When you think Washington, the first thing that comes to mind is likely ‘politics’ but Blind Whino, an art museum and activation space for DC creatives located in Southwest, DC, is looking to change that. Intrigued by Blind Whino’s vibrant facade and exhibits, we met with Ian Callender, co-founder of the SW Arts Club, to hear his thoughts on the evolution of the Southwest neighborhood, art in DC and how Blind Whino is helping change the DC’s political image.
As we sat in the paint splattered museum gallery space, Ian shared the story behind the inception of Blind Whino, a certified non-profit. Long before becoming a creative space, the building, built in 1886, was home to the Friendship Baptist Church. In 2005, the site was approved to be redeveloped, but the property owner couldn’t find a developer partner and then the recession hit the following year. The owner, wanting to activate the space from the outside, reached out to a local gallery owner, who later aligned with Ian of the event firm Suite Nation, to have him plan a transformation for the historic church.
As a 501c3 non-profit organization, they delivered an arts venue and museum that perfectly fit the bill. The re-imagination included a full exterior paint job by artists HENSE, an interior mural by MEGGS, and an interior build out to accommodate exhibits and installations. Since 2013, Blind Whino has used its 15,000+ square feet to host community-based arts programming, installations and public and private events that celebrate the arts in DC. This includes the current SUPERFIERCE installation by DC native Maggie O’Neill. The installation features local DC female artists, workshops and various programming and aims to give a platform for women in the arts. Ian has his eye on installations, like SUPERFIERCE, that create conversation, change and lasting impact. “There is a need for art space in DC and Blind Whino adds to the cultural conversation by changing the face of this neighborhood,” shared Ian. By adding passion and paint to the Southwest neighborhood, Blind Whino has made the surrounding area more approachable locals and visitors alike and is helping spur development.
So what’s next for Blind Whino & Southwest, DC?
In the beginning, Ian shared “we didn’t know what the plan was beyond great art and community events.” Now, he proudly flips through a thorough deck from Streetsense that shows a clear vision for the future of Blind Whino and the Southwest neighborhood. One that includes bigger footprints, more partnerships and positions Blind Whino at the very core of a geographic “SW Arts Triangle.” While the details of this robust plan are yet to unfold, we’re confident that a grander intersection of arts, community and change is on the horizon.
Be sure to experience this cultural institution’s open gallery on Saturdays and Sundays from 12PM to 5PM, or stop by for Free DC Yoga on Wednesdays at 6PM. Either way, a trip to this hidden gem in the Southwest neighborhood won’t disappoint because Blind Whino is sure to inspire the District for years to come.