Dupont Underground has come quite a long way since their former Streetcar Named Desire tunnel days decades ago and the new problems it’s facing have us feeling all STELLAAAAAAA!!!!!!!
I mean, don’t get us wrong – this is far from the worst of the worst this little space has seen. After all, there was also that one time in the 90’s when something called the Dupont Down Under food court crashed and burned. I know what you’re thinking:
“What the heck is Dupont Down Under – and –what does it have to do with the down under? We’re not even in Australia… but I can’t help but notice such clever wordplay! Who thinks of such things?! These guys are literary magicians…” — our point exactly.
But we digress – the failure of this underground food court pretty much left the public (and by public we mean pretty much every potential investor known to mankind) pretty iffy regarding the inherent value of the space.
Regardless, the Dupont Circle project has transformed in the face of such obstacles and over the past decade grown to be quite is quite arguably one of the most contemporary, hip and trendy little art scenes in the district.
The space which houses dozens of colorful graffiti murals from local artists puts on several exhibits, tours and improv performances on a regular basis, bringing in about 2,500 visitors per month.
Sadly, word has recently gotten out that this ambitious little project is nearing its last leg as the third quarter of 2017 nears the corner. What many may be surprised to know is that about three years ago in 2014, a five-year lease for $150,000 was negotiated with the city. This lease is set to end in 2019 and the space is struggling to find private donors to keep it going.
We know what you’re thinking – why not just repay the lease and request more funding? Well, the thing is, the Underground is kinda like…
You see, the problem with receiving funding from the city is that the space needs to comply with certain regulations in order to continue to do this. Among these are a chairlift to maintain compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, a ventilation system and additional signage on the exterior of the premises.
Gotham City is no help to you here Batman, especially when the help you need is ironically enough to the tune of $150,000. What the bejesus!? Pretty ironic, not going to lie — but the facts are the facts according to its chief executive Suzanne Corgan.
As a result, the project is having to look towards corporate and private sponsorship to dole out the major investments necessary to keep it going.
This is pretty important considering that artists such as David Carlson characterize the space as helping to revitalize and “improve the presence of the current gallery scene. ” with a goal to tap into the current local talent pool as well as merge into broader more contemporary markets.
“This hasn’t been easy… I didn’t have a gray hair when I started this.”
-Julian Hunt, co-principal of Hunt Laudi Studio
The program directors have big dreams and aspirations with regards to the future of the space that lead beyond your average pop-up exhibit and docent tour. In a few months it will exhibit the 2017 winners of the World Press Photo contest and has the honor of being the sole host in the United States to showcase it. When discussing the significance of the space, Hunt described the ambitions of it being something like “…a connector — between different groups within the city who wouldn’t otherwise interact, and between D.C. and a broader art scene that hasn’t come to the city before”.
So basically, one of the District’s most hip, trendy and avant-garde art spaces is living on borrowed time. To many, 2019 might seem like a ways out, but when it comes to the future of our contemporary art scene and the livelihoods of its full-time staff, it definitely feels more like the blink of an eye.