“Constance” by Nekisha Durrett (2014)

Dawne Langford‘s never curated an art show before, but she’s had something to say for a while.

Langford, a local documentary filmmaker, was sick of going to art shows that pigeonholed artists of color based on their race, ethnicity, or culture; a showcase of Latina painters, for instance, whose exhibited works all revolve around the Latina experience.  “Being an artist is not just about your identity,” Langford says.

Most museum and gallery shows lack for artists of color, and those that specifically seek out diversity risk being reductive—-identity-focused exhibitions can limit their artists to a narrow range of perspective and expression. “The changing demographics of urban centers, specifically in our nation’s capital, have influenced a number of spaces towards commercial use—-where art is often just a backdrop at a social event,” reads Quota’s press materials. “This has resulted in fewer cultural spaces, with less diversity in gender, race, class and sexual identity.” Amen.

With a new pop-up venue called Quota that’s opening its first show tonight in Petworth, Langford’s challenging that trend, creating space for artists of color to exhibit work without a marginalizing theme. “In this show, we’re the majority,” she says, “and it’s led by other people who share that experience of being outside of the cultural norm.”

Along with Avi Gupta, Langford selected nine D.C.-area artists whose previous work she’s admired (Kunj Patel, Nara Park, Nekisha Durrett, and others) though much of what’s on view is brand new work—-some of it she hadn’t seen until yesterday.

Talks of a spring exhibition are already in the works, too, and Langford plans to broaden Quota‘s support for artists of color beyond show space, connecting them with fellowships, professional development opportunities, and artistic feedback.

See Quota’s first exhibition tonight from 6-8 p.m. or by appointment through Nov. 28 at 4201 Georgia Avenue NW (the Murrell Building and future location of Paul Ruppert‘s new restaurant, Slim’s Diner).