Finding Space to Create in Pricey D.C.

Elahe Izadi For WAMU on Friday, Sep. 30th

Brandon Moses and Michael Andrew Harris, members of the band Laughing Man, met up at their studio space in a worn warehouse on a recent Thursday evening. Moses strummed his guitar and sang into the mic. Aaron Martin, who shares the studio with the band, joined in on his saxophone for an impromptu jam session.

Seemingly neglected, the vacant warehouse has been repurposed for just this sort of activity — for artists to create without concern of disturbing neighbors. Harris rapidly hit his snare drum without constraint. The music went through open window and spilled onto the Mt. Vernon street below.

But through that window, you could see the new high rises across the street, a sign of D.C.’s healthy real estate market. And soon, the warehouse — home to Gold Leaf Studios — will be replaced witha $57 million11-story mixed-used complex. About 30 artists who work out of 11 Gold Leaf studios will have to vacate by January 2012.

“Obviously they’re going to make a lot more money,” Harris, 31, said. “We’re just artists paying a couple of hundred dollars for the space.”

“It’s really bad for the synergy of the creative process,” Luke Stewart, 24, another band member, later said of having to move. “It puts momentum on hold in terms of what we’re working on.”

Gold Leaf Studios at 443 I St. NW has hosted artists since 1998, where they’ve come to create and hold events. Tenants include musicians, fashion designers and visual artists. Moses, 27, described it as “a safe space,” “a community center of sorts,” where artists of all stripes gather to create.

“Seeing other artists’ work inspires you to intensify to some degree, or it gives you some insight into yourself and your own artistic process,” Moses said.

Read the rest at WAMU’s DCentric.

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