The Children’s Art Studio Closes
The beginning of 2015 meant the closing of a chapter for local non-profit The Children’s Art Studio. After seven years in Tenleytown, the beloved art space closed its doors on December 31. According to founding director Nicole Brandes, who spoke with Tenleytown, D.C. in late November, the landlord declined to renew the studio’s lease, which ran out at the end of the year.
Originally run out of church basements and the library, The Children’s Art Studio had called 4723 Wisconsin Avenue, NW in the Tenley Hill building home for the past five years. A minimalist, open and contemplative space, the studio was reflective of Brandes’ philosophy on the arts, which she describes as being about “thinking, doing, and making” – a personalized journey rather than solely the end work.
Brandes and her fellow teachers – who have degrees in the arts, decades of art education experience, and are award winning artists in their own right – provided individualized, museum-quality education. Classes, which included drawing, painting, sculpture, and sewing, to name a few, were purposely kept small to ensure focused attention on each student. “We probably could have made twice as much money [with larger classes], but our focus is on the kids,” said Brandes.
Finances, however, were not at the root of the studio’s closure. “We are idealistic, but very grounded in our business practices,” Brandes emphasized. She was willing to negotiate the terms of the studio’s lease with the landlord, but could not reach an agreement.
Now she’s left looking for another space.
Brandes says she would like The Children’s Art Studio to remain in Tenleytown. “I love Tenleytown and the families are the best…people really care about their kids.”
However, she fears being priced out of the market. Despite several vacant storefronts, some of which have remained empty for extended periods, rents in the area are increasing. Other local businesses, including Payless, Eurasian, and PetMAC DC, have cited rising rental rates in their decisions to close or move locations.
Still Brandes is committed to finding a way to stay in the community. “We need places like this in Tenleytown,” she says.
Tenleytown resident Rennie Anderson agrees. “The Children’s Art Studio offered something really unique and special. My kids did classes and camps there and loved the freedom they had to create very open-ended projects with cool raw materials. And the studio was small, so they got to know Nicole and were very comfortable in the space. When my teenager aged out of classes, she kept going back as an assistant at camps and birthday parties for younger kids, and she loved that.”
The departure of the studio is clearly a significant loss for burgeoning young artists in the neighborhood and surrounding areas. Close to 200 local children took part annually in The Children’s Art Studio’s programs, and over the years nearly 300 middle and high school students had the opportunity to intern there, receiving mentoring in creative leadership and art education.
Brandes is actively pursuing a new home for The Children’s Art Studio, though nothing has materialized as of yet. She is trying to remain optimistic, despite the current setback, and is open to ideas or leads on a new space. If you know of a potential opportunity, she can be reached at [email protected].