Chartreuse? Teal? Purple?

Chartreuse? Teal? Purple?

Sculptor wants passersby to help her pick a color for new studio in downtown Bethesda

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Splotches of color line the wall of sculptor Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's studio on Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda.

Leigh McDonald

Sculptor Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg wants passersby to enjoy looking at her new studio on Fairmont Avenue, so she’s asking them to help her choose the color that she will paint the building.

The Washington, D.C., artist, 58, has painted an array of sample colors on the side of the small, gray building at 4931 Fairmont Ave. A black marker on the end of a piece of string is attached to the wall so that those passing by can write comments and vote on which colors they prefer. As of Friday, each of the eight colors of the painted panel had hash marks, with a shade of teal proving the most popular.

“We like these two colors together. One wall each,” said one comment that includes arrows pointing to rectangles of teal and light peach paint.

“I won’t help you paint if you choose this color,” another commenter wrote along with drawing an arrow pointing to a rectangle painted a pale chartreuse.

Firstenberg decided to let community members help choose what color she should paint the building when she realized that they will see the exterior far more often than she will while she’s inside working. It “gives people a voice,” Firstenberg said. “That is what my art is about, so why not start here.”

Firstenberg said Wednesday she plans to open her studio in the former auto shop later this month and to remain in the space until the property is redeveloped in a year or two.

The artist said she decided to move her studio from a carriage house in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Adams Morgan when her lease ended and was able to strike a deal with Edward Lenkin, who owns the Fairmont Avenue property. Lenkin is the president of the Lenkin Co., a construction and property management firm based in Washington, D.C.

“He wanted to make it a nice place for the community. He’s a huge supporter of the arts,” Firstenberg said.

“I’ve made space available for artists throughout my whole career,” said Lenkin, who plans to redevelop the property into high-rise apartments.

For now, Firstenberg, who is interested in socially conscious art, will use her new studio to display installations that address the stigma of drug addiction.

Her recent work includes “Updraft America,” an exhibit of 10,752 paper airplanes made out of the Congressional Record. The work is a response to “partisan gridlock,” according to the exhibit’s website.

Firstenberg’s life-size sculpture of a woman wearing a burqa with the words “We the People” was featured in “Resist,” an exhibit at the Zenith Gallery in D.C. The show, which called for art in response to the political climate, was coordinated by Women’s March on Washington organizers and participants.

Her new studio on Fairmont Avenue will also will include a “makerspace” for people who want to try their hand at creating sculpture.

“Why not let people come hang and try it for themselves?” said Firstenberg, who discovered she enjoyed sculpting while taking a ceramics class at Landon School in Bethesda. “I was 50 years old when I found out I was a sculptor.”

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