Blair Murphy_Image for Press_Copyright Karen Ruckman04.15.17 – 05.06.17


Curated by Blair Murphy, Footprint aka the Lansburgh’s Notebook brings together photographs and other documentation to celebrate past arts spaces in downtown Washington, DC.

“Downtown is home to many artists and small arts groups, which can expect to be displaced if the area succumbs to the soul-less sterility embodied in K Street-style development. Our proposal is an attempt to spark discussion of Metrocenter development by all parties concerned, before the demolition and construction begin.”

– Richard Ridley, John Reyner, and Patrick Carey

“Paper Building,” Art Ink, Spring 1979, Published by the Museum of Temporary Art.

Footprint aka the Lansburgh’s Notebook explores the history of arts spaces in downtown DC, from the underrecognized legacy of the Museum of Temporary Art, led by Janet Schmuckal from 1974 until 1982, to the long legacy of Miya Gallery, an arts space dedicated to black art and culture run by Vernard Gray in several locations in downtown DC between 1976 and 2001. Over the last several decades, downtown DC has been home to dozens of galleries, non-profit organizations, dance companies, small theater spaces, and artist studio buildings. Nearly all of these spaces are now gone; many are also nearly forgotten. The exhibition’s title refers to The Lansburgh’s Notebook­­ ­– a trove of meeting notes, letters, contact lists, and other ephemera that document efforts to transform several floors of the Lansburgh Building into a central location for dozens of arts groups from across the city. The notebook was organized by Janet Schmuckal and can be found in the papers of the Museum of Temporary Art, contained in the Archives of American Art.

The history of arts spaces downtown is intertwined with the history of DC’s development, especially efforts by the DC Redevelopment Land Agency and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation to redevelop large swaths of downtown DC. Smaller arts organizations benefited temporarily, gaining access to empty space at a low cost. However, as development efforts moved forward throughout the 1980s and 1990s, these small groups lost their spaces and relocated to other parts of the city, or shut down entirely. Footprint aka the Lansburgh’s Notebook begins to archive and document this history, with a focus on the physical locations occupied by artists and arts organizations in the downtown core from the early 1970s to the present day.

Image: Organizers and potential tenants of the Washington Humanities and Arts Center outside the Lansburgh Building at 7th and E streets NW, 1979. Photograph copyright Karen Ruckman.



Blair Murphy is an independent curator and cultural worker based in Washington, DC and the Managing Director of DC Arts Center. She was a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow of the Whitney Independent Study Program from 2014 to 2015. Her past curatorial projects include exhibitions at The Kitchen (New York, NY), Field Projects (New York, NY), Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA), Washington Project for the Arts (Washington, DC), VisArts Rockville (Rockville, MD), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), and SPRING/BREAK Art Show (New York, NY). She has written for Hyperallergic, BmoreArt, and Daily Serving, among other outlets. She holds a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and an MA from Georgetown University.


Reception: Friday, April 21, 6-8pm (free and open to the public)

Luce Foundation Center Artist Talk: Sunday, April 30, 1:30pm (free and open to the public), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Third Floor


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