Dance Loft on 14 is working to provide affordable spaces for the arts
New complex plans would provide more studio space and affordable living for DC artists
Located in the heart of Ward 4, Dance Loft on 14 serves as both a community and a home for D.C. artists by providing accessible studio space, classes and events for community members.
In addition to rentals, another focus of Dance Loft is to engage the community by hosting arts-centered events. The organization puts on performances, thematic classes and auditions for various dance companies at their facility.
“It’s just a space for the community to rent, take classes and meet other artists in the area,” said Thelma Sabi, communications manager at Dance Loft on 14. “We make it possible for people to rent the space for whatever form of art they choose.”
Classes range in dance styles from contemporary to ballet, and there is a space on their website to make a class recommendation. Adult and youth dance classes cost $90 for a five-class package, $180 for a 10 class package or $20 for a single class.
The current facility, situated in a former 1920s art-deco movie theater, is in need of structural renovations. Because of this, Dance Loft on 14 is planning to expand their services with a new Green Arts Complex, which they hope to complete by 2024.
According to Dance Loft on 14’s website, if approved, the project would renovate the space into a five-story, multi-use building. The complex will feature four studios, two theaters and 101 apartment units, and will feature Net Zero Energy performance.
One main goal of the project is to provide affordable housing to local artists and residents; two-thirds of the units will be affordable for people at 30 to 60 percent or less of Median Family Income.
“In D.C., there’s not a lot of buildings that are affordable for artists specifically, so it’s a great way to put the two together,” Sabi said. “You’re able to take classes or rent space at an affordable rate — and also live up top. Before working at Dance Loft, I was actually a renter, and from an artist's perspective you have to consider the thousands of artists who just don’t have constant rental space.”
This complex also would provide steady studio space after years of an unstable arts scene in D.C. due to the coronavirus pandemic. Across the country, art and creative industries have suffered financially due to the pandemic, resulting in loss of jobs, revenue, and studio space.
“Imagine you are an artist or a creative and you are using a specific space every single week, and then boom, the owner has to shut down because they can’t afford rent anymore,” Sabi said. “That’s what has happened for the past two years and people are still recovering.”
Before the Green Arts Complex project can be started, however, it needs to be approved by the DC Zoning Commission. A petition seeking support for the new development has garnered over 900 letters.
According to Sabi, the DC Zoning Commission will vote on the fate of the project on May 5.
“We always encourage everyone to just stop by the space and see what we’re about. Even if you're not an artist, you know an artist or someone that rents space,” Sabi said. “If you just want to stop by and say hello or take pictures, you can really see what Dance Loft is about.”
Correction: A previous version of this article contained incorrect details about a Zoning Commission meeting.