Washington DC, Hillyer Art Space, the capital

Cohesion - Daniel Shanken
Cohesion – Daniel Shanken

Hillyer Art Space, 15/05/14

This is my first time in DC and I’m surprised by how much I like it, the low rise buildings and handsome architecture, combined with the unavoidable sense of intrigue, make it feel warm and dynamic at the same time.

Hillyer Art Space is centrally located at Dupont Circle, it sits nestled behind hotels and embassies, right in the middle of the capital. I realise it’s the first contemporary art gallery that I’ve shown the programme at, and it feels very welcome.

The space is managed by two full-time staff, Allie Frazier (Events and Public Programme Coordinator) and Allison Nance (Gallery Director), working alongside interns to deliver the programme, which is a combination of short-term exhibitions, screenings and artist talks.

We sit in the gallery space with iced coffee (it is a warm, muggy day) and talk about the funding situation in Washington DC and the infrastructure for film in the city. It appears the main support structure for showing film in the city is via festivals, including DC Shorts Festival, DC Independent Film Festival and 48 Hour Film Project. A couple of other gallery spaces show artists’ film, but mainly as exhibited work, rather than as screenings, these are: Hamiltonian Gallery and Project 4 Gallery.

We talk about funding for the arts. DC Commission for the Arts sounds like a god-send for the city, which funds individual artists and organisations with non-project funding, received following an application to the commission. Unusually the city has a decent amount of funding, compared to other US cities. Finance is gathered by the commission through the city’s planning gain programme, i.e. by requiring new construction in the city to provide funds towards cultural activity in exchange for being given planning rights.

I have a good conversation with Allie and Allison about the possibility of working together, and I’m hoping there might be a way for us to collaborate in the future. I hope so, because the Hillyer Arts Space team and space are inspiring. And I like Washington DC – a lot.

The screening takes place in the centre of the gallery space in the evening, and has an excellent turn out; helped along, I am sure, by the free, freshly made popcorn. The films are received really well, lots of discussion ensues afterwards and I feel really proud of the programme and the artists who made the work.

Afterwards, the Hillyer guys take me to an amazing dive bar, which I am failing to remember the name of. It sold the most wonderful variety of craft beers, including banana beer, which was surprisingly very good. I’ll update with a name when I have one. Allie, Allison?

And now, home…