The Arlington Art Gallery inside a garage

The Friends Artspace is a unique new gallery making noise on Edgewood St.

 

Decorated with translucent plastic foliage, this was the most beautiful garage door I had ever seen. That was the second shock. The first was, of course, pulling up to the address of a brand new art gallery I’d made an appointment to visit, and arriving at a one-car garage. Why a garage? I asked Margaret Bakke, the proprietor of this bijou gallery: the Friends Artspace. 

“I’ve spent the last few years designing and building my home outside D.C. in Arlington, VA,” Bakke said. “It has a detached garage for zoning reasons and I don’t want to house a car. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I imagined it could be an art space. I realized, as we all did, that renting a remote space to commute to in order to pay for our homes is part of the theater of the absurd. Even big galleries transitioned to appointment-only, and pop-up and alternative spaces became more the norm, so a garage turned gallery was born.”

At only about a year old, Friends is already taking its first steps. 

“So far we have had three awesome exhibits with a collectible design bent,” Bakke said. “The inaugural exhibit was a group show ‘Through a Glass Darkly: Mirrors and Vanity.’” This show elevated traditional homegoods, featuring dreamlike avant-garde mirrors and furniture. “The second was a solo show of Baltimore-based artist Hoesy Corona, Earth Mother Bloom, displaying their vinyl climate ponchos.” A technicolor political expression, and the first solo show at Friends, this exhibit was important. “And, currently Sporarium, an installation of fantastical ceramic lighting by Yuko Nishikawa, is on display through May 27.” These hand-made fixtures are more sculpture than appliance, but would still make lovely lighting if one was so inclined.  

The gallery is open for visit by appointment. A ticket is free, and art is for sale within the gallery and on Friends’ website. These appointment-only exhibitions have earned commendation from such publications as the Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, and the Washington Post, but Bakke isn’t complacent. 

“In the future I hope to work with other curators,” Bakke said. “I know there is so much more Friends can do and one of the many great things about being a small business is that I am nimble. Eventually I plan to have regular hours that Friends is open rather than just by appointment. I think that appointments can be a barrier to entry, and though it has worked well in this season, I’d like to evolve there in the future.”

Arlington does have some art galleries, but no others are nestled on a residential street like Friends. Even still, the local art community has been very supportive.

“I love the community of artists and art workers in the D.C. area,” Bakke said. “We have received support and visits from Chela Mitchell Gallery, Homme, Latela Curatorial, Monochrome Collective, Nomü Nomü, Tephra ICA, Arlington Arts Center, Dirt DMV, Cody Gallery and others (check these out if you haven’t!), and of course so many artists. I feel like we all know that more is more. There is an abundance of talent here and a need for more studio space and display space and patronage! I think most people want to have art and creative spaces close to where they live. I hope my neighborhood feels that way.”

If you or a friend feels this way, and wants to experience Friends, you can make a free appointment to visit them at 2400 N. Edgewood St. (~a five minute drive from the school) or buy art at friendsartspace.com. Currently, their Sporarium exhibit has closed, however, keep an eye out, as more is absolutely to come. Bakke, and Friends, are committed to art in Arlington. 

“It is a great privilege to be the custodian of such incredible art, and cool that my family gets to be immersed in it as well,” Bakke said. “I think art is so integral to storytelling and information dissemination. Beauty and visual communication is life saving and I love to be in a life giving business.”.

 

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