We Love Arts: Evolve Urban Arts Project

Evolve at the Pierce School. Photo courtesy Eric Hope.

Evolve at the Pierce School. Photo courtesy Eric Hope.

Arts organizations tend to get hit the hardest in times of economic distress or, let’s face it, the current weather crisis. When galleries and theaters have to shutter their doors for even one night, it can be devastating. So consider this your PSA for Arts today: once we’re out of this mess, hit a play, see an exhibit, get out there and help the arts as much as you can. They’re really going to need it.

And there are so many worthy arts centers here in DC that go beyond the typical; we are truly lucky! One such unassuming place is Evolve Urban Arts Project in the H Street Arts District, with a special mission to promote local artists. Basically, says curator Eric Hope, “I’m trying to take some chances and give exposure to up-and-coming artists.” The recent exhibit by Dana Ellyn in December was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, and upcoming shows look to match that intensity. Let’s take a closer look at one of DC’s pioneering galleries.

Evolve Urban Arts Project came about when Chris Swanson and Jeff Printz bought the Pierce School in 2000 and renovated it to include a home for themselves and several loft units. A few years later, they started arts exhibits in the main foyer and throughout the public spaces of the building. Curator Eric Hope came on board in April 2009 and saw the potential to expand their profile in the DC arts community. The only steadfast rule, strongly encouraged by Swanson, is the promotion of local talent, and the exhibition space is free to the artists.

“Lowkey really describes us,” Eric explains, “I’m happy to have the freedom to work with artists who push boundaries and take chances.”

Evolve Interior, with Dana Ellyn installation. Photo courtesy Eric Hope.

Evolve Interior, with Dana Ellyn installation. Photo courtesy Eric Hope.

Eric meets artists by going on studio visits, attending Artomatic, and other venues. He’s drawn to an artist’s work when “it causes me to stop, stare and say “hmm…..”  I’d say from what I’ve seen he has an excellent eye for the evocative and the innovative. Witness Dana Ellyn’s Divinely Irreverent show, whose frank explorations I absolutely loved. Now showing through March 27 is Erica Riccardelli‘s Observed Misbehavior, with a opening reception Saturday, February 13th from 4-7pm. Riccardelli’s photographs create a deeply imaginative world fueled by her migratory childhood as an army brat.

In April, the architecturally inspired cross-hatched drawings of Matthew Carucci will be on display from April 10 through May 22 – Eric describes his work as detailing how “urban societies are continually striving to build higher and at the same time alienating us from nature.” Newly relocated to DC from California, Jerome Pouwels will also collaborate on several works relating to Carucci’s series on cranes.

Taking over on June 5 will be a group show with painter Jessica van Brakle, photographer Wess Brown and installation artist Alexandra Zealand, which will continue the architecture theme in an as-yet untitled show that sounds pretty ambitious – an exploration of “what an urban landscape might look like if nature reasserted and claimed predominance over the land” – hmm… sounds familiar to our current snoverkill, no?

Evolve has an admirable mission and is a friendly environment to visit and view art. Please take a look.

Evolve Urban Arts Project
Gallery Hours Monday-Friday 1-4pm and by appointment
1375 Maryland Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20003


As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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One thought on “We Love Arts: Evolve Urban Arts Project

  1. I loved working with Eric Hope and exhibiting at Evolve. And all-around wonderful experience! I will do what I can to help them gain the continued and increased exposure they deserve…. and I look forward to showing with them again in the future! :)