Features

Rhizome: A Haven For D.C.’s Experimental Music and Arts Communities

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By Jordan Snowden

Tucked away on a quiet side street in Takoma Park is a white house with a small sign marked “Rhizome.” On the surface, it looks like a typical family home, but it’s actually a space where D.C.’s most innovative, forward-thinking creatives go to showcase their work.

“[We’ve lost] places we’ve all loved like Union Arts and Bohemian Caverns,” said Steve Korn, one of Rhizome’s founding board volunteers. “We’re hoping we can build a strong enough community here at Rhizome that we can buck this trend.”

Rhizome is a non-profit community space that’s become a hub for cultural experimentation in the District. While the venue regularly puts on concerts, Rhizome also hosts workshops, lectures, demonstrations and other events that go beyond music. Just in the last month, Rhizome has organized a concert featuring Chicago saxophonist Ernest Dawkins in addition to a lecture on activist art and climate change. Many of the events are organized by Maple House Collective along with other local booking collectives like Select DC, Sonic Circuits and Transparent Productions.

“We also get a fair number of events just through our website, from people who hear about Rhizome and want to play a show here, host a workshop, talk or display an art installation,” said Korn.

Rhizome’s space, which was previously a hair salon, opened in March and was brought to life by six volunteers. They wanted to open an inclusive venue for the community, but didn’t really have an idea of what “an open, welcoming DIY space,” would look like in practice. “In that sense, Rhizome itself has been an experiment in community placemaking,” said Korn.

As the house sat vacant after the salon closed, pipes burst and flooded the building–a costly expense to fix. A small grant from the city of Takoma Park helped the volunteers fund the venue’s renovation.

“We still need to find more grants and donations to make it sustainable for the long-term,” said Korn. To help pay for expenses, Rhizome depends on contributions from concertgoers, the Maple House Collective, and the money they make from hosting events.

Some of the diverse events Rhizome has coming up include a residency with gonzo instrument-maker Peter Blasser, who will demonstrate how to build synthesizers and a giant solar sound sculpture. This fall will also mark the beginning of an experimental film and expanded cinema series, with a 16mm cyanotype workshop and monthly screenings from local independent filmmakers.

“Take a workshop or come see a show,” said Korn. “In doing so, you’ll not only get to see some great artists at work, but you’ll also help make sure we can continue to provide a space in D.C. for them to perform and exhibit.”

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