Through Sparkplug, DCAC brings together local emerging artists and curators without gallery representation or institutional employ and provides them with support, meeting space, legal and technical resources and exhibition opportunities. Members of the collective meet monthly to discuss their work, pursue exhibition opportunities, plan studio visits and explore common interests and challenges. Because the intention of the program is to foster the growth of emerging and early-career artists, the collective itself will persist as new members join and others leave.


After the successful first four years of the program, DCAC is excited to welcome seven new members to the group. Amy Hughes Braden, Lee Gainer, Piper Grosswendt, Michelle Lisa Herman, Rebecca Kallem, Corwin Levi, Rachel Schmidt, and Stephanie Williams were all invited to join this year's SPARKPLUG. The eight new memberswill carry the program forward for the next two years.


Amy Hughes Braden

Trained at Corcoran College of Art & Design, Amy Hughes Braden works in the two dimensional realm—acrylic paintings, graphite drawings, and collage. Her work has been exhibited at Corcoran Gallery of Art, Artisphere, The Athenaeum, Hillyer Art Space, and a plethora of DIY exhibits around the DC area. She makes work for the art subscription service, Project Dispatch as well. Alongside her painting career, she is currently pursuing a masters in Arts Management at GMU and teaching art to elementary students through Make/Believe


Lee Gainer

Lee Gainer is a visual artist in the DC Metro area whose work explores our pursuits of pleasure and the memories created from such adventures.  She is presently a resident artist in the competitive residency program at  the Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia. Her work has been exhibited nationally, including solo exhibits at the Arlington Arts Center and GRACE in Reston, Virginia. Lee's work has been featured in several publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The American Prospect.  Her works are part of the collections of the Washington DC Art Bank, the Rosslyn Renaissance Business Improvement District, the Indie Photobook Library, and The Newark Public Library, Special Collections Division. She is a semi-finalist for the 2012 Trawick Prize and a recipient of the Creative Communities Fund Grant for her work with the 2011 Source Festival. Lee also curates a blog, Peek (, which has presented a new contemporary artist each weekday since February 2008.


Piper Grosswendt

Piper Grosswendt is a painter living and working in Washington, DC. She graduated from Bowdoin College with BAs in English and Visual Arts in May 2011.  Grosswendt’s current artistic interests focus on investigations into color, gesture, and visual perception. With second-hand linens as her primary surface, the formal elements of her paintings take on connotations of sleep, dreams, and intimacy and suggest maps, charts, and diagrams. Grosswendt was born and raised in Kailua, Hawaii.


Michelle Lisa Herman

Michelle Lisa Herman is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Washington, D.C. She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2008 with a BFA in general fine art and art history. Her work spans a variety of media from abstract painting to interactive installation, often exploring ideas of communication and a desire for connection in the digital age. She has exhibited her work nationally in a variety of spaces including the Smithsonian Institution International Gallery, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, DC Arts Center, Artisphere, and the Washington Project for the Arts.


Rebecca Kallem

Becca Kallem received her MFA in painting from the University of New Hampshire and her BA in Art and Spanish from the College of William and Mary. She held a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Madrid, Spain and has taught painting and drawing at The George Washington University, Arlington Virginia Public Schools, and four community center programs in the DC area. She has exhibited her work in DC, Boston, and New York, most recently at Washington and Lee University, Pleasant Plains Workshop, Doris-Mae Gallery, the Bowery Gallery, and the DC LGBT Center. Becca is a resident artist at the Arlington Arts Center and teaches art at a nearby public elementary school. She is also an occasional cheerleader with the DC CHEER art activism squad.


Corwin Levi

Corwin Levi is a visual artist whose work, as part of the art collaborative Radio Sebastian with Yumiko Blackwell, is project-based and moves from looking at ruptured walls to finding faint fields to investigating gin piles to seeing how long people can exhale for shine. They work in a variety of media and have participated in numerous exhibitions and residencies. Solo shows include the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Second Street Gallery, and Hillyer Art Space. Residencies include Ucross, the Roswell Artist in Residence Program, Kimmel Harding Nelson, Elsewhere, and the Millay Colony. Corwin has a BA from Rice University and an MFA from the Tyler School of Art.


Rachel Schmidt

In 2007-08, Rachel studied the contemporary textile trade in Istanbul, Turkey on a Walters Travel Grant and worked in Warsaw, Poland where she helped organize an exhibition of foreign artists in an experimental space. In summer 2009, she completed a residency at Taller Portobelo Norte in Portobelo, Panama, where she collaborated with local and visiting artists. She is currently resident artist and project manager for the DC chapter of Architecture for Humanity, a global non-profit that provides design services to communities around the world. She also works at the Parkmont School in DC as an art teacher, tutor, and administrative assistant.

Rachel received an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Mount Royal School of Art and a BFA in Textile Design from the University of Kansas.



Stephanie Williams

Stephanie Williams received her MFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2007 under the Presidential Scholarship after completing a service year with City Year DC, Americorps in 2004. She has shown both nationally and internationally. Williams is a Vermont Studio Center Fellow and Toby Devan Lewis Fellow. She has exhibited at Irvine Contemporary, Target Gallery, Transformer Gallery, and the DC Arts Center. She currently lives and teaches art in Virginia.


Past Sparkplug Members