Black Artists of DC and STABLE Present Shoulder the Deed

By East City Art Editorial Team on June 21, 2021

Fri, June 25 2021 — Thu, September 30 2021

Charles Jean-Pierre, Gemini | Marasa, 2021, Acrylic collage on canvas, 36” x 48”
Opening: Friday, June 25 from 6pm to 8pm

Washington DC non-profits, Black Artists of DC and STABLE, collaborate to mount the upcoming exhibition Shoulder the Deed, opening June 25 through September 30, 2021 at STABLE located at 336 Randolph Place NE. The exhibition opening is Friday, June 25, from 6-8pm.

Local art organizations for contemporary DC artists, STABLE, and the Black Artists of DC (BADC), have joined together to present Shoulder the Deed, a multi-generational, multidisciplinary art exhibition that enacts a ‘coming together’ around a proverbial table built to sustain and uplift imagination, self-determination and ingenuity.

The opening is June 25, 2021 from 6-8pm at 336 Randolph Place, NE, Washington DC. The show will close on September 30. The exhibition is co-curated by Maleke Glee, Zsudayka Nzinga Terrell, and Zoma Wallace. Featuring 19 artists working across various mediums and representing several generations, the exhibit includes work by the late artists, friends, and magnetic DC figures, Harlee Little and Michael Platt, alongside works by contemporary artists working inside and outside of the STABLE studios, carrying forward a vibrant artistic sphere of exchange that Little created on Randolph Place in the mid 1980s. Little convened this sphere there through the entirety of the 1990s, and extended this work even beyond the studios he constructed there. His ethos of sharing is central to the curatorial premise, in which artistic imagination, creative ingenuity, and self-determinative making is held as a common bond between each artwork and each artist represented on the walls. This exhibition marks the beginning of a collaboration between STABLE and BADC in the excavation of an unfolding, largely untold story that begins with the foresight of photographer Harlee Little and still feeds the root of what is becoming a thriving arts district in the Eckington community. The artists in this exhibition shoulder a collective deed to seed a new, shared creative space that has been given room for unfettered positive expansion.

“Our artists bear the responsibility of sustaining an artistic continuum on the Randolph Place, NE space that began almost four decades ago,” says Maleke Glee, Director of Art and Programming at STABLE. “We are not explicitly concerned with cultural legibility; rather, our artists create visual language with self-significant motifs, symbologies, and gestures that signal an inward reflection, exceeding the cultural flattening of Black art popularized in this moment.”

Artist and co-founder of the Black Artists of DC (BADC), Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter offers, “At this moment, there is a reset taking place. STABLE’s board, member artists, administrators, and the surrounding community now have the opportunity to decide if we together have the creativity, humility, and courage to create a just, vibrant, world class ecosystem within both STABLE and in Washington, DC.”

“For BADC, uncovering the depth of history that went into building our organization as well as acknowledging the impact that these artists have had on defining the entirety of the DC arts community has been extremely exciting and rewarding,” says curator Zsudayka Nzinga Terrell, vice-president of BADC.

Zoma Wallace, curator and president of BADC adds, “Even beyond our look at the aesthetic, thematic, and theoretical relationships exercised between each artist, this project has become about tracing relationships on further levels; relationships between individuals, between cross-pollinated ideas, and our relationship in present time with our yesterdays and our responsibility for tomorrow. I grew up surrounded by many of the artists that were part of Harlee Little’s creative orbit and who frequented ‘The Studios’ at Randolph Place. Coming to understand the visionary fortitude that it took for he and artist Juliette Madison to establish, underwrite, and sustain this artistic nexus- in a much different Washingtonian era- deserves even further exploration, documentation, and appreciation.”

The result of this historic and collaborative unearthing is the establishment of the Harlee Little Artist’s Residency at STABLE. This yearlong residency, welcomed by STABLE and underwritten by the Black Artists of DC (BADC), will award studio space within STABLE to an artist of great promise selected by BADC. This residency has been established to continue in the tradition of Harlee Little’s ethos of sharing mentorship, professional training, critical peer review, and networking that continually thrives at 336 Randolph Place.

History of The Studios at 336 Randolph Place:
In late 1985, artists Harlee Little and Juliette Madison arrived on Randolph Place, at the edge of a forgotten railyard. Little, an established photographer, envisioned this shuttered Nabisco horse stable as a state of the art photography studio, where Black photographers could shoot their subjects while trading the latest tech and techniques. Madison, a young fashion designer, imagined a small atelier and collaborating on fashion shoots with her husband. She underwrote their shared vision, and the two became not only the first studio tenants, but pioneering patrons of DC’s own artistic movements towards collectivity, exchange, and resource sharing between working artists.

Over the next 13 years, “The Studio”, was reconfigured, refashioned, and rebuilt from the inside into studios, shooting galleries and photo processing facilities, intentionally made highly accessible in an era where access to comparable amenities was unheard of elsewhere. Its legendary cyclorama, built by Little’s own hands, was the only of its scale in the city, sitting at the gravitational center of Black photographers, sculptors, painters, writers, dancers, and musicians. Here, a foundation was laid for organizations such as the Black Artists of DC (BADC), The Exposure Group, and other overlapping creative collectives to formally establish themselves as entities in solidarity with one another.

Today, the building is occupied under similar auspices, now functioning as STABLE. In honor of the legacy held within this unique property and given continuous new life through contemporary DC artists, STABLE and the Black Artists of DC share an allegiance to steward the deed of creating shared space across the spectra of Washingtonian arts communities.

The Black Artists of DC is a non-profit headquartered in Washington, DC. BADC officially formed in 1999 between three artists, Viola Leakm PLANTA and Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter, as a solution to resolve the lack of communication and support between local creators. Over the last 22 years, BADC has grown to become a transitional arts network composed of artists, educators, scholars, curators and collectors involved in all disciplines who have at one time lived, studies, or worked in the Washington metropolitan area.

Our membership ranges from emerging to established talents, from practicing professionals to those practicing solely for the joy of art, and generations spanning all adult age groups. Today, BADC members live, exhibit, study, perform and curate on every continent.

STABLE is located at 336 Randolph Place NE.