In late September 2017, the well-loved IOTA Club and Café closed its doors for good, but not without a proper send-off event. Independent musician Rachel Hurley Levitin, a faithful patron and performer since she discovered the space as an American University student in 2008, was in the room that last night and, like many others, left her mark in the shuttering business.
“We ‘vandalized’ it with our goodbye marks, and it was like the last day of school, but we wrote on the walls,” Levitin said.
In the same night, Levitin heard from co-owner Stephen Negrey of a makeshift IOTA estate sale where people could purchase pieces of the venue, such as chairs and tables, and she was immediately ready to take part.
“I really wanted a bench set, but had no way to transport it because I don’t have a car, so the best I could do was a chair,” Levitin explained. “There was one artsy chair with stuff on it, so I thought ‘This could be my chair,’ and Steven sold it to me for $5.”
Pleased with her purchase, the next question was what was she going to do with a single chair from a venue that meant so much to her.
“What do I do with this chair?” Levitin said she thought. “Then it came to me.”
This signaled her creation of The IOTA Chair, a video yearbook project created by Levitin with the goal of documenting the history of the special space through interviews and performances featuring past IOTA musicians all on or around the chair she purchased.
“These people really cared about this place and I want to get to the bottom of the collective why,” Levitin said. “The feedback is always some variation on ‘I’m glad [you’re doing] this.’”
At nine weeks into the project, Levitin expects to release content mainly on social media – follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – and hopes to launch a website and graduate to better equipment since she is presently making all the magic with her iPhone, (which looks amazing BTW). Her next goal is to make this a partnership project with the DC Public Library to give The IOTA Chair its deserved street cred as a local historical preservation initiative, and eventually move into the arena of creating a documentary film.
“In the future, I hope to get larger names,” Levitin said, referencing artists such as Norah Jones, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz, who all made appearances at IOTA.
Levitin is leading the call to gather any IOTA artists, and even audience members, looking to tell their stories. This is a chance to help preserve the memory of this cherished space and be part of the legacy by sitting and sharing on The IOTA Chair. (Photos provided by Dan Magnolia)