The sight of a vacant retail location is usually discouraging, but over the last couple of years the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) has taken a different perspective, choosing to see these empty spaces as an opportunity.
After multiple businesses began to close across Alexandria—many of the shop owners choosing to retire, according to AEDP—a discussion took place on what way the city could use these now open spaces to help push Alexandria forward.
“The overwhelming consensus was we need new reasons for people to come to Alexandria and maybe we should try a pop-up program to help activate some of these spaces,” says Christina Mindrup, vice president of business development for AEDP and the person who has helped take charge of that pop-up program.
The first pop-up was a holiday-themed one at 116 King Street, and in the years since the program’s debut, a number of others have followed at varying locations promoting local art. Up next: an exhibit called Looking Up, produced in partnership with the Art League and the International Institute of Photography.
Looking Up, which opens Monday, April 2, and runs through May 1 at 104 South Union Street, will feature photography from girls from A Space of Her Own (SOHO) Old Town. The Art League and SOHO have worked together for more than 13 years to provide participating girls with art lessons, a yearly photography program among them.
The girls, all 10 years old, will have their work displayed as part of the gallery alongside a number of works from famous female photographers, contributed by the International Institute of Photography; Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Annie Leibovitz and Tina Moddoti, to name a few.
“We thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to have some of the seminal photographers, some of the images the Institute has, together with girls that are looking to explore their creative side and get inspired by using the arts to express themselves,” says Suzanne Bethel, executive director for the Art League. “The idea that the girls are 10 and just starting to get excited about engaging in self-expression in positive forms like that, this is an opportunity for them to have their work elevated by who came before them in the world of photography,” said Bethel.
Back on the business side of it, Mindrup believes that pop-ups could very well be an integral part in Alexandria’s economic future. Beyond using pop-ups as a way to showcase a location for future retailers—a handful of the venues used have been sold to house new, permanent residents—they could also benefit both old and new retailers by keeping people interested in the area.
“The pop-up trend may be the wave of the future,” Mindrup says.
AEDP is taking submissions for new possible pop-ups at growalx.com/popup.