This month’s business highlight features Nicola Charles from 11:Eleven Gallery (10 Florida Ave. NW). The name was born from Charles’s strong belief in angel numbers. The number 1111 represents positivity, opportunity, and the manifestation of one’s goals, dreams, and aspirations. This is a perfect representation of the gallery’s values and vision, which Charles brought to the DC art scene when she opened in November 2019. A whirlwind of career experiences, life transitions, world travels, and chance encounters brought Charles’ love and knowledge of contemporary art from the UK to Truxton Circle. You can learn more about her journey here in her fun and candid interview with Artbox.
What makes 11:Eleven Gallery unique in the DC art scene?
I specialise in UK Contemporary and Urban art and am therefore able to showcase the talents of many world-renowned and truly international artists. The aesthetic is also relatively different from what you find in most DC galleries largely because many of the techniques used by our artists are quite advanced. For example, I have a number of pieces that are flocked with or have hand-applied 24k gold leaf.
Your career has taken you on many travels. What led you to land here in Truxton Circle?
The space I was supposed to be opening in when I arrived in DC fell through, so I went on the hunt for a new space. My search led me to Georgetown where I explained to a Realtor that I was looking for somewhere a little more edgy. His response was, ‘Edgy? Oh, I HAVE EDGY…’ He gave me the address. I came by, looked through the window, called him, and said, ‘I want it!.’ The rest is history. The diversity here and the proximity to the rest of the District make it really accessible; each day brings something completely different.
How do you choose the artists to feature in your gallery?
There are a number of factors I take into consideration, but once I have reached a ‘yes’ in my mind, I then contemplate how the artist and the artwork will complement the others. This process is most definitely different for each gallery though. Usually, if I feel a local artist doesn’t quite fit, I’ll always recommend another gallery that I think they might fit with.
Do you have a favorite artist?
Hmmmm! This depends on the day and my mood! But I work with some of my favourites, so come by the gallery to see a few of them in person!
Tell us about the programming that you do with schools in underserved communities.
Working with schools in underserved neighbourhoods has always been one of the founding principles behind the gallery. Even before I arrived in the US, I made many attempts to build some sort of programme with DC Public Schools. I even managed to have a call with somebody there to identify how to incorporate schools into the gallery. But, I was told that children in Wards 7 and 8 did not need a ‘Saviour’ and that I’d do better focusing on private schools and schools within Ward 3. DCPS has never responded to me since! So, in 2019, I was fortunate enough to meet two schoolgirls who loved the gallery and were willing to work with me to organise a school trip that included an artist talk and Q&A. I am also now planning a series of talks with teachers from a local school.
The gallery opened just months before the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you pivot to keep presenting art while the gallery was closed to the public?
Thankfully, I had launched the online gallery prior to opening the actual storefront, so we were heavily invested in our online presence, mostly Instagram. In hindsight, there was a lot more we could have and should have done, but ultimately, we were able to make it through, albeit by the skin of our teeth!
Access to art is important to you. How does the gallery make art, as you say, “inclusive to all and exclusive to none?”
We’ve worked really hard to ensure the gallery is a welcoming space to all. We take time to engage with our visitors, talking through the artists, their techniques, and even the framing, regardless of who you are, what you look like, or what your background is. I myself have been discriminated against or ignored when visiting galleries in DC, so I’d be devastated if anyone left 11:Eleven gallery feeling they had been overlooked.
What tips do you have for our neighbors who want to start exploring or collecting contemporary art?
Come by, let’s talk!
(image: Nicola Charles)