We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Fourteenth Street NW may play host to six art galleries (“Strip Stakes,” 8/4), but opening up an art space in a real-estate market that’s more juiced than Floyd Landis is financially daunting. That’s why, for her first attempt at managing her own space, Katie Hinson decided to take the show on the road—and keep it there.
“A revolving gallery takes down barriers,” says Hinson, founder of Astroturf Art. “You address people not normally on the circuit.”
The gallery showcases local artists in alternative spaces—the first show was held in Hinson’s Adams Morgan group house, and the second will be at Ontario Coin Laundry on Saturday, Aug. 19. The four-word manifesto on the Astroturf’s Web site says it all: “art. no real turf.”
“The idea for Astroturf came from the need to delineate what’s gallery space and what’s not,” Hinson says. She brings a piece of Astroturf to each show to drive the symbolism home. Casual presentation in unexpected places “makes the art stand out,” she says. “You get out of the white-cube situation.”
Temp worker Buddy McLaughlin is a quintessential white-cube refugee. The 26-year-old Petworth-based artist’s unusual choice of media couldn’t be better suited for the unorthodox Ontario Coin Laundry exhibition: He’s a quiltmaker. Though his family owns a quilt shop in Rockville, his art training is limited to elementary-school art classes and what he picked up from his sister. “I’m trying to innovate as far as traditional quilting goes,” McLaughlin says, “instead of a big brown mess.”
Turns out McLaughlin’s distinctive quilts are right up Astroturf’s alley. Though Hinson will work only with locals, her moveable gallery has no formal submission criteria or application process. She merely seeks “something edgy, new, with broad appeal” and welcomes artists such as McLaughlin who haven’t trod the well-worn art-school route.
“I like people who haven’t gone to school at all,” Hinson says. “If you haven’t gone to the Corcorcan, it’s really hard to find a gallery.”
If D.C. gallery space is in short supply, McLaughlin’s not complaining. A traditional gallery agreement detailing profit splits seems anathema to an artist who was satisfied enough with Hinson’s handshake agreement to turn down the $50 stipend she offers all Astroturfers. For McLaughlin, the gallery’s informality is one of its main appeals. “My name is not selling the show, the show is not selling me,” he says.
Celina Yaya, Ontario Coin Laundry’s owner, says Hinson’s gallery links her to a side of Adams Morgan that wouldn’t necessarily stop in her shop. She purchased the business in March and is eager to make a connection to all elements of her neighborhood.
“I like the location because it is an international community, and it’s very diverse,” Yaya says, pointing out that her regular customers are excited about the show. A Laundromat may not be a typical location for quilt-viewing, but according to Yaya, the exhibition creates an opportunity for dialogue. “That’s how we learn,” she says.
For Hinson, Astroturf is more than a meet-and-greet: It is a necessary mental break. Her day job in the usher’s office of the White House—where she serves as a member of the permanent staff that chooses the art that will adorn George W. Bush’s walls—is less friendly to the avant-garde.
“Where I work—” Hinson pauses. “You have to be quiet about politics, be polite, mind your manners,” she continues. “It’s good to have something I can pour my energy into with no boundaries.” —Justin Moyer