As a Real Estate Agent specializing in Shaw, and through my website HomesInShaw.com I write a blog which interviews the business proprietors of Shaw. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing both Drew Porterfield, Curator and Director for Long View Gallery and Suzi Molak, Long View's Events Director.
Drew: Long View started seven years ago half a block up the street, occupying a small, 800 square foot salon/gallery space. We were there for five years. Our lease was up and we had to make a decision whether we were going to try for the larger space. We were getting a lot of requests in our old space to hold birthday parties and corporate events. So, luckily, before the decision got too difficult, we met Suzi through her friend Kari Becker Beard, our graphic designer. And I’m not sure how long Suzi had been working with events at that point…
Suzi: Some years by that point.
Drew: Right. So we were much more confident with Suzi. We decided to move ahead with our plans, build the new space, and make the events happen. From the beginning of the decision it made sense to combine the events (Suzi’s responsibility) and the art gallery (Drew’s responsibility).
Suzi: Yes. We ended up here October 22, 2009. It has only been two and a half years, but the momentum behind the space has accelerated drastically.
Kevin: Only two years and you already have celebrities coming here, correct?
Suzi: We do! (laughs)
Kevin: What about the concept? Is Long View as simple as it seems?
Drew: I think it is. We are a fine art gallery during the day that operates exactly like a fine art gallery during the day, similar to a museum. By night we are still a fine art gallery but what’s more is that Suzi is able to bring fantastic clients and hold amazing events here: weddings, concerts, car companies come, film screenings, celebrity events, etc.
Kevin: Suzi, how has word spread about you so quickly?
Suzi: We started doing tours for Long View long before the official opening. For this reason we really hit the ground running when it opened. The buzz on the street was there. And, the events world in D.C. is a very small world…
Drew: …as is the gallery world. There is no other space that looks like this in D.C. The space itself generates press because it’s the only space that is unique and different because it doesn’t feel like a typical D.C. space. We pride on it being non-pretentious. It’s real. We want to abolish the stereotype of the typical, high-brow fine arts gallery.
Suzi: That’s right. And the rules are more lenient. Because we are creative with the space we encourage others to be creative with the space so everybody gets to make it their own. So, whereas other museums have a ton of rules that guests have to abide by our only rule is that we ask you don’t touch the art and hang on the white walls. Other than that, the space is yours to play with. The space never looks the same for any single event.
Kevin: Why was Shaw your destination?
Drew: We all own homes in Shaw.
Suzi: Yep. We all own homes in the neighborhood.
Drew: And we knew what we were doing was a destination. We could have done this anywhere and it would have worked. We are just invested in Shaw and we love Shaw.
Kevin: What about the people of Shaw?
Drew: Shaw is a fantastic neighborhood.
Suzi: Other neighborhood residents are as invested as we are. The neighborhood is very supportive.
Drew: The commercial start-up in 7th and 9th street slowing down slightly when the economy took a turn, and because of that, now, with the economy getting better there is an internal vigor in the people who live here for new businesses opening. People have been talking about Shaw for so long and everyone wants to see it change for the inclusive better.
Kevin: I understand what you mean by vigor. Every one of the business proprietors I have met in my interview series has contained an incredible, undying work ethic. And they are friendly too. It is so rare for a neighborhood to sustain that.
Kevin: What’s next for Long View?
Drew: We kind of like what we are doing right now (laughs).
Suzi: Yes! More of the same.
Drew: We like to think we can keep attracting excellent artists and exhibitionists, the same way we like to think we would keep attracting acclimated clients, celebrities, and cool stuff like that.
Suzi: We like working with whatever we feel comfortable with. I really enjoy setting up the local weddings. A lot of people who live in Shaw have gotten married here because it’s close to home. It says a lot when the community is giving your space such a compliment as that.
Kevin: That is for sure. Well, I really appreciate the interview and good luck in the coming months. You have a fantastic space here.
Drew: Thanks a lot.
Suzi: Thank you, Kevin.