Little Salon
Photo: Courtesy of Little Salon

Little Salon, Big Community

Chris Maier is typically tucked in a cramped office, nestled in Shaw’s Wonder Bread Factory, surrounded by countless start-ups and even more creative minds in one of WeWork’s collaborative DC offices. Made by Little’s space is more like a closet, with two desks stuffed within, and two bodies working toward innovation in storytelling through their creative agency.

Once a month, Made by Little’s creative director, along with other art lovers, are cramped somewhere else. Normally, Maier and his peers are in a house or apartment, but sometimes they’re in a studio or a large office space. Each event enlists five artists of any medium, from electric violinists to spoken-word poets, to stand in front of the audience, usually aligned shoulder to shoulder. These brave performers are eye level, not elevated on a stage, and are a mere five to 10 feet away from the community built over the past two years – Little Salon.

“In 2014, we wanted to get a little apartment and put together a fun event with a writer, poet and a quartet from the National Symphony Orchestra,” Maier says. “We put it on Twitter and we just waited to see who would show up. About 65 people came, we put beer in the bathtub and people enjoyed it.”

Maier, who has an MFA in creative writing, experimented with this sort of event when he was a grad student at the University of Illinois. As part of his work with the university’s literary magazine, Ninth Letter, he hosted get-togethers in restaurants and bars to bring literature to people outside of the bubble.

“We wanted to break down the barriers to get more readers,” Maier says. “I moved here, got into work at a creative agency, and I felt I lost touch with the creative world. This was at a fever pitch when I read a couple readings and no one came out except my friends. That’s what led me to try and get a larger audience for artists and their works. We try to combine the big and small.”

If you trek to a Little Salon, you’d be amazed to know nearly all of the groundwork is laid by Maier alone. He seeks spaces, reaches out to artists and promotes the events on social media. Not to mention, he can be easily spotted with a camera taking shots throughout the respective events, even if that means squeezing between the jammed patrons to secure a respectable photo. This summer, he had a little help from volunteers, but he’s not sure if that will carry over to the fall.

“I still find contacts, and enlist artists [and] performers to participate and curate the event,” Maier says. “The complication with Little Salon is it’s a lot of work to get a stranger to open up to a lot of people. I would love to have more people in the mix here, but it’s such a specific process. Part of it is I’ve lived here for a long time, and I know a lot of the people in the scene.”

Immediately after each event, Maier goes home, uploads his photos to Facebook, builds an email blast and begins sifting through prospective hosts for the next month.

This month, Little Salon is partnering with “What’s Going On? Voices of Shaw,” a celebration of art in numerous shared spaces in Shaw from September 24 to October 2. Little Salon will host on September 27, but the venue hasn’t been decided yet.

“[What’s Going On?] wanted Little Salon to be a partner, so we’ll be helping to cross-promote that,” Maier says. “They’re not trying to program Little Salon or anything. I think it’ll be cool. The fact that someone came to us proves that we’re doing something right.”

Next month, Little Salon will hit Congress Heights just east of the Anacostia River with a lightly Halloween-themed show on October 18.

“The biggest thing that I hope people take away is a sense of the rich creative life that surrounds them,” Maier says. “I want people to be more involved and more appreciative of the creative scene in DC. I want them to have a willingness to dive into different areas of art that they might not [normally] dive into. Maybe you arrived to see poetry, but you sort of dug the paintings. That’s why we have the performances in short doses.”

In the meantime, Maier will be in his tiny office producing work for Made by Little clients. As you can imagine, like most of his physical world, he is often cramped for time, but he’s more than willing to pay that price to continue cultivating a cohesive arts community.

For information about upcoming Little Salon events,  visit www.littlesalondc.com .  

Photo: Courtesy of Little Salon