City Paper is not for tourists
Is it the beginning of the end for the resident art studios at 52 O Street NW?
In an email sent to more than a dozen resident artists at the studios on Friday, Marty Youmans, the owner of 52 O Street, warned that changes in the coming year would mean that some of them may lose their homes and workspaces.
“It appears that the bulk of the front of the first floor will be vacated, converted, and leased as a single-tenant space by about June 1,” Youmans’s email reads. “A couple of different uses are under consideration, and whatever use that ultimately will be, it’ll be well in keeping with O St. as an art studios.”
Several artists affected by the decision believed they were being evicted to make room for a youth hostel. Youmans did not immediately return a call for commment.
Initially built in 1917, the building at 52 O Street has served as a pharmaceuticals distributor and a distribution center for a record label. But since 1978, when D.C. sculptor Eric Rudd bought the 53,000-square-foot warehouse, it has been home to art studios. Scores of Washington artists have availed themselves of the affordable studio space at 52 O Street; some 30 D.C. artists make work there today. Marty Youmans bought the building from Rudd in 2003, but has maintained its live-in and work-only studios.
Ebony Dumas and Lisa-Marie Thalhammer were among the at least eight artists who received the soft eviction notice. Thalhammer has lived at 52 O for six years. Artist Raye Leith, actress Emma Jaster, and poet Danielle Evennou also received the same email. These artists and others are resident artists—meaning that by June 1 they may be losing their homes as well as their studios.
Youmans’s email notes that some other resident artists’ studio space will not be affected. But at least one artist is pessimistic about how the Truxton Circle facility can maintain affordable art spaces for artists. “There’s now a new house for sale on O Street whose asking price is $470,000,” Thalhammer says.
Certainly the value of 52 O Street itself has increased: According to the listing on the District of Columbia’s Citizen Atlas website, its sale price in 2003 was $1,650,000—whereas its value as of a 2009 assessment was $3,021,390.
Image used with permission through a Creative Commons license with M.V. Jantzen