Perched atop a hill on 62nd Street in Northeast stands Studio Muze, a newly launched, vibrantly colored artistic space and community hub dedicated to the expression of various artistic mediums including photography, graphic design, makeup artistry, custom apparel and fashion design.
Within a matter of weeks, young people between the ages of 15 and 25 will converge on Studio Muze for a series of workshops where they will acquire the skills essential to navigating the entertainment industry on their terms. In June, participants will take a series of crash courses, develop their resumes and learn about business licensing and branding.
“A lot of artists have a hard time connecting their artistry to income and sustainability,” said Travon Naim, a Ward 7 resident and founder and CEO of Studio Muze.
“We aren’t taught that we can take these skills to be entrepreneurial or contract out with agencies. The idea [behind this workshop] is to [explore] what that looks like to create a bridge for upcoming artists,” Naim said.
Launching a Business amid a Pandemic
Naim, 29, launched Studio Muze last August, more than a year after the pandemic abruptly interrupted an entrepreneurship class he taught at Anacostia High School in Southeast. Once he obtained the building on 62nd Street, Naim, with the help of family and friends, painted the space and erected photos, decorative lighting and merchandise while incorporating other elements of set design that make Studio Muze suitable for photo shoots, modeling events and networking opportunities.
One of those events took place on the evening of April 9 when Studio Muze collaborated with Indie Fashion Week for an open house that attracted artists and art enthusiasts of various ages. For hours, guests took part in interactive activities including an art therapy station that reinforced Studio Muze’s mantra of art having no boundaries. In coordinating the event, Naim brought together hair and make-up artists, photographers and models who executed a live modeling program.
Other projects in the works for Studio Muze include an art competition through which contestants can artistically market products created by local businesses. During a portfolio builder series titled “Lights, Camera, Muze,” models and creatives can add eye-catching content to their portfolios at below the standard market rate with the use of Studio Muze photography and creative direction services.
Paving the Way for District Creatives
In years past, D.C. government officials have designated the creative economy — which includes the fashion, culinary arts and media industries — as pivotal in attracting young people to the District and growing the local economy. Before the pandemic, creatives expressed concern that the D.C. government didn’t provide communities east of the Anacostia River with enough support to cultivate homegrown talent.
Patrice Lancaster, a local organizer who has worked with Naim for nearly a decade, commended him for creating a space in a part of the city that’s in need of economic development. She said the magic of Studio Muze lies in Naim’s resilience and ability to parlay his talents and interests into entrepreneurial endeavors that not only benefit him but six of his interns and countless other creatives and community members.
“Travon’s story shows young people how they can use their talents and gifts to become economically self-sufficient. It’s important that there are safe space for creatives,” said Lancaster, a Ward 5 resident, as she recounted Naim’s previous collaborations within D.C.’s urban fashion economy and a selfie station he created that attracted various residents and government officials during the most recent Art All Night activities along Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast.
“We don’t amplify and advocate for people who follow the track of entrepreneurship,” Lancaster continued. “By amplifying these spaces and funding artists east of the Anacostia River, the District can duplicate the success of young social entrepreneurs and help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.”
On a Path to Self-Sufficiency
Naim’s journey to entrepreneurship came through trial and error. Upon graduating from Crossland High School in Camp Springs, Maryland in 2010, he attended Morgan State University in Baltimore where he further explored artistic talents that he first discovered as a youth.
Though he never finished college, Naim credits the on-campus experience as a launching pad for future endeavors in the fashion industry. At this juncture in his professional development, Naim has expressed a desire to create opportunities for young people so they can confidently explore and expand their artistry.
“I started school as an architecture major and eventually changed to graphic design, taking classes in infographic design and painting murals and home decor,” Naim said.
“At some point, I made clothes for myself and people asked me to make clothes for them. All of the things I’ve tapped into, I started with myself and when people saw it, they asked me to do it for them. Over time, I built more clientele and now I’m sitting in this studio because of it,” he said.