Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.
About | Summary | Events | Media | Backers | Contact/Sign Up | Donate
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Where I once carved marble statuary now sits a crate full of toilet-paper and towel rack fixtures. The dust is familiar though.
On a hot afternoon visit to DC, I undertook to visit my old studio at 57 N Street. I knew it would be different--all the old places have changed. I still wasn't prepared for what I found.
I didn't think I would be able to go inside. The fancy condos I expected are not usually welcoming to sentimental artists. That's been my experience with my other ex-studios. They don't want to be friends.
This time, the door was open and I went inside.
Now the place is warehouse (open to the public) for an architectural salvage store. The space was opened up and stuffed full of old doors, mantlepieces, tile fragments, clawfoot tubs, and the like. Without the warren of plywood walls that defined the old spaces, I was able to walk about freely and I was actually able to appreciate the old building's industrial past a little better.
I had to concede that this is an appropriate use for the facility, not really that different from the way we used it. I was a little sad to see the art gone but it would be unjust to cry "gentrification" in this case and that fact left me oddly chagrined.
All of the spaces in the building we had inhabited so intensively--the gallery, the printing room, the roof garden, my studio, my friends' lofts--were all being used for something quite different, but honorable. There was a strange dissonance between my very real memories, which were replaying in the present tense, and the objective, undeniable reality in front of me.
The real eye-opener came on my way out. I stopped at the counter and explained who I was, how I was an artist there and how we transformed the building. The clerk did not even look up. "Yeah, ok," was all he said. Buh-bye.
Time waits for no one.
Having made my primary point, I'll indulge in one gratuitous yarn about how much things have changed--and how much harder life was for me than the current whippersnapper tenants.
Although Shaw still has its rough edges, like all of DC it's slightly less gritty there. In my temporal dissonance I was reminded just how bad it was when I was there. The present-day entrance to the warehouse is made of wood and glass without any discernible gate or bars. That would have been ridiculous back in the day; I'll never forget the time when someone tried to force entry by ramming their car into our medieval style loading dock gate.
Time does march on.