DC’s ‘Hidden’ Art Galleries
Entryways to other worlds are hidden in DC alleys. The Capitol is booming with cultural experiences that transport us to different countries and times – from world-renowned museums, to grungy modern performance art spaces.
Tourists come from all over the world to walk through DC’s free museums. But what’s less talked about, but equally impressive, is DC’s underground modern visual arts scene.
It’s full of hidden galleries, trinkets and treasures to discover, and inspiring spaces that aren’t populated with gigantic crowds– a welcome change from many better known hot spots around the city. These “secret” art galleries not only make for interesting and offbeat evenings that don’t break the bank, but give you new experiences and anecdotes to use at next week’s networking event.
Here’s where you’ll find the best unique art in the city:
The Hamiltonian Gallery
When I first moved to DC, The Hamiltonian Gallery was one of the first places I visited. A tiny gallery on U Street, this space has a unique collection of modern art focused on Hamiltonian artist fellows just starting out in their careers, meaning you could be seeing the work of the next Jackson Pollock. Noelle Tucker, a student, call The Hamiltonian, “the perfect platform for art.” Bonus: artist talks happen on select nights with new exhibits. I’m always amazed at how down to earth, relatable, and friendly the artists are as they explain their process and inspirations.
Cost: $0 | Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12 PM – 6 PM | Where: 1353 U Street NW, Suite 101, Washington, DC 20009| Nearest Metro Station: U Street
The Fridge DC
If you’re lost around Eastern Market and wander into a back alley, you’ll stumble upon The Fridge DC. A small space with unfinished concrete floors and scribbled marks on the doors, with its funky fringe-like atmosphere, The Fridge aims to make the arts “accessible to everyone.” Bonus: get your hands dirty. The Fridge hosts community events like stencil and spray paint workshops throughout the year.
Cost: Varies. See website for details | Hours: Thursday – Friday: 1PM–7 PM. Saturday: 12 PM-7 PM. Sunday: 12 PM–5 PM. Events often happen outside of these hours. See website for details | Where: 516 1/2 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003 | Nearest Metro Station: Eastern Market
You may have heard about the abandoned tunnels about 20 feet beneath Dupont Circle. This vast space was originally a trolley station, then a fallout shelter, and then, for a short period of time, a food court. In 2014, an organization called Dupont Underground reclaimed and revitalized the underground space as an art gallery, opening an innovative installation called Raise/Raze in late April of 2016. Bonus: this gallery is a landmark piece of weird DC history.
This renovated 1900s Victorian and Romanesque church is covered in colorful murals and stop-and-stare-worthy works of inventive public art. Blind Whino’s exhibits aren’t constrained to its interior. Artwork changes weekly. Bonus: any resident can rent the space, and showcase art, music, spoken word, or even hold festivals.
The Phillips Collection
If you dig more traditional forms of modern art, or are looking for a more accessible introduction, head to The Phillips Collection. The Phillips hosts more than 3,000 works by artists like Monet, O’Keeffe and Klimt, along with lesser known contemporary artists. Bonus: formerly the home of its founder, Duncan Phillips, the historic mansion housing the art is a must see itself.
Cost: Tuesday – Friday, by donation excluding ticketed exhibits. Saturday – Sunday, $10 excluding ticketed exhibits. See full pricing information | Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM. Sunday, 12 PM – 7 PM. Thursday Extended Hours (Phillips After Five): 5 – 8:30 PM. | Where: 1600 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009 | Nearest Metro Station: Dupont Circle
Arts in Foggy Bottom Outdoor Sculpture Biennial
Arts in Foggy Bottom presents pop-up sculpture exhibits every other year in Historic Foggy Bottom. Bonus: many devoted residents purchase these cool sculptures after the event and they become permanent parts of the neighborhood.
Corcoran School of the Arts & Design and Corcoran Gallery of Art
George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts & Design shows exhibits featuring the works of students and visiting artists year round, and the affiliated Corcoran Gallery of Art’s renowned collection features art from all over the world. Both are currently closed for major renovations, but keep them on your list of fun places to explore once they reopen.
Cost: Varies, but currently closed. See website for details | Hours: Varies, but currently closed. See website for details | Where: 500 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20006 | Nearest Metro Station: Farragut West