about the planet. And that is all a total lie.

In truth, I moved to Borderstan because it was close to work, and the apartment was better than other places I’d looked at. The environs at the time were a bit dicey, though I had no idea about the degree. For instance, 15th and O taught me to look fixedly at the mirror when I brush my teeth. That’s because one night, as I was brushing, I was gazing through the back window, which overlooked what was then an empty and open lot on O Street NW between 15th and 16th Streets.

Everything looked pretty quiet, though I noticed a Subaru station wagon that was wiggling a bit down there. A little squinting brought into focus a little flagrante delicto inside the Subaru, which I’d prefer to have missed. As I’d later discover, that lot and other spots in the vicinity were popular refuges for fellows who’d cruised nearby blocks for prostitutes.

Worse were the smash-and-grabs. I had a 1986 Honda Accord – nothing sexy, but still a target for monthly break-ins, even though I learned early never to leave anything in it. No matter. One time, I hopped in the car ready to go to a friend’s place and she didn’t start –  didn’t even turn over. I checked things out and found that someone had stolen my battery. On my way back from the 14th Street Trak Auto, trapezoids burning from the weight of my new battery, it hit me: The thief wasn’t after the old battery; the thief was after the replacement battery. Determined not to fall prey to such a scam, I took to parking the car miles away, on an unregulated street in Ward 3. I’d run or ride my bike to fetch it.

Now to answer the question of why I’ve stayed: Because I don’t do change that well. Once I’m in a place, it’s hard to move me. Someone recently told me that she’s “so done with DC” I believe that, but I have no idea what that feels like. They say people have trouble imagining their deaths, but I see mine as falling flat on my face on a piece of concrete between 12th and 18th Streets NW, south of Florida and north of Massachusetts. Hopefully not too soon.

Borderstan: What are some of your favorite Borderstan spots for drinks, coffee, dinner, to get a good book or have a meeting?

Wemple: I’ve got two young kids who aren’t quite ready for swillfests at Stoney’s and don’t have the palates to appreciate the flatbreads at Birch & Barley, so my hanging out at neighborhood joints is limited. That said, I’ll put in a good word for Java House. It predates the boom in the neighborhood and has a feel consistent with its age. It’s just a nice space with nice ownership and nice clientele. Peter Rosenstein and his crew are always there talking civics; my family and I go on Wednesday mornings each week. It’s always a good time.

Borderstan: Anything else you would like to share with the readers of Borderstan about your life or work?

Some safety tips: Watch yourself at the intersections of the bike lines on 15th Street. People tend to be preoccupied by auto traffic and may step off the curb, ignoring a cyclist who is just about to clip you. I hector my kids to watch out for the cyclists, because they whisk by very fast.

Another hotspot is the southwest corner of 16th and Q, right there in front of the PETA offices. I’ve seen a car plow right into the sidewalk there, because it had swerved to get clear of a car turning left from 16th southbound onto Q Street east. When waiting at that intersection, get behind a tree or light post.

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by July 12, 2012 at 8:00 am 2,148 0

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

"Chief Lanier"

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier  is getting attention for new policing methods. (Luis Gomez Photos, file photo)

DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier is the cover girl for Governing magazine for a story in which the publication highlights Lanier’s policing strategy. They say that many claim some  of her methods could change the District and the nation.

Lanier has made a name for herself on the national stage since being unexpectedly picked by former Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2005. By diverging from DC’s zero-tolerance crime policies, which were fashioned after New York’s hard-line crackdown on crime in the early 90’s, Lanier has eased tensions between high-crime neighborhoods and the police. This, Lanier says, is the key to winning the District’s long-term war on crime.

The article examines Lanier’s unusual path to the top, as well as how far the District and its police forces have come since she joined the force. There’s a good chance that if they haven’t already, Lanier’s policies will soon influence the national debate on crime. This makes her story one worth knowing.

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by April 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,454 0

Whitman, Walker, Health, AIDS, Walk, 2009, Luis, Gomez, Photos

Sign up for the 2012 AIDS Walk Thursday at Nellie’s. (Luis Gomez Photos, 2009 AIDS Walk)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

Whitman-Walker Health (WWH) is gearing up for AIDS Walk 2012, which is set to take place on October 27. Join them this Thursday, April 26, at Nellie’s Sports Bar on U Street for their kickoff party starting at 6 pm.

Enjoy a beer (or soda) and some fries on the house if you register for the walk. The registration fee is also waived — but that night only.

If you can’t make it to Nellie’s for the kickoff, you can also register register online starting April 27.

WWH is a community health center that specializes in health care for the LGBT communities and those living with HIV/AIDS. They are based in the neighborhood and 14th and R Streets NW.

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