Beneath the buttoned-down surface of the city, DC is full of history, diversity, joy and life.


DCentric Picks: Our City Film Fest, Frederick Douglass’ Birthday

Courtesy of Our City Film Festival

"Fly By Light" follows 15 D.C. students as they leave the city for the West Virginia countryside for the first time.

What: Our City Film Festival.

When: Saturday and Sunday. Check the festival’s website for exact times.

Where: The Goethe Institute, 812 7 St. NW.

Cost: Tickets cost $10 per film.

Why you should go: The film festival screens films that take place in the District, showcasing the diversity of D.C. DCentric readers may be interested in seeing: “The Vigil,” which follows a Pakastani classical dancer who returns to her homeland from her adopted home in D.C.; “A Monument for Martin Luther King, Jr.,” a video essay on the King memorial and the role of memorials; and “Fly By Light,” a documentary-in-progress following 15 D.C. students who, for the first time, leave the city for the countryside of West Virginia.

Other events to consider: The National Park Service is celebrating the birthday of Frederick Douglass, who lived in D.C., with a full program of speeches and music. The free event takes place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at his home (now the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site) at 1411 W St. SE.

DCentric Picks: Black History Month Edition

Sean Ganann / Flickr

The Carter G. Woodson mural is on 7th Street NW.

What: Black History Month Family Day

When: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday.

Where: The National Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard at 800 F St. NW.

Why you should go: Family-friendly and free activities will be held throughout the day to celebrate the start of Black History Month. There will be art workshops, music performances and a photo booth.

Other events to consider: The DC Public Library’s annual Black Film Festival begins Tuesday, with films each week focusing on the role of black women in American history and culture. Films screen weekly at 3 p.m., Tuesdays at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G St. NW.

Photos: D.C.’s Chinese New Year Parade

Thousands attended D.C.’s Chinese New Year parade on Sunday to celebrate the start of the year of the dragon. Organizers aimed to hold a bigger event this year, despite downtown seeing its Chinese American population decline.

“We know there have been a lot of changes in our city in recent years,” Mayor Vincent Gray told the crowd, reports Chinese Radio International, “but what hasn’t changed and will hopefully not change is the presence of Chinatown as an important cultural center here in the District of Columbia.”

Check out these Flickr photos of the parade by local photographers Glyn Lowe, Victoria Pickering and Russell Brammer: 


DCentric Picks: Chinese New Year Parade

Photo Phiend / Flickr

Participants in 2010's Chinese New Year parade.

What: Annual Chinese New Year parade.

When: From 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday.

Where: Chinatown, along H Street NW between 6th and 8th Streets.

Cost: Free.

Why you should go: Come to see firecrackers, dancers and plenty of dragons. Organizers of this year’s Chinese New Year parade want to make it one of the biggest yet. The Washington Post reports that the parade committee hopes that a bigger event will stir up pride within second- and third- generation Chinese-Americans, as well as alert people to the history of the neighborhood, which has seen a decline in Chinese residents.


Is D.C. Too Expensive To Be Creative? Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye Weighs In

rockcreek / Flickr

Gold Leaf Studios is located at 433 I St. NW.

At the end of the month, one of D.C.’s last large DIY spaces will close, putting out dozens of artists. It will be replaced by a $57 million development. Washington City Paper has this excellent write-up chronicling the history of Gold Leaf Studios and the artists it hosted:

For well over a decade, Gold Leaf’s 12 studios have housed legion creative types like [Durkl creative director Will] Sharp. And while Gold Leaf attracted packed crowds and scattered media attention over the years as its art parties grew notorious, its more important legacy is simply as a cheap, spacious place for folks to do their work. “There are happy artists here over 50 that come in at night and paint,” says Sharp. “Artists, welders, sculptors, musicians, and jewelers all under one roof is kind of an oasis for someone like me.”

Courtesy of Bora Chung

Brandon Moses of Laughing Man practices in his Gold Leaf studio.

Although Gold Leaf Studios was never intended to be permanent, its sale and closure come at a time when D.C.’s housing prices are rising. There’s been a recent, ongoing discussion over whether D.C. has become too expensive for artists to create and live. (Noticeably absent from the discussion is how go-go, a D.C. music genre, is increasingly being relegated to cheaper suburbs).

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias writes, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the city was probably more culturally influential during its mid-eighties quality of life nadir than it is today as a richer-but-prohibitively expensive city.” That’s when D.C. gave birth to groups like post-punk band Fugazi.

Fugazi founding member Ian MacKaye stopped by WAMU 88.5′s offices last week to discuss an online archiving project on The Kojo Nnamdi Show. We caught up with him afterward to get his thoughts on D.C., art and gentrification.

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DCentric Picks: MLK Day, ‘Remaking America’ and Free Art

Alan / Flickr

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on Monday.

History: Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day and this year will be the first time that King’s memorial on the National Mall will be open to the public. A number of events and activities, which can be reviewed here, are being held on the memorial’s grounds starting Friday and running through Wednesday.

Talk: It’s too late to reserve seats to attend Thursday’s “Remaking America,” a conversation hosted by Tavis Smiley at George Washington University and being broadcast live on C-SPAN. But if you have to miss it, you can check out the official after-event with Smiley and Cornel West at Busboys and Poets. It starts at 10 p.m. at the 14th and V streets NW location.

Art: We’ve recommended checking out the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Design’s “30 Americans” exhibit before, which displays heralded art by black American artists. The gallery normally charges $10 for entry, but is offering free admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday. The Corcoran is located at 500 17th St. NW.

DCentric Picks: NSO In Columbia Heights and ‘MLK Streets Project’

nasa hq photo / Flickr

Members of the NSO performing at the Kennedy Center.

What: The National Symphony Orchestra plays throughout Columbia Heights as part of “NSO In Your Neighborhood.”

When and where: Concerts began Wednesday and will continue through Monday at various locations in Columbia Heights. Check the National Symphony Orchestra’s schedule for exact dates, times and locations.

Cost: All show are free, but some do require advance registration.

Why you should go: The musical stylings of the NSO are typically relegated to expensive venues such as the Kennedy Center. These yearly neighborhood performances are intended to bring classical music back to the masses and increase accessibility to those living in D.C.’s diverse neighborhoods.

Other events to consider: A panel discussion and film screening of “The MLK Streets Project,” which follows eight D.C. teens as they travel around the country to see the state of streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr. The film explores the racial, historical and economic state of America through these streets. The event begins at 5:30 p.m., Monday at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (641 D St. NW). Tickets cost $15 to $20.

In Your Words: D.C. Too Pricey to Be Culturally Relevant?

Patrick Feller / Flickr

Is D.C. becoming culturally irrelevant because artists can’t afford to live here?

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias wrote last week that D.C. is “unhip” because it’s too expensive to live here; Washington City Paper‘s Ryan Little disagreed, writing that the District has abundant opportunities for artists.

Now, Atlantic Cities’ Richard Florida weighs in on the debate by providing the numbers on wages and housing for D.C.-metro artists. Arts, entertainment and design workers in our region have an average of $2,465 left over each month after paying for housing, which is far less than similar workers in New York and Los Angeles. Florida writes:

When all is said and done, D.C. seems like a not-so-great place for visual artists, a slightly better than average place for musicians and a pretty good place for writers and editors. New York and L.A. continue to dominate these fields, particularly arts, design and music, and actually provide a comparatively good living even with their high costs of housing.

A number of you responded on Facebook and Twitter to our questions: Is D.C. “unhip?” Is it because the city is too expensive for artists?

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DCentric Picks: Sulu DC and ‘African American Life On Pennsylvania Avenue’

What: Sulu DC‘s second anniversary show.

Where: Artisphere, located at 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.

When: 6:30 p.m., Saturday.

Cost: Tickets cost $20.

Why you should go: Sulu DC aims to provide a space for Asian American and Pacific Islander artists of all stripes to present their works and raise issues relevant to their communities. The anniversary show will feature poet Regie Cabico, beat boxer Chip Han and the J. Pharaoh & the Manhattan Project band.

Other events to consider: The National Mall is sponsoring “African American Life on Pennsylvania Avenue,” a ranger-led walking tour exploring the role of African Americans in the history of the nation’s capital. The free tour begins at 2 p.m., Sunday at Freedom Plaza.

DCentric Picks: FotoWeek DC Exhibit

What: FotoWeek DC’s “7.4.11″ exhibit.

Where: Carroll Square Gallery, located at 975 F St., NW.

When: On display until Nov. 18.

Cost: Free.

Why you should go: FotoWeek DC includes a number of events and exhibits. The “7.4.11″ exhibit features photos documenting how diverse Americans celebrated July 4th. Participating photographers are a part of the nonprofit Facing Change: Documenting America, which aims to portray critical issues facing Americans of all stripes.