While trying to gain notoriety as a photographer in 2004, Jesse Cohen knew the value of good connections. Friends had served as a bridge to his first solo show in New York City, as well as his other endeavors as an emerging artist. But the problem was, he didn’t know enough people.
“I realized anything that happened was through somebody that I knew,” he says. “I knew at that point I had to find ways for things to expand. I had to meet more people.”
Cohen took on the role of creating and organizing a group of artists in the Washington, D.C., area with the creation of artdc.org — a networking and social hub for local artists and art patrons. The site has since grown to more 2,400 registered users and expanded to include a gallery in Hyattsville.
“I realized I had been running my own website, so maybe I could start one for everybody else,” says Cohen, 34, of Arlington, who also manages a Bethesda frame shop.
A main feature of artdc.org is its community forums, where artists can network with each other as well as find connections with art dealers and gallery owners. The website creates a home base for artists and allows them to post images of their work or ask each other technical questions, Cohen says. Users can also share calls for entries, and the site includes links to local artists’ websites and a map to galleries.
“I think every artist needs a kit of sorts,” he says. “You need to have your PR kit assembled. You need to have your work documented. You need to have your resume. Your list of shows.”
After creating a solid online platform for artists, Cohen wanted to continue the concept in the real world where the artist’s work could be more accurately experienced. After several successful pop-up gallery shows, the physical manifestation of artdc.org came in 2008 in the form of a 900 square feet of gallery space in Hyattsville.
“Really the goal is trying to connect D.C.-area artists, create this network. Having space to exhibit art really seems to be a motivating factor for artists,” he says. “In the end, everybody who is doing art really wants to sell their work and get it out there.”
Cohen serves as the director of the artdc Gallery that highlights artists in a variety of mediums. While he does jury some of the shows, Cohen also invites guest curators in order to provide the greatest variety and outreach to the community.
“They’ll find artists who I don’t know and put together a show that I think is really unique,” he says.
The public has even served as a curator for the People’s Choice show, in which online votes were tallied to determine the pieces shown, he says.
“People were actually thinking about what looks good together, and it was completely juried online,” he says.
Other community shows have included a “12 by 12” show where 144 pieces of art all under the size of 12 by 12 inches were shown, as well as all-inclusive shows where anybody can show up and hang their work.
The concept of artdc.org was born out of Cohen’s frustration with the local arts scene, and through his efforts he felt he has made a difference in widening the spectrums of art resources in the area.
“Networks have been made, friendships have been developed. It’s been very positive,” he says.
For more information visit www.artdc.org. The artdc Gallery is located at 5710 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville.