Ian Callender, owner of the Blind Whino, is changing the way D.C. experiences culture and the arts. The SW arts center opened in 2013 long before ground broke on the Wharf. On any given day, you can find a panel discussion, fashion show, exhibition opening or DJ battle taking place in the church splashed with psychedelic colors. As a hub for these major events, Ian is among the group of influencers shaping the “going out” culture within the city and surrounding areas. Artist collectives and event spaces are bridging communities with curated events that make the arts inclusive.His upcoming projects include an H Street mural with local artist Naturel and a new venue across from Audi Field.
The Bridge caught up with Ian to learn more about the future of Blind Whino and the ever-changing culture scene.
1. How would you describe “going out” culture in D.C.?
“Going out” in D.C. has so many classifications and categories but they all seem to cypher around cocktails, cuisine and a curated sound of some sort. Whether it’s going to Park for Happy Hour & dinner on a Thursday or Aqua to see Backyard Band perform live on a Friday to even experiencing one of the many waterfront areas our city has to offer, it’s an easily achievable happenstance in Washington, D.C.
2. How has your vision for Blind Whino evolved since its opening?
What started as a temporary pop up rent free for one year (March 2013-March 2014) has now birthed a long term project with developmental growth at the site. We attained a sustainable business model in just one year of our non profits lifespan with an opportunity to co develop alongside the property owners which is a rarity.
3. As the neighborhood continues to change, given the incoming mixed-use buildings and Rubell gallery how does Blind Whino fit in?
When we secured Alex Brewer (Hense) to paint the exterior of the building in October 2012 and launched Blind Whino Aug. 26, 2013, the neighborhood was not ripe and ready for all the development that is happening now. Our small block at H Street SW and Delaware Avenue SW was a homebase for drugs, prostitution, violence and more, so once we activated the building and brought almost 20,000 people to a new arts and cultural center in just a few months, people started to see the “vision” and with Rubell’s moving on their plans, we knew we that we were the fit factor; meaning that we were an anchor not just for Southwest but for the entire city and surrounding region.
4. What other venues do you find to especially innovative in their positioning strategies?
Considering that event venue spaces are scarce in our city, we have noticed museums, restaurants, clubs and non traditional locations serving as a backdrop for an event venue space. In most cases the infrastructure is already there so it’s a seamless transition especially for food & beverage. Outside the event venue scope, I love how Renwick is utilizing their physical infrastructure to match the content positioned within the gallery.
5. What’s your definition of the perfect D.C. night out (venues/experiences)?
Multidimensional. These days it’s tough to leave the house for a singularly experience like going to the movies or even dinner. A perfect night out has subsets; 1) entertainment 2) food 3) cocktails 4) vibes the rest flow freely around those core components.
6. In your opinion, what’s the next wave of going-out experiences, how can venues switch things up for people?
All inclusive // That’s all I’ll share for now 🙂
7. How do you think the D.C. nightlife scene stacks up against other major cities you’ve visited?
Considering that I’m currently in Atlanta, I have seen some variances from D.C., but it’s all pretty much the same.
8. Where do you like to entertain guests and friends in the city?
Eat Spots. Almost every ounce of entertaining I do falls in line with specific locations which i know they would enjoy and I have people at those locations that can enhance the experience. Park at 14th, Kith/Kin at the Wharf, The Riggsby are my go-tos but finding an area with sensory overload such as U Street or H Street are equally engaging.