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D.C.’s humblest artists, shut out by the city’s snootier galleries, now have a new place to show their stuff: Five twentysomething D.C. artists, united by friendship and their Tabard Inn day jobs, have transformed their kaffeeklatsch gripes about the District’s ailing gallery scene into the Center for Collaborative Art and Visual Education (CAVE), a gallery-cum-community center near the corner of Connecticut Avenue and R Street NW. The group opened its doors April 3, offering exhibition space for low-visibility D.C. artists.

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“People are intimidated by galleries,” laments 29-year-old CAVE radical Adeshola Mapaderun, a freelance graphic designer. “The arts have gotten away from people, and we’re standing against that.”

CAVE landed its 2,200-square-foot digs by happenstance: Cofounder Lars Hasselblad Torres, 27, leases the building’s fourth-floor apartment, and agreed to refurbish the third floor in exchange for its cooperative use. Within its space, CAVE’s members plan to alternate shows with landlord Vesna Rabernack’s Lipa organization, which shows Eastern European artists. Eventually, the group plans to establish a permanent site to house studio space, a library, and a cache of found objects for reuse in artworks.

The group hopes to defy the exclusionist D.C. gallery scene with its socialist postures. CAVE’s curatorial philosophy rejects traditional commission and curatorship for nonprofit shows juried by artist-peers. As a testament to CAVE’s communal character, the gallery’s inaugural exhibit last month coaxed curious hipsters as well as D.C. Councilmember Carol Schwartz into the gallery to see and be seen at a packed, sweaty party.

At the party, a child found comfort in a corner reading a book, oblivious to the opening—a fact that thrilled Torres: “I don’t think I’ve been to a gallery and just hung out. We need to get sofas!”

—Jessica Barrow Dawson

The Center for Collaborative Art and Visual Education opens its spring exhibit Friday, May 1, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at 1635 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd floor. Call (202) 483-2599 for more information.