Interview with Steve Hessler from Gallery O on H Street

When you walk up to Gallery O on H Street in Washington, DC, you feel as if you walked into someone’s clever imagination of an old world French alley combined with a modern artistic approach.  You can’t help but be drawn into the openness of the venue as well as the interesting spaces that invite you to explore them.

Practicing attorney Steve is an interesting and animated personality who has created a space that is just as interesting and animated.  The venue “is generated by his love for music in the air.”  As he was researching the history of the space he found a quote from someone who said that the used car lot that was previously there, was a gathering spot for the community.  Inspired by this history and his love for the history of New Orleans’ Congo Square (now Louis Armstrong Park), Steve wants to continue the use of the space as an open air gathering spot for the H street community.  He plans to accomplish this goal through “one off events that are a product of culture and community.”

Over the last 2 years his “Music in the Courtyard” events have brought in 150-200 people from a variety of backgrounds: black, white, Asian, straight, gay, lesbian, kids of all ages, the deaf community, and people from around the world.  As Steve says, “you can be from Massachusetts yet still respond to a steel pan, congo drum or a saxophone.” 

Music tends to bring people together and his programming for 2014 is going to be music driven and event specific.  He wants to create a space where musicians especially feel welcome.  He doesn’t want it to be too high brow yet he still wants to deliver quality.  As he says, “Artists want to get back to a place that is well run and respectful and that’s what we will be.”  He wants to encourage the jam session environment but with an emphasis on quality and musicianship.

Another interesting thing about Gallery O on H Street is the uniqueness of the layout.  There are layers to the spaces.  It is an adventure moving through the various environments that Steve has created.  His aim was to create a venue where there were “multi-levels inside and outside but you never lose touch with the music.”

You would be well-served making a visit over to Gallery O on H Street.  You can visit their website below and for starters, here is a list of their upcoming events:

Krampusnacht, December 5th, 2013
The original tradition of Krampusnacht comes from the Germanic custom of dressing up like the anti-Santa Claus and handing out coal to bad kids.  The event at the Gallery is going to be the opposite where they will be collecting toys for kids through the nonprofit Santa’s Cause.  There will be people wearing folkloric costumes along with music.

Twelfth Night, January 4, 2014
This used to be a private party that Steve and his wife used to have but has become a larger event involving the community.  This pre-Roman custom marks the changing of the seasons and incorporates Steve’s love of Medieval pageantry with attendants dressing up in period costumes and at least 3 king cakes will be served.  Past events have seen competitive attempts to get the baby in the cake so as to be crowned king for a year.

There are events planned in February (Black History Month), May (wedding) and June (DC Jazz Festival “Jazz in the Hoods”), but stay tuned because there will be a “steady diet of music at least every other weekend,” and knowing Steve these events will be anything but ordinary.  He loves to combine several different aesthetics: visual art, performance art and music including fire eaters, dancers and whatever else Steve’s creative mind can think of.

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