By Phil Hutinet
Over the winter I covered the ascendance of Brookland as Washington’s newest arts district and the neighborhood’s potential for becoming Washington’s next great arts corridor.
In the same spirit, developers, economic development organizations and the DC Government have looked to the arts to revive historic Anacostia’s commercial district since 2004. The neighborhood now possesses numerous cultural offerings including established Honfleur and Vivid Solutions galleries, the Frederic Douglas National Historic Site, the annual LUMEN8ANACOSTIA arts festival, the Anacostia Arts Center and the critically acclaimed Anacostia Playhouse. Now the neighborhood will have its first working artist studio.
For almost four decades, 1239 Good Hope Road SE, like so many buildings in DC’s commercial corridors, decayed due to owner abandonment and neglect. Located between Honfleur Gallery and the Anacostia Arts Center, a developer purchased 1239 Good Hope Road in 2012 and had hoped to attract a restaurant or traditional retailer. However, he ended up attracting a creative entrepreneur instead.
After having sold his iconic fire-station turned atelier in Shaw, artist Craig Kraft sought a new neighborhood for his small business. Best known for creating large neon-tube installations, Kraft saw Anacostia as the perfect place to set new roots. “I like moving into a neighborhood and watching the changes that happen over a 10-15 year period” Kraft explains.
Unlike the typical studio where artists toil away in solitude, creating their oeuvre in a cloistered setting, Kraft’s studio has more in common with a small manufacturing facility because of the type of work he creates. He employs several people, who work together to realize large-scale projects such as public art pieces which often take months to create.
However, recently, Kraft has started working smaller . An example of this new trend is his Ground Zero series. Juror Lauren Gentile selected his piece Ground Zero IV out of the series for the 2013 EMULSION East City Art Regional Juried Exhibition.
On April 13, 2014, I visited Kraft at 1239 Good Hope Road for a hardhat tour of his studio space. His workmen stripped the entire building down to its studs, reinforced the floor joists and will complete an addition on the back of the building. When finished, the space will not only house his working studios but a public gallery space where he can show work like his ground zero series. The second floor will house his upstairs apartment and personal retreat. Having progressed significantly this spring, Kraft hopes that construction will come to an end this summer.
I’ll will follow-up with another article when the project has come to fruition this summer. For now, a photo essay of the construction during my hardhat tour follows:
Full Disclosure: Phil Hutinet was the Chief Operating Officer at ARCH Development Corporation from December 2011 through August 2013 where he ran programming at Honfleur gallery, vivid solutions gallery, project managed the LUMEN8ANACOSTIA festival and brought both the Anacostia Playhouse and Kraft Studios as part of a several publicly and privately funded grant programs designed to revitalize the community through the arts.