Rose Jaffe, artist and Native Washingtonian, chatted with us about the D.C. artist community, mentoring younger painters, and why it’s crucial to keep making art. Read on, then check out our Washington, D.C. tours.
What do you love most about the city?
There’s so many things I love about D.C. I moved back here after college and I really didn’t think I would stick around, but then I found the art scene here to be welcoming, open, accessible, and supportive. D.C. is such an interesting place because it’s so expensive to live here, but there’s also a lot of money for artists if they stick around.
So if you can make it work here, it’s actually a great place for artists. And the city’s really loving the arts right now, so there are a lot of grants and funding for artists. D.C. is like a family member. You love them, you hate them, you need to get away sometimes, but then you always come back.
How do you give back to the artist community?
I actually taught high school for three years and also taught in this amazing after-school program called Words Beats & Life. There’s one student in particular that I really connected with, and I still work with her. I’ve had a fair amount of young people reach out to me, whether it’s interviewing me or coming to my studio and chatting about how I make things work.
I’ve been back to the University of Michigan [her alma mater] a few times doing workshops about being a working artist. I’ve been full-time for about three years and out of school for six now, so it’s cool to be in a space where I can offer guidance to younger artists. It’s kind of like returning the favor, and continuing the awesome energy that the artists have here in the city.
Do you have a favorite mural?
The [Murals DC] piece that Kate Deciccio and I did next to Howard Theater about the jazz legacy in D.C. was really amazing. It was supposed to be a Duke Ellington-themed wall, but there’s a lot of Duke Ellington stuff around D.C. And Duke Ellington is amazing, but he also left D.C. when he was 18 and didn’t really look back. We wanted to focus on the artists and the jazz scene since Duke Ellington, so we connected with jazz musicians here and talked to them about the legacy that he left. We ended up featuring seven jazz musicians, including Davey Yarborough, an amazing guy who started this organization that works with youth and jazz in D.C.
Why do you think it’s important to collaborate with other artists?
I think collaboration is really tough, but it’s all so amazing in so many ways. When you’re working with someone else, it’s hard to come up with a design you both love and intertwines your styles. There’s a lot of communication. But honestly, painting a 55-foot wall is also much easier with another person, even if it’s just like the support and camaraderie. I think it really teaches you a lot about how to work with others.
Do you have any advice for younger artists?
Just get rolls of butcher paper and roll them out to practice working large-scale. Having constant studio practice is also critical—I’m in my studio as much as I can be. But I think the best thing to do is to keep making art. I’m drawing every day, I paint a ton, and I create a lot.
Want to learn more about Rose Jaffe and Washington, D.C. street art? Check out the EF Journal.