A lot can happen in a year. You could move, get a new roommate, change your schedule, change your life. In the year since I interviewed Rose Jaffe, she’s switched studios, evolved her art and thoughts on how she can best serve D.C.’s art community have changed.
In honor of BYT’s 2019 Art Census (it’s a thing! It’s happening! We’re writing about art more because we love it!) I joined her at her brand new, bright and airy studio, where we talked about everything from how to pick the perfect art roommate (which is almost as hard as finding a regular roommate) to D.C.’s lack of affordable (keyword) studio spaces. A lot has changed in a year, but when it comes to making space for artists in D.C., too much hasn’t.
Last time I was talking to you, your studio, The Stew, was in Edgewood and you knew that you would have to leave.
I did. It was a temporary space.
What happened after your lease was up?
I moved to a spot all the way down Rhode Island Avenue. It was a really cheap spot, but it just wasn’t the right space. It had kind of been a warehouse and they had been doing plaster and sculpture for 30 years in that building, which is very cool, but the air quality was terrible. I’m pretty sensitive to those kinds of things… I was getting headaches… It was just bad. It was just a place I couldn’t be, which was really hard for me, I’ve always had a studio space.
At the same time, I moved to a one bedroom apartment so I was utilizing my living room as my studio space for five months. I was also doing other projects, but my whole studio space was starting to take over my living room. I’ve also never had a home studio before. I know that a lot of people do have home studios, but I need a big space. After that, I found this spot in Edgewood Studios, which was very close to The Stew, and I was living right around the corner. I was like, “This place is amazing,” but that space was shared with an older woman. It was a hard few months. I moved into that space and I really thought it was going to be great. But this woman, it just wasn’t the right vibe. I don’t think we were on the same wavelength about things.
And then I found this space in… March? Late February?
It was really recent.
Yeah. I’ve been here for just about a month. So I saw the space… Actually, I was showing it to someone else, and I was like, “What if I rented this space?” I had just moved into the other space and I was like, it will be insane if I move, but should I make this leap? The other space was very small and it wasn’t anything like The Stew. It was just a small art studio.
I was like, “Do I want to be a space that can be a community space? Or do I just want to have an art studio?” I really grappled with that and what was valuable for me about The Stew and what it meant to be a place that’s promoting and uplifting art in D.C. How I could financially support that. Just all those questions, but at the end I was like, you know what? YOLO. I’m just going to do it.
I moved studios three times and it’s a lot of shit to move! Three U-Hauls! That was a lot, but I just decided to go for it and here I am. I wish I was a little bit closer. Living in Brookland it’s 15 minutes away… But I’m a sucker for convenience. But my mom lives up the street.
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So it’s very convenient for your mom?
My mom loves it.
You said you were showing the space to someone else, was one of your friends looking?
I actually found this space when I was looking for spaces for the Women’s March art build in January. This space didn’t look anything like this. It used to be a men’s club. There was a bar and carpet and dark walls. They played chess and all kinds of things here. I saw it then and thought, “This could be a good space, but I don’t think it’s big enough.”
Then the guy called me two months later and said he’d redone the space. I thought about it for my partner and was like, “Let’s go check it out.” When I came by, I totally didn’t recognize it. It was way too nice for him, he’s a metal welder, fabricator. So we both came and I was like, “Maybe I should just move into that space…”
And then you did! I know you’ve only been in here for a month, but has the space informed the art you’re making now?
I’m still getting in the groove. I don’t know if the space has informed it so much, but I will be able to do larger things like sculptures. I can cut really big pieces of wood. I can do a lot of large panel installations for murals. With a bigger space there’s higher overhead, but I can do bigger projects.
I know that was a big part of why you liked your old space, you could plan out your murals there. Did you have to stop working on them when you were in those smaller studios?
I’ve still been able to, but honestly it’s just a little slower this year. I don’t really know why.
Obviously you chose this space because you can have events here and show art… And at your old space, you were on a very crazy schedule with events. Have the events you want to do in this new space changed? Do you know what you want to do here?
I do. I thought a lot about this side room. Ideally, that would be a community space permanently. I thought about a lot of ways to finance that, it could be cooperatively run or fundraise $10,000 for the whole year and then it’s paid for. But I think the past few months have just been slow for me, so financially I just need to rent that to someone right now and we’ll see how it goes.
With The Stew, I could have my art studio and the [event] space was kind of separate. Here, it’s all my studio space. I’m moving towards classes and workshops because it’s perfect for that. This is also residential, so I can’t have late night things as often. I did build a wall so it could be a gallery wall and I’m thinking of calling it The Wall Gallery. So if I have shows it will just be on [one wall]. I definitely want to have art shows, workshops and earlier evening things, as opposed to late night parties. There’s a tiny baby that lives next door and I want to be a good neighbor.
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What is it like to find and art roommate?
Good question. I think the biggest thing is that I wanted someone who was chill. I expressed to this guy, I don’t fully know what the identity of the space will be yet. I’m still figuring it out, but I know that I want to have other people in the space. So I was like, this is not a regular art studio, this is much more of a collective. There will be social justice oriented things, this is a safe space. Are you cool with that? I had different people hit me up, not a ton, but I didn’t put it out that much either. I was a little picky. This dude seems chill and I wanted someone who was flexible and fluid and down with The Stew cause as a whole.
Last time we spoke, you talked about how there are not enough spaces for artists in D.C. and, at the time, you had no idea where you were going to move when your lease was up. Do you think it’s gotten better or worse?
I think the awareness has grown. I think it’s more of a topical issue, there was the Kojo Nnamdi forum about it, the cultural plan… Clearly people are talking about it, but has that translated into actual studio space?
I have hope for actual spaces, but my concern is the price. That’s where it will start to get tricky. I think people are like, “Cool! Spaces for artists, we can do that.” But I think it’s affordable spaces that will be a big challenge. That’s when the city needs to honestly subsidize artist spaces. An artist can’t realistically afford to stay in the city if they’re paying $1,300 in rent and $800 for a studio space.
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