Photos by Jeff Martin
Washington D.C. (which we, it goes without saying, LOVE) is many things but “a safe haven for creative careers” is probably not at the top of the list. The army of makers and artists that live in it often hold down 9-to-5 jobs in order to be able to afford it, and the struggle for finding a space to work in (that is not your tiny dining nook in your tiny apartment) is a constant one. And, as much as more traditional small businesses turn to coworking spaces, so do the artists and artisans. A month or so a go we launched Rooms Of Their Own, where we visit and explore collaborative work environments inhabited by women.
We kicked things off with a visit to Brewmaster Studios in Dupont, our second stop was at The Lemon Bowl, on Georgia Ave studio, and now we head to Brookland and Wild Hand Workspace , the shared studio and multi-use art space of photographer/curator Victoria Milko and A Creative DC’s / Panda Head Morgan Hungerford West. The bright space also hosts many events, exhibitions and collaborations. Come on in and meet Morgan and Victoria, and get ready for some major workspace and life decisions envy AND inspiration.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you make?
Before Wild Hand Workspace, where did you work / what can you tell us about the experience?
Victoria: My work has really only evolved into what it is today in the last year or so. I’ve been doing photography, curating shows and organizing large-scale art events for years—each time using a nonconventional space. For years I used coffee shops, warehouses and private properties to do work.Having the studio has provided me a creative home-base and place to always come back to. Simply walking in the door given me a sense of creative calm and helps me feel better connected to the D.C.’s incredible creative community.
How did you stumble upon / settle into Wild Hand?
Victoria: I have Cory Oberndorfer and PhilippaHughes to thank for tipping me off about the studio. During lunch at Philippa’s one afternoon Cory mentioned that artists had been invited to take a hardhat tour of the construction site. Later that night I hopped on my bike and peddled over to Brookland. There was a gap in the fence, so I slipped through (I’ve been begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission for YEARS now) and took a walk around the construction site. Even when it studio nothing by cement and steel beams, I knew I had found something with incredible potential.I found myself, at 23, I was getting ready to sign a lease for my first small business space and I knew that I needed someone reliable, creative and flexible to share the space with. Morgan was the first person I thought of and texted. I feel incredibly lucky that she was willing to take the plunge with me.
Describe (each of you) what your typical work day looks like?
Victoria: I spend part of every day out in the field, whether it be for an assignment or for a longer-term project. From day to day my work takes me across an incredible spectrum of places. One morning I’m photographing someone’s secret marijuana grow room in D.C.—the next day I’m interviewing an oyster farmer in Maryland.One thing people don’t typically see is the incredible amount of time I spend staring at a screen. Countless hours are dedicated to emailing with clients, researching topics, editing photos and video, writing and keeping my portfolio up to date. I’ve also been steadily applying for grants and scholarships, which can take quite some time.
On top of that, I’m also pursuing a Master’s degree, so two morning a week I am in class or out working on new skills I’ve learned from the week before.
Did you know each other before you moved in and how?
Have there been any collaborations?
You host other artists and creatives in the space too – for gallery openings and more- any highlights, any amazing discoveries?
Victoria: I’ve loved all the artists that we’ve had the pleasure of hosting in the space. Before Morgan and I moved in we spoke at length about the desire to provide an accessible location for artists looking to show their work. We lucked out with being given a beautiful wall, surrounded by windows and perched right next to a high-traffic metro stop.Every artist that comes into the space brings something different, and teaches us something as well. It’s interesting and informative to see your workspace through someone else’s eyes.
Creative space is at a premium in DC and we see sharing of the same more and more – what do you think are some of the benefits and disadvantages of working together?
As the three year anniversary approaches – are there any shared co-creative lessons you learned, anything you’d like to celebrate?
Victoria: Since we moved into the space so much has happened in both of our careers. Morgan has launched A Creative DC as well as countless other projects—she blows me away every day with her dedication, passion and savvy ways.The larger creative community in DC has flourished, despite major setbacks such as affordable spaces and an inflated cost of living—if that’s not something to celebrate I don’t know what is.
And of course I’d like to celebrate and thank every person who has walked through our door, whether they be a visiting artist, neighbor, client or collaborator. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Victoria: I’ve accepted a summer position as an entry-level photojournalist for a weekly news magazine in Myanmar, so between local assignments and meetings I’ve been listening to Burmese rap and trying to get a grasp on basic Burmese phrases.When I get back to D.C. in the Fall, I’ll have a couple months to work locally before heading to the Middle East where I’ll spend a month working on a photodocumentary about LGBTQ culture in orthodox communities thanks to a generous grant from A Wider Bridge.
Between assignments I will be continuing to pursue a Masters in Multiplatform Journalism (with a concentration on video storytelling) at the University of Maryland, and working on assignments with my local editors and clients. I also have two solo shows in the Fall and Winter, which I’ll be excited to share more about in a few months—stay tuned!