Arts Desk

The Blueprint Period

Though luxury condos and high-dollar restaurants may be the most obvious signs of investment in Washington, a few D.C. arts venues are getting a much-needed boost, too. Here are a few of them.

Church Street Theater
D.C. company Keegan Theatre’s primary venue in Dupont Circle “was never really properly equipped as a fully functioning theater, at least not for sold-out houses of 100-plus,” says Producing Artistic Director Mark A. Rhea. For one, it only has two single-toilet bathrooms shared by the cast, crew, and audience.

The planned $4 million renovation will open up the lobby with a multilevel glass vestibule and an elevator for ADA access. Cast and crew will get a dressing room space, a green room, a rehearsal room, and a classroom space for acting classes.

The renovation plans grew out of an anonymous patron’s wish for a bathroom upgrade, says Rhea. But it soon snowballed into a plan to redo the whole building. The patron has agreed to donate $1.5 million for the project, and Keegan is a little more than halfway to reaching its fundraising goal of $4 million.

It’s unclear, though, when building can begin. Rhea says the company is getting through what it hopes are the closing negotiations to purchase the building. Once that’s done, Rhea estimates that renovations will take place over six to nine months. —May Wildman

Pleasant Plains Workshop
The two-year-old art space on Georgia Avenue NW recently announced plans to take over the vacant neighboring space formerly occupied by Soul Vegetarian restaurant.

It plans to build a screenprinting studio and offer more classes and exhibits, dedicating its current space to retail and gallery space for local artists.

Pleasant Plains Workshop recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000 for screenprinting equipment, signage, a pressure washer, and a custom mural, among other upgrades. Need an incentive to donate? Give $30, and you get a “Georgia Ave. is for Lovers” T-shirt. —Ally Schweitzer

Dance Place
After 27 years in a former warehouse in Brookland, Dance Place is finally getting a makeover. Beginning in August, the dance venue plans to redo its lobby, upgrade its lighting and sound, swap out its theater seats, expand its dressing rooms, update its offices, and add a small third studio. It’s projected to reopen in March 2014.

In the meantime, Dance Place will continue to hold regularly scheduled classes in the Brookland loft space and new community center space being built nearby on 8th Street NE. Dance Place plans to perform once a month throughout the renovation period at other local theaters. Performances are already scheduled at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and the staff is seeking additional opportunities. So far, it’s raised $2.55 million toward a goal of $5 million with the help of the community, the national initiative Leveraging Investments in Creativity, and The Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation, for which the lobby will be named. —Zosia Dunn

Renwick Gallery
In 1972, the Renwick Gallery became a home for craft and decorative arts, and it hasn’t been renovated since. The Smithsonian recently announced that it will close the museum for renovations next year and reopen, it hopes, in 2016.

Designed by James Renwick, Jr., who also designed the Smithsonian Castle, in the mid-19th century, the space was intended to house the Corcoran Gallery of Art but soon proved to be too small for William Corcoran’s collection.

The Renwick is due for an HVAC overhaul; improvements to its electrical, plumbing, and communication systems; and updates to offices and workshops. A key goal of the renovation is to convert its lighting to LED to improve energy efficiency. The revitalization will be financed by 50-50 public-private split funds, but the Smithsonian hasn’t yet disclosed its total cost. —May Wildman

The print version of this article was published March 1. See the dead-tree version below.


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