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The arts come to Rhode Island Ave NE with pop-up gallery

Work from Kate Deciccio, whose show at (Re)Creative Space's gallery opens April 3

Both tenant and landlord are calling it a “first.” ReCreative Spaces, an arts group, is occupying part of a commercial building at 1613 Rhode Island Avenue NE rent-free while the owner, Menkiti Group, looks for a paying tenant.
“This is the first arrangement we’ve made with any real estate company,” says Emily Arden Eakland, cofounder with John Kagia of ReCreative Spaces in 2014.
”We worked for a year to get the real estate community to even understand what we wanted to do. Menkiti Group was willing to take a chance on us. It’s a unique opportunity for us,” she says.
Bo Menkiti, founder and CEO of Menkiti Group, a Washington, D.C. firm, says, “We have worked with a lot of different arts organizations. We’ve put art in our offices. We’ve partnered with other arts organizations to be tenants. But this is the first time we are allowing an arts organization to occupy vacant space.”
ReCreative Spaces began occupying the basement and first floor of the two-story building in January and will remain until the end of July. An artist uses the basement as a studio. The first floor hosts a variety of arts and cultural events. There is an unrelated  tenant on the second floor.
Since Menkiti Group would need to configure the main floor for any future tenant, “they made it a big open space,” says Eakland. “Everything we put in needs to be removable. Nothing can be permanent.
Says Menkiti, “We demoed the space. They fixed it up for their purposes. They bring creative energy to a raw space.”

The main floor is less than 900 square feet in size. In it, ReCreative Spaces has held “all kinds of events,” says Eakland, from poetry readings to dance concerts and film screenings. The DC Youth Slam Team, the current world champions of youth slam poetry, uses the space. The room doubles as a gallery for a monthly art show.
The next show, an all-media, national show called Black Lives/White Light, opens April 3 with artists Robin Bell, Patrick Burns, Bill Crandall, Kate Deciccio, Michael Fischerkeller, Kathryn Jones, Joe Ovelman, and Lisa Marie Thalhammer, curated by Sheldon Scott (the artist who occupies the basement) and assistant curator Deirdre Darden.

On the weekend of May 23 and 24, ReCreative Spaces and Rhode Island Avenue NE Main Street will hold (Up)Rising, a “choose your own art adventure” through both occupied and vacant buildings along Rhode Island Avenue NE.
“Our mission is to be a place for artists to create their work and for the community to participate in it,” she says. “We work with artist and local groups to create their own programming.”
Eakland says she met Menkiti Group when ReCreative Spaces did an event in their office. That led to a discussion of artist spaces.
“I was impressed with her,” Menkiti says of Eakland. “She has a lot of energy, and she wanted to bring people in the neighborhood together.”
Eakland called the situation “fluid” for ReCreative Spaces after July. “Menkiti expects to lease the commercial space [in the building] by then. If it’s not leased, we may be able to stay,” she says.
Otherwise, she is also talking to Menkiti about a similar arrangement in another of their buildings. “We’ve been looking at other properties with them,” she says. “I wouldn’t mind a larger space in the same area. They own a lot of buildings in this neighborhood and it’s a great neighborhood for us.”

Menkiti, a long-time board member of Dance Place in Brookland, says. “There is no clear, direct benefit to our real estate” business in the arrangement with ReCreative Spaces.

But, he says, “It gets people into the building. It brings us into the corridor. And it’s great to partner with them.”

This article originally stated that the April 3 show would be a solo show. It is in fact a group show with eight artists. Elevation DC regrets the error.

Read more articles by Barbara Pash.

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