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Before local artist David Mordini moved into one of Otis Street Arts Project’s studios, he made most of his wooden body part sculptures at home. “It was lonely being in my own space,” he says. “I wanted to work with other artists.” Painter and studio neighbor Scott G. Brooks echoes Mordini’s sentiment. He enjoys the community Otis Street has created, a place where individual artist’s studios don’t even have doors.

Co-founded by Mordini and glass artist Sean Hennessey, Otis Street Arts Project is a new cooperative studio and gallery space just a couple doors down from the Washington Glass School in Mount Rainier. Mordini and Hennessey met about a year ago at one of Molly Ruppert’s art parties, where they talked about the need for studio space where mixed media artists like themselves could feel OK about making a lot of noise and dust in the name of collaborative experimentation.

Hennessey was working out of a studio at the Washington Glass School at the time, and when an artist on the far side of the complex moved out, he and Mordini jumped at the chance to start a space of their own. “It’s really hard to find industrial space in the D.C. area,” Hennessey says, noting that many mixed-media art projects require large, noisy workspaces. The one they’ve created even has a loading dock.

Otis Street Arts Project currently hosts eight artists, including Mordini, Hennessey, Brooks, Hebron Chism, Gloria Chapa, Alma Selimovic, Matthew Duffy, and Anne Smith. “We’re a very diverse group,” Chapa says proudly, “in terms of age, ethnicity, education, and gender.” The artists hope this diversity will provide for more interesting and complex collaborations. They also talk about having regular studio meetings and organizing field trips, plus playing host to performances, exhibitions by up-and-coming local curators, lectures, panels, and readings in Otis Street’s communal spaces.

“It’ll be an incubator for creativity and collaboration,” Hennessey says. “We want to reach out across artistic mediums and merge different fields,” adds Mordini.

Otis Street Arts Project is staying open late this Saturday to celebrate its grand opening after Mount Rainier’s annual Gateway Arts District Open Studio Tour. There will be beer, projections, a DJ, a spinning disco ball, and lots of art on view. And if you’re an artist in the market for a studio, there’s one still available.

Otis Street Arts Project’s Open Studio (12-5 p.m.) and Bangin’ Grand Opening (5-9 p.m.) take place this Saturday at 3706 Otis Street, Mount Rainer, Md. Both events are free and open to the public.  

Photo courtesy of David Mordini