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 May 16, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

"Mid City Artists"

Mid City Artist Spring Open Studios are this Saturday and Sunday. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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

The Mid City Artists will host their spring Open Studios this Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19. This time around, 21 studios around Borderstan will be open to the public. Visitors can download this comprehensive map as a guide for their studio tour and for detours to local businesses and galleries that support the weekend.

This weekend also marks the first time Mid City Artists will offer curator-led tours of the studios. Each tour with one of four local curators will include six to eight studios. The group hopes the tours will help audiences interact with the artists and more fully engage with the works. There will be two tours on Saturday and two on Sunday. Each two-hour tour focuses on a common theme that re-emerges in the featured works. Registration is free, but space is limited to 10 people per tour.

Works on view include sculpture, glass, painting, photography, drawing, printmaking, mixed media and found object collages. The wide variety of works comes from an equally diverse pool of artists.

Participating artists include: Chuck Baxter, Scott G. Brooks, Jane Cave, Robert T. Cole, Michael Crossett, Thomas Drymon, Aster da Fonseca, Gary Fisher, Charlie Gaynor, Sally Kauffman, Miguel Perez Lem, Eileen Lyons, Lucinda Friendly Murphy, Betto Ortiz, Mark Parascandola, Dave Peterson, Brian Petro, Marie Ringwald, Peter Alexander Romero, Richard Siegman, George H. Smith-Shomari, Michael Torra, Robert Wiener and Colin Winterbottom.

The Details

  • What: Mid City Artists Open Studios
  • When: Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19
  • Where: View the map for details.

Guided tours take place at noon on Saturday, and at noon and 2 pm on Sunday. Register here to attend.

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by May 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0


Artist Sean Smith. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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

Photographer Sean Smith has lived and worked in DC since 1993. “There is no where I would rather be,” he says.

Although not a full time artist, Smith still makes time to pursue his art professionally. He works remotely as an executive for a New York-based software company. This gives him some flexibility in structuring his work schedule so that he has time to fully pursue his fine art photography.

Smith’s work is currently on display in an exhibition with Dafna Steinberg at doris-mae gallery challenge ideas of gender stereotypes and fixed gender identity, Smith says he has addressed these themes throughout his artistic career, for “[a]s long as I’ve struggled with those issues–my whole adult life.”

Smith explores concepts of identity and existence beyond issues of gender and sexuality. “Fundamentally my work is about creating an alternate reality or alternate personal history. By tampering with ‘what is,'” adds Smith, “I document what could be or what could have been.” In order to alter the viewer’s perception of reality, Smith frequently uses digital technology, including Adobe PhotoShop, Instagram, and other applications, to manipulate the images he captures.

After earning his BFA, Smith worked as an assistant for the Italian painter Bruno Ceccobelli. “[H]e taught me many things, most of all that if you want to be a successful artist you need to pursue relentlessly–I have not done that–I am far too playful for that,” Smith says. Smith “dabble[s] in many media,” but considers all of his work to be “photographic and deeply personal at its core.” The artist cites Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, Karl Schwitters, Cecil Beaton, Pierre et Gilles and many commercial photographers among his diverse artistic influences.

Recently, Smith has delved deeper into portraiture. At the end of 2012, a solo show at Georgetown’s Archer featured a series of photography portraits taken during the course of the year. “Since then,” he has “…worked on some commission portraits, many of which…[he] had hand painted in oil on china to create the finished piece.” Smith will complete a portrait lighting workshop in New York this summer to further develop his skills. He plans to begin a new portrait series after the course, and also pursue more collage work.

Smith’s work is on view through May 19 at doris-mae. Look for more of his photography portraits and collages at galleries around town in the coming months.


Sean Smith’s work. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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by May 7, 2013 at 9:00 am 1 Comment


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

Niko and Oana Adamopoulos are bringing specialty products from around the Mediterranean – including from Greece, Italy, Spain and Tunisia — to Dupont Circle. The Greek couple recently signed a lease for 1717 Connecticut Avenue NW and plans to open The Mediterranean Way, a gourmet market, late this summer.

The two married in 2011 and have settled in DC’s Dupont Circle. Niko was a consultant in DC almost a decade ago, and when the couple decided to leave Greece due to the economic situation there, he was happy to return to Washington for another contract job.

Niko has an economics degree and an MBA in international business. After returning to Greece from his first job in the States, he founded an export and marketing company for Greek olive oil and wine producers. In his role at the company, he attended food and wine events and became familiar with gourmet and artisan producers.

The couple missed these products from their country, and, noticing the scarcity of Mediterranean specialty shops in the area, wanted to bring these products here and share them with DC residents. Many “small, family-run businesses don’t have the marketing aptitude or language skills” to export their products to the US, Niko said. They are now working with many such producers to help them import their goods to the US for the first time.

Oana has an academic background in biology and chemistry, and she recently completed a certificate in nutrition. She lived in Tuscany for five years and managed a cafe there, which cultivated her interest in cooking and high-quality ingredients.

Once the store opens, Oana will give nutrition advice to customers. She will be there during business hours to answer questions about food preparation, recipe ideas and (of course) the Mediterranean Diet.

Mooussaka, Chorizos, Wines and Coffee

The store will focus mainly on grocery and pantry items imported from the Mediterranean. Shoppers can expect to find feta, olive oil, chorizo, Serrano ham and many different spreads. However, the Adamopouloses plan to offer local and organic produce, as well as a variety of to-go lunches and ready-made traditional Greek foods, like moussaka, prepared by a local supplier.

The store will also stock equipment to make Greek coffee, and a few personal care items. The Adamopouloses are especially excited about products made with mastiha, or gum from the sap of a tree grown on Chios Island, off the coast of Greece. Thought to be a natural digestive aid, Greeks use it in liqueurs, digestives and other food products, but also in soaps and cosmetics. The Mediterranean Way will also carry skin care products made with Dead Sea minerals.

Niko also hopes to put his “vast knowledge of Greek wines” to use if he is able to get the license to stock wines. He plans to carry wines from his favorite Greek winemakers, and also a selection of Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French wines.

The Adamopouloses are also already focused on giving back to their new community. In Greece, Niko was involved with Human Library Greece, an organization dedicated to combating discrimination and prejudice. He wants to carry his commitment to human rights through into his business. At the end of the year, The Mediterranean Way will donate 5% of its profits to a human rights organization. Local non-profits can nominate their causes, and customers will vote on which organization will receive the donation.

Niko and Oana Adamopoulos will be at the Greek Embassy for the EU Embassies’ Open House this Saturday, May 11. Visitors can sample olive oil at The Mediterranean Way stand and get a first taste of the store before it opens this summer.

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by April 10, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

“2013 Collectors View.” (Courtesy of Transformer)

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

From April 11 to June 9, local art collectors are opening their homes for a series of unique collection viewings.

Since 2008, Transformer DC has curated the annual series Collector’s View, to showcase art collections across the city. The arts non-profit at 14th and P NW, provides a platform for emerging artists to develop relationships with curators, gallerists, audiences and collectors.

“The series has been extremely successful,” wrote Transformer DC Co-Founder and Executive & Artistic Director Victoria Reis. “[N]ot only because is it a wonderful development program… providing both funding… as well as new relationships…, but also successful  in that it helps Transformer further educate audiences about the depth and diversity of the arts community in DC, and how different players in that community — artists, galleries, non-profit spaces, museums, collectors — are aligned in furthering contemporary art dialogue.”

Seeking Out Collectors

Tranformer works with its board, as well as with gallery owners and museum staff in the area to seek out collectors to host the series each year. According to Reis, Transformer seeks “a range of homes and collections” to ensure that the series offers a variety of experiences.

Some collections feature established contemporary artists featured in museums, while others feature emerging artists or focus on niche artistic styles. The non-profit hopes to make the series accessible and engaging for many audiences, and for those who attend all five viewings.

This year’s program, also supported by Evers & Co. Real Estate, Federal Title & Escrow Company and Washington Life Magazine, starts Thursday, April 11, at the home of Andrea Evers and Brian Aiken. After the collection viewing, the collectors will have a discussion with artists Jason Horowitz, Linn Meyers, and Maggie Michael about the relationship between artists and collectors. Borderstan residents can explore another collection in the neighborhood on May 16 at Aaron M. Levine & Associates in Dupont.

Registration and Details

Registration costs $50 per view, or $225 for all five. Those who register for all five in the series can also attend two additional “Artist Views” with artists Di & Lou Stovall and Mia Feuer. Register online or email [email protected].

Visit the Transformer DC for a full list of views and details on each collection.

  • What: Transformer DC 2013 Collector’s View.
  • Where: Collectors’ homes across DC and Maryland.
  • When: April 11 through May 19, with Artist’s Views on June 2 and June 9.

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by April 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

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


Vastu is one of the businesses participating in this weekends event. (Eliza French)

Just as beautiful spring weather finally comes to DC, some local businesses are offering an opportunity for DC residents to make our indoor surroundings more beautiful, as well.

The third annual WFP Home and Design Weekend, hosted by Washington Fine Properties and DC Magazine, takes place on 14th and U Streets NW this Saturday, April 13, and Sunday, April 14.

Retail stores and local art galleries will offer giveaways and host seminars and demos from experts in design and remodeling.

Customers at any of the participating stores can enter in a drawing for free gifts from the vendors, including gift cards of up to $300.

Color of the Year

The weekend highlights the Pantone 2013 color of the year, Emerald. Window displays at some of the participating businesses (Vastu, Foundry, Timothy Paul Bedding & Home, Timothy Paul Carpets & Textiles, Miss Pixies Furnishing’s & Whatnot and Showroom 1412) are currently showcasing the color.

Seminars and Demonstrations

Seminars and demonstrations take place on Saturday, with one repeat session on Sunday at Room & Board with HGTV “Design Star” winner Danielle Colding. Other program highlights include a 3 pm session on Saturday at Urban Essentials on “overcoming the challenges of small sized spaces,” which sounds promising for Borderstan residents.

For those more interested in DIY renovations than the finer points of design, Capital Carpet LLC will host a demonstration on installing hardwood floors at 11 am on Saturday.

Visit the WFP Home and Design website for a full list of the businesses, details about the giveaways and a schedule of lectures and demonstrations.


  • WhatWFP Home and Design Weekend.
  • When: Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14, 11 am to 6 pm both days.
  • Where: 14th Street and U Street corridors.

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by March 15, 2013 at 10:00 am 0


“Pump Me Up” is at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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

Museums, galleries and critics across the country are showcasing works by outsider artists, pulling the movement out of obscurity and into the mainstream.

Outsider art is art created by people without formal training who don’t consider themselves professionals and who operate outside the realm of the art world establishment.

It encompasses work by the mentally ill or the developmentally disabled and is often inspired by an artist’s own fantasy world or personal memories, but also by pop culture, religion and local subcultures. Outsider artists often use unconventional materials and found objects.

Mingering Mike, "The Outsiders featuring The Big "D": The Outsiders Are Back (Sex Records)," 1971.

Mingering Mike, “The Outsiders featuring The Big “D”: The Outsiders Are Back (Sex Records),” 1971. Now part of the Smithsonian American Art’ Museum’s collection.

Now in its 21st year, the most recent annual “Outsider Art Fair” in New York received an “unprecedented amount of press coverage” and record-breaking attendance. The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened its “Great and Mighty Things” exhibit of outsider art earlier this month.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s recent acquisition of works by Mingering Mike should dispel any doubts that outsider art has found a place in the contemporary art historical canon. A recent Washington Post article details how the museum came to acquire the works, and gives as much information as possible on the person behind the Mingering Mike moniker.

Outsider art also features prominently in many spring museum exhibits and gallery openings here in DC.

Mumbo Sauce,” curated by Lauren Gentile of Contemporary Wing and Bethesda native Roger Gastman, opens April 5 at an as yet undisclosed location. Gastman also curated the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s popular “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s” exhibit that features graffiti art by Cool “Disco” Dan, among others, posters, and ephemera from the 1980s DC musical sub-cultures. “Mumbo Sauce,” created “in response to” the Corcoran exhibit, includes pieces by Mingering Mike, Cool “Disco” Dan, BORF and others.

Art Enables, a non-profit that supports local artists with disabilities and that works to foster a wider appreciation of contemporary folk art, opened the “Glitterbomb” exhibit in its Off-Rhode Gallery on March 3. (Click here to view a slideshow of photos works from “Glitterbomb” on the Huffington Post.) All of the works in the exhibit come from Art Enable board member Paul Yandura’s personal collection. Programming for the exhibit includes a Gliteratti Party on Saturday, March 23, and a Collector’s Talk with Yandura on Wednesday, March 27.

The English-language term outsider art can be traced back to the concept of l’art brut. Jean Dubufett, one of three artists featured in “Angels, Demons, and Savages” at The Phillips Collection, was the first to use the term art brut and amassed a large collection of art brut works during his lifetime. A talk at The Phillips on March 28 will explore Dubuffet’s relation to art brut and its influence on his work.


  • Pump Me Up” at Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th Street NW, runs through April 7.
  • Glitterbomb” at Off-Rhode Gallery, 2204 Rhode Island Avenue NE, runs through March 29.
  • Mumbo Sauce” opens April 5 at an as yet undisclosed location.

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by February 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

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


Reading in Dupont Circle. (Luis Gomez Photos)

We live in America’s “most literate city.” Washington, DC has earned this title for three years running in the annual America’s Most Literate Cities study. Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, authored the study using research conducted by the university’s Center for Public Policy & Social Research.

Aside from national press coverage, the findings even a warranted Twitter shout-out from Mayor Vincent Gray. But what does this label really tell us about our city?

Six Criteria Examined

Researchers ranked all 76 cities in the study based on six separate criteria, and then considered all of the rankings to produce an overall literacy rank for each city.

Number of booksellers was the first area of evaluation. The researches assessed three factors — the number of retail bookstores per 10,000 people, the number of rare and used bookstores per 10,000 people and the number of members of the American Booksellers Association per 10,000 population. Despite local institutions like Kramerbooks and Politics & Prose, DC received its lowest score, fifteenth, in this category.

The study also evaluated education attainment, based on percentage of the adult population with a high school diploma and the percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. DC ranked ninth on education attainment.

The Internet and Periodicals

Taking the top spot in both criteria, city’s strongest showing was in Internet resources and periodical publishing resources. These categories, like most of those considered in the study, focused not only on access to the Internet and magazines, but on how much residents utilized that access.

The newspaper metric, for example included the number of unique visitors per capita to a city’s Internet version newspaper, number of webpage views per capita to a city’s Internet version newspaper, and number of Internet book orders per capita, as well as the number of households with an e-reader

The nation’s capital tied with Portland Oregon for 13th place in library resources, and with Cleveland, Ohio, for fourth place newspaper circulation.

Interestingly, leading the pack in one of these categories did not guarantee a leading place in the overall rankings.  Plano, Texas, led in education attainment but ranked 45th in the comprehensive ranking, and Newark, New Jersey led in newspaper circulation but was rated 33rd overall.

No study’s methods are perfect, and not every “America’s top 10 fill-in-the-blank” lists has significance. Still, after three years as the country’s most literate city, DC must be getting something right. If nothing else, the ranking serves as a reminder of the incredible resources at our fingertips and an affirmation of our community’s engagement.

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by February 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm 0

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

Borderstan residents who are curious about the coming transformations in the neighborhood and city can attend a panel next week for a glimpse into the future.


An illustration of the 11th Street Bridge Park.

This Thursday, February 21, The District Architecture Center will host a panel discussion connecting two of the city’s most talked about infrastructure initiatives — Dupont Underground and the 11th Street Bridge Park — to an upcoming cultural park project in Philadelphia, the Reading Viaduct.

This isn’t the first recent discussion in DC to draw connections among urban renewal projects in DC and those in other major cities.

Last fall, a research initiative by Dupont Underground, Provisions Library and the Goethe Institut inspired the Parks & Passages: Inspiration from Berlin for Washington’s Dupont Underground exhibit at the Goethe-Institut Washington.

The research was also the subject of a panel featuring a representative from the DC Office of Planning, a key advisor for the High Line in New York and the project developer leading the effort to reclaim the site of the old Tempelhof Airport in Berlin.

Instead of drawing international connections, Thursday’s panel will focus mainly on renewal of civic spaces here in DC and another prominent American city, Philadelphia. If you wonder what is next for Dupont Underground or the 11th Street Bridge Park, next Thursday is the day to find out those details.

According to the event webpage, those in attendance will be able to “describe the ambitious project proposed for what used to be a trolley station underneath Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle,” and be able to “describe the plans for Washington DC’s first elevated park [11th Street Bridge Park].”

Emily Badger, staff writer at The Atlantic Cities, will moderate the “Metamorphosis: Infrastructure to Urban Spaces” discussion this week. Three panelists, one representative of each of the three projects, will join her in conversation.

All of the speakers will examine the common “process of engaging nearby residents, fundraising, design competitions and challenges encountered along the way.” They will also present specific plans for their respective projects.

To learn more about the panel and to register online, visit the event website. There is a $10 fee to attend.

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by February 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm 0

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

Wax room by Wolfgang Laib at Kunstmuseum Bonn (1992). Courtesy of the artist.

The wax room by Wolfgang Laib at Kunstmuseum Bonn, 1992. (Courtesy of the artist.)

In July 2012 the Phillips Collection announced its first new permanent installation in over 50 years. The installation will be a site-specific commission by German Artist Wolfgang Laib. Laib will create a small, wax room in the part of The Phillips Collection that was the originally Duncan Phillips’ house.

From now until February 28, The Phillips Collection is seeking to raise $15,000 for the project via its Indiegogo campaign. Artists and Philips Collections donors, Brian and Paula Ballo Dailey, have agreed to match these donations up to $15,000.

For added incentive, the Phillips is offering special benefits to those who donate at the $25, $100, $250, $500 and $1,000 (and-above) levels.

Laib has worked with organic materials for his entire career and has used beeswax as a medium since 1988. The completed room will contain about 800 pounds of melted beeswax, and will be lit by a single, bare light bulb. The room will be filled with a golden and glow and with the subtle scent of beeswax.

Laib has created several similar rooms throughout Europe and in New York, in both natural and manmade settings. The artist uses other bee byproducts, most notably pollen, in his art, such as “Pollen from Hazelnut,” which was at the Hirshhorn in 2004. The most recent iteration is currently installed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

According to The Phillips Collection’s campaign page, “The wax room demonstrates art’s life-enhancing power, a quality founder Duncan Phillips championed when he opened the museum in Washington, D.C., in 1921.” With the new wax chamber, the museum hopes to offer a contemplative experience similar to that of the well-known Rothko Room.

The Laib wax room will open on March 2, 2013. Visit the campaign page to read more about the Laib wax room.

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by January 22, 2013 at 11:00 am 0

"Dave Peterson"

Dave Peterson, opening at Axis Salon, Thursday, January 24. (Luis Gomez Photos)

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

Axis Salon is hosting an open house for a small show by Dave Peterson, a local artist, photographer and designer on January 24 from 7 to 9 pm.  Peterson first exhibited at the salon in 2011 at the request of  Joe Ireland, whose interior design company, J.D. Ireland is housed above the salon and who creates Axis Salon’s window displays.

“It’s a great venue for my work,” says Peterson, “The windows are a real focal point on that block, and the salon has an amazing staff and clientele.  When I was asked to do it again, I jumped at the chance.

Peterson started his own art and design company, branddave, in 2008. He had been drawing and working in design since graduation college and co-founded and created the artwork for Be As You Are, an apparel company. Peterson has ” felt really, really blessed” for the “great reception” branddave has received thus far.  “It’s so rewarding to have a show, and hear people laughing, and pointing things out to their friends.  That is the best feeling, and makes all those angst filled days of drawing, frustration, and self doubt worth it!”

He also had a long-standing interest in men’s fashion photography. “When I started branddave, I was just all about having fun, and doing things I really enjoyed, and letting that take me along.,” explains Peterson, “So I drew a lot, started screen printing on wood, and taking pictures.  And as I developed my website and my portfolio, I’ve just kept up with these three things.

Peterson describes both his drawing and photography style as  “freestlye.” Rather than careful planning or staging  Peterson “tend[s] to draw the same thing (and take very similar shots) over and over, just trying to get that one perfect moment.”

The same holds true for his screen printing “I never know how something will turn out until it’s finished. Especially on wood –  [a] very unpredictable surface unlike paper. ” Although it does take a certain amount planning and preparation, for Peterson there is always an element of “surprise when it works and I’m happy with it. ”

The hardest part of running his own business based on his art has been propelling  himself forward.  “I have a big to-do list associated with pursuing new venues to sell, and growing the business.  I much prefer the making to the promoting and selling.  I have been really lucky in that opportunities just seem to come along…. But I know I can’t depend on that if I want to grow.”

He has several partnerships with local businesses and others in the art community. Branddave is a sponsor of D.C. musician Tom Goss, and Peterson also illustrated for the much-loved storytelling group SpeakEasy DC. Much of this work is commission-based

Instead of showing his art in galleries, Peterson, so far, prefers non-traditional venues like the hair salon and casual food shops, like Dolcezza and Buzz Bakery. “I really like these venues because they give me great visibility and are flexible.  They are unique because people come in often, so they see the work over and over.  And most of the time I handle sales directly, so it’s a win-win for both of us”

The show opening this Thursday at Axis Salon will be up for six weeks. Peterson also has ongoing shows at Buzz Bakery in Virginia and TROHV stores in Takoma Park and Baltimore. Peterson is also a member of Mid City Artists, and his studio is on 14th Street.

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by January 16, 2013 at 8:00 am 0

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

"For Rent"

DC’s rental prices are among the highest in the country. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Living in Borderstan, near some of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, often means sacrificing quality for location.

Leaky faucets, linoleum flooring and window AC units are the trade-offs for living within walking distance of barscoffeeshops, a farmer’s market and DC’s only high heel race. Renters, by nature, need temporary housing, but that doesn’t mean we should all be counting down until the day our lease is up and we have another chance to find that elusive perfect apartment.

Renting can feel like a constant struggle in this high-demand market. Amy Rose Dobson, editor of DC real estate blog Curbed D.C., explained in an email.”It is still hard to find an affordable apartment in a desirable neighborhood because there is so much competition and not enough spaces,” she says.

It might not take an expert to figure that out, but it does help to have one say that rental prices might be easing up in the not-so-distant future.”Right now there are over 2,000 apartment units under construction to deliver in 2013 so the tight rental market should see some easing by the end of this year,” Dobson added. But, be warned that she doesn’t “see a reversal in the current supply-demand trend anytime soon.”

DC real estate trends confirm Dobson’s view. An August 2012 artilce in The Washington Post promised a “renter’s respite”  as thousands of new apartments whose construction had been put on hold during the recession were to be completed by the beginning of this year. A recent post on DC Urbanturf noted: “The ever-growing supply of new apartments in the DC area seems to finally be catching up with demand. After years of increasing, rents are now dropping in many parts of the region.”

But, relief may still be a year or two away for some. The same post goes on to say, “rents did not fall everywhere, however. Capitol Riverfront (3.9 percent) and the sub-market that includes Penn Quarter, Logan Circle and Dupont Circle [a.k.a. much of Borderstan] (2.5 percent) showed rent increases.”

Since apartments are still in scarce supply, renters need to be savvy in their pursuits. After the endless hours spent scouring Craigslist and Padmapper, the countless open houses, the application forms and fees, most renters are desperate to finally move in somewhere — anywhere — before their current lease expires. We have all, wittingly or unwittingly, overlooked a fatal flaw in the apartment itself or with building management that has left us wondering how we ever thought we could live there.

The truth is, you never really know a place until you live in it. But, there are proactive steps renter’s can take to avoid some of the most common pitfalls of renting. Dobson recommends getting a copy of your credit report before the showing or open house and bringing it with you.”It shows you’re motivated to move in, speeds up the process, and slightly cuts down on the likelihood of your social security number being stolen,” she explained in an email.

Another tip from Dobson: When you first enter the unit, take notice of any overwhelming air freshener scent. It’s probably being used to mask something much more unpleasant. Once you decide you like the building, be on the lookout for unexpected fees when you talk to the landlord or leasing office. It might seem obvious to ask about parking space fees, but Dobson mentioned that less obvious costs, like bike fees and storage, often surprise tenants.

Other useful resources on renters’ legal rights include The Washington Post classifieds’ F.A.Q. page and the District of Columbia’s Office of the Tenant Advocate website. There may be no such thing as a “perfect” apartment (although I’m personally holding out hope). Still, knowing what to look for in an apartment and building management make it much easier to find a place you want to call home.

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by December 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,836 0

"arts and entertainment"

A profile of artist Miguel Perez Lem by Eliza French made the Top in A&E in 2012. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s that time again… a look back before we start 2013. Like last December, we’re listing the most-read stories on Borderstan by category. Today are the Top 10 from the Arts and Entertainment section.

Remember that the web is forever, so they say. Posted stories continue to get hits long after originally going up on the site. As a result, some of the most-read stories for the year were sometimes published the year before — especially if they were published late the year before.

Top 10 Borderstan A&E Stories of 2012

These Arts and Entertainment stories were Top 10 most read in 2012 on Assistant Editor Rachel Nania and Editor Luis Gomez each had three of the Top 10 stories while Bordertan Movie Fan Mary Burgan had two, and arts writer Eliza French rounded out the list.

  1. Margin Call a Great Explanation of Financial Crisis, Great Recession  (Mary Burgan)
  2. Tropicalia: A Psychedelic Buena Vista Social Club at 14th and U Luis Gomez)
  3. Illuminate Connecticut Avenue: DCCAH Calls For Public Art Entries (Rachel Nania)
  4. A Bastille Day Salute: 10 French Films to See (Mary Burgan)
  5. Ibero-America Film Showcase 2012 Starts Jan. 19 (Luis Gomez)
  6. Adams Morgan Picked as One of “Prettiest Painted Places” in U.S. (Rachel Nania)
  7. Pics from 17th Street Festival: Did We See You There? (Luis Gomez)
  8. Tuesday at Stead Park Field: Watch “Grease” Under the Stars (Borderstan)
  9. Tonight! It’s the Annual 17th Street High Heel Race (Rachel Nania)
  10. Miguel Perez Lem: An International Artist with an Eclectic Approach (Eliza French)

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by December 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,965 0

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

DCist ExposedAspiring local photographers can submit their photographic flashes of brilliance in the seventh annual DCist Exposed Photography Competition through January 9, 2013.

Heather Goss, former DCist Managing and Arts Editor, founded the competition in 2007. The idea sprung from the success of DCist’ Flickr photo community, and the number of compelling images of the city posted there. The contest’s popularity quickly took off, and DCist has hosted the event with help from Goss’ Ten Mile Square ever since.

The competition culminates with an exhibition of selected entries at Long View Gallery from March 27 through April 7. Last year, the exhibit drew more than 1,000 visitors, thanks in part to the opening night parties. The number of contestants has grown from just over 200 in 2007 to over 650 in 2012, and 40 people were selected to show their photos at Long View in 2012.

This year, DCist has launched a new site for the competition with all of the details about entering and a complete list of past winners. Those who want to enter should join DCist Exposed Flickr photo group, submit three of their best photos, fill out an online application, and pay the $10 entry fee. The contest organizers will be looking for images that capture “amazing, every day Washington, D.C. experiences.”

So, members of the Borderstan Reader Photos Flickr pool, here is your chance to make us proud! Follow the link for  past coverage of the DCist Exposed Photography Show.

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by December 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm 1,586 0

It was a great year for Borderstan artists. During 2012, Borderstan’s Eliza French interviewed 11 of the creative talents in the neighborhood. Painting, sculpture, photography, graffiti, you name it, all were represented in a gallery of very talented artists who live and work in the area.

Scott G. Brooks: A Local Artist with an International Reach

Scott G. Brooks has been living and working in the DC area since moving here from Flint, Michigan in 1990. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at University of Michigan in 1983, and considers himself “lucky” to know he wanted to be an artist from an early age. Although he has primarily worked in the world of painting and fine art over the past ten years, he also works as a children’s book illustrator and works in animation, graphic design and drawing.

Lucinda Murphy Merges Scientific Exploration and Artistic Expression

Lucinda Murphy explores profound scientific questions within the finite boundaries of her canvases. As an artist, she grapples with questions such as,”Where does energy originate and how does it convert to matter and back?” and “What is the difference between environment and entity?” Most recently, she has been addressing a question more familiar within the artistic realm — the disparities between what an object actually is and how we perceive it. As Murphy explains, “An object must ‘look’ very different depending on what is ‘seeing’ it… Right now I am trying to visualize what it means that we can only find 10 percent of our universe.”

Mark Parascandola Tells a New Story Using Forgotten Settings

Parascandola sought to capture this particular location in his native country because of its unique history as a set for several popular movies during the 1960s and 1970s. Filmmakers transformed the blank slate of the desert into America, Egypt, and everywhere in between for movies such as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Patton, and Cleopatra. Remnants of various fictional settings still remain scattered throughout the landscape, and Parascandola captures the transformative power still lingering in these ruins.

Sondra Arkin’s “Pattern Transformation” Opens Thursday at Long View Gallery

Arkin is not only a painter, but also a curator who experiments with printmaking, sculpture and assemblage. She previously aspired to be a poet with degrees in both Writing and Literature, and later used her education to run the creative department of a marketing agency. Arkin played multiple instruments during her college years and continues to enjoy a variety of performing arts including theater, dance and poetry, making the Borderstan area an ideal place to live. “I can’t believe how lucky I am to live and work in Dupont.

Betto Ortiz: A Travel Photographer on His Artistic Journey

Local photographer Betto Ortiz has avidly photographed everything around him from a young age. He approached photography as a hobby and began to document his travels through the medium as a young adult. The Colombian artist exhibited his first show in 2003 and, ever since then, he has been pursuing photography professionally as an artist and travel photographer. Borderstan asked Ortiz about his evolution as an artist, his photographic style, and how living and working in DC has influenced him.

Miguel Perez Lem: An International Artist with an Eclectic Approach

An environmentalist who emphasizes the productive aspects of art, he frequently salvages old canvases and repurposes old furniture and found objects. His works in progress–from chairs and lamps to oil paintings and charcoal drawings– surround the space. Quotes from well-known artists in their native languages are inscribed on the floor. Glass cases filled with Lem’s small collections of objects, such as antique cameras, line the walls.

Carl Amt: Diverse Inspirations and An Enduring Collaboration

Inspired by the legacy of modern artists like Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, Carl Amt combines words and text to produce works that function as social commentary. Citing a range of influences from Shepard Fairey to Robert Rauschenberg, Amt also incorporates elements of the street art aesthetic in his work and experiments with textural applications, such as applying candle wax to the canvas. Amt is an art collector, as well, with a special focus on New York-based street artists.

Michael D. Crossett: Approachable Art with Design in Mind

As a child in a military family, by the time he was in high school, Michael D. Crossett had lived in Hawaii, Japan, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Virginia. These drastically different cultural influences shaped his point of view and his artistic eye. In particular, he has incorporated characteristics of the Japanese aesthetic — the highly designed nature of everyday objects, the bright colors, and bold patterns. The graphic appeal and immediacy of these elements still drives his approach today.

Sally Kauffman: Reviving her Career with New Media

After taking a 20-year hiatus from her work as an artist, Sally Kauffman is reviving her career and finding camaraderie among the Mid City Artists in her studio adjacent to the Harmon Art Lab. Photography has heavily influenced her work, and recently she has drawn inspiration from her day job as a digital user experience designer.

Aniekan Udofia and the Fulfillment of Public Art

Aniekan Udofia moved back to DC to pursue a career as an artist after living in Nigeria for most of his life. As a young man, he worked mostly in colored pencil and pen illustration. He remembers studying the technique of an artist in his Nigerian village of Uwo and trying to master his style. He would also look at the political caricatures in newspapers and studying how the image mimicked the editorial content. Not surprisingly, Udofia tries to incorporate an element of social commentary in his art.

Kreg D. Kelley: Taking a Risk and Sharing the Reward

Kreg D. Kelley came to DC from Connecticut to study political science at George Washington University and pursue a career in politics. Before graduation, he changed his goals and decided he “wanted to do something…I loved, something I would want to do for the rest of…my life.” For Kelley, that “something” was art. Before he graduated, Kelley left George Washington to take a job at Galerie Lareuse in Georgetown, “an opportunity…I couldn’t refuse.”

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