DCentric » The Arts http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Can A Party Change Perceptions Of Anacostia? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/can-a-party-change-perceptions-of-anacostia/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/can-a-party-change-perceptions-of-anacostia/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2012 21:15:35 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15567 Continue reading ]]>

Nahal Tavangar / @NahalTav

About 1,200 people attended the fourth annual Cherry Blast party in Anacostia.

Trapeze artists hovered above a crowd. A band played electronic music as green lasers flashed through the room. Nearby, people created silk-screened T-shirts, a video installation played against the wall and the crowd tossed a large, clear plastic bubble filled with pink balloons in the air.

The annual Cherry Blast event on Saturday night was in many ways a creative, warehouse party. It pulled together all sorts of artistic and musical spectacles that attracted a racially diverse crowd of 1,200 willing to pay $10 a ticket to enter.

But this party didn’t happen in Northwest or near gentrifying H Street NE. Cherry Blast, produced by The Pink Line Project, took place in a vacant police evidence warehouse in Anacostia, and drew attendees largely from other parts of town, many of whom were young and white.

Anacostia has a rich history, but in recent years the neighborhood has developed a reputation as dangerous and poor, a perception that local activists have been battling. It’s a mostly black neighborhood that doesn’t typically attract many white people.

Cherry Blast comes on the heels of Lumen8Anacostia, a weekend of art events and pop-ups held throughout the neighborhood. These events have given people, who normally don’t trek east of the Anacostia River, a reason to visit the neighborhood. But in doing so, they’ve raised questions about race and class.

Pink Line founder Philippa Hughes and her team organized the Cherry Blast event, the fourth in a series that’s taken place in various parts of the city, including its first year in Anacostia.

“I’ve really been interested in Anacostia in the sense that I feel like it’s on the cusp of becoming something, a place where people want to go,” Hughes said. “I like being in places that are changing, and becoming better.”

Cherry Blast differed from Lumen8Anacostia, which Pink Line was also a part of. Lumen8 was “very diverse and a more community-oriented event,” Hughes said, while Cherry Blast gets widely promoted, drawing people “who don’t have any idea of what Anacostia is about.”

But Hughes didn’t throw Cherry Blast in order to put Anacostia on the map. “That’s one thing, and an important thing,” she said. “But what it’s about for me is showing that D.C. is more than politicians and lawyers. It also has a thriving arts and culture scene. Some of it is happening in Anacostia, and some of it [in other parts] of the city.”

There’s also a practical aspect to hold the event in Anacostia — D.C. has few, large spaces that can be converted for such uses.

The crowd at Cherry Blast keeps balloons afloat with the aid of a giant sheet. Performance artists and dancers entertained the crowd at Cherry Blast. Cherry Blast was held at 2235 Shannon Place SE. About 1,200 people attended the fourth annual Cherry Blast party in Anacostia. Attendees snap photos of the sweeping view of D.C. from the 4th floor of the warehouse Cherry Blast was held in an Anacostia warehouse, which offered sweeping views of the city. Margot MacDonald performs inside of a fort-like art installation on the 4th floor of an Anacostia warehouse. Cherry Blast party goers could create silk screened shirts. Yellow school buses transported people from Dupont Circle and H Street NE to the Anacostia warehouse. A trapeze artist balances above the crowd at Cherry Blast. Busboys and Poets set up a "pop-up" cafe inside of Cherry Blast. Cherry Blast attendees could edit photos using interactive projections.

Holding such an event in Anacostia can entail challenges. Most cities have lines, places where people are told not to go unless they’re from the area. As development and demographics shift in D.C., so do those lines. And perhaps art events and parties like Cherry Blast can help change those lines, too.

To make it easier to get across the river, Pink Line charted yellow school buses running from Dupont Circle and the H Street corridor. Taking a bus that drops you off directly in front of a party in a warehouse doesn’t provide many opportunities for interaction with the people and businesses in the neighborhood. But some who attended Cherry Blast forsook the charted buses in favor of the Metro, including first-timers to the area, who walked approximately half a mile from the Anacostia Metro station to the warehouse.

Iris Ho, Lan Nguyen and Michelle Wang rode Metro to Cherry Blast. On their walk to the warehouse, someone in a car rolled down his window and said to them, “Aren’t you guys scared? You’re in the hood.” Nguyen, of Columbia Heights, laughed, saying, “Well, I wasn’t.”

The trio said they recognized that they may seem out of place in the neighborhood.

Abigail Williams of Adams Morgan admitted that she “was a little nervous” coming to Anacostia at night.

“But once you’ve been somewhere, then you feel a lot better,” she said. Now she’s planning to return to the neighborhood during the day so she can check out the remodeled Anacostia Library.

“There is such a psychological barrier. That barrier is broken for a brief bit with these events.”

People really only go places because they have a reason, whether it’s work, friends or attractions. Nikki Palmer of Bloomingdale made her first visit to Anacostia to attend Cherry Blast. She said that she and others she knows don’t typically come east of the river because nothing has drawn them there yet. She’s heard for years to avoid Anacostia, but it’s “a stigma that I’m losing now.”

Such perceptions are something that Michael Shank of Anacostia tries to tackle. A towering white man, he moved to the neighborhood 2 years ago, partially “to challenge myself both with the race and class issues that D.C. has not resolved,” he said. He’s found an incredible sense of community in the process. Shank now tries to get his friends to visit, but it’s not easy.

“There is such a psychological barrier,” Shank said over a DJ playing blaring music at Cherry Blast. “That barrier is broken for a brief bit with these events.”

Getting that barrier to come down more permanently is another, and more complicated, undertaking, he added.

Sense of place?

Rishi Chakrabarty of Mount Pleasant comes to Anacostia regularly for soccer practice. “You can’t get a sense of Anacostia by being here,” he said of Cherry Blast. Nearby, a singer performed from inside of a massive art installation.

“I feel ambivalent about it being in Anacostia,” Nguyen said. “It’s not that people from around here are all coming to this event.”

“It’s the yuppies in D.C.,” added Wang.

There were some Anacostia locals were in the crowd. Anacostia resident Willy Hamlett, who assisted with the event, said that such happenings are ways to “open the neighborhood up to different types of people.”

Although it’s good that Cherry Blast brought newcomers to the neighborhood, more importantly for resident (and Congress Heights on the Rise blogger) Nikki Peele is what the event offered Anacostia residents.

“The real win is it brings people who are from the neighborhood and gives them something to do,” she said. “… It makes no sense and it concerns me when myself and my neighbors have to get in a car or take the Metro to go across town in order to do the things we want to do.”

In the beginning of the night, all-female Brazilian drumming group Batalá Washington performed. Shank said a number of kids he recognized from the neighborhood showed up and danced along to the music.

“Here’s an opportunity for engagement, for interacting with the community. Let’s build on that,” he said. “It’s a starter.”

Images courtesy of Nahal Tavangar (@NahalTav).
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Art Driving Gentrification? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/art-driving-gentrification/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/art-driving-gentrification/#comments Tue, 17 Apr 2012 18:09:47 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15458 Continue reading ]]>

hellomarkers! / Flickr

This sculpture is on top of an Anacostia warehouse

The District is funding a series of art events housed in vacant spaces in downtown Anacostia. The idea behind Lumen8Anacostia: to make use of under-used spaces, and also spark some much-needed economic growth in Anacostia. The Ward 8 neighborhood has already seen some professionals moving in, but nowhere near to the same degree as neighborhoods west of the river.

On Tuesday, local blog Greater Greater Washington tweeted that the Lumen8Anacostia could signal “a new dawn for Anacostia” and Washington City Paper pondered whether Anacostia could be the next Williamsburg. That sparked a conversation between locals, including Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, about gentrification, displacement, race and the arts.

We’ve rounded up the conversation here.

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DCentric Picks: Contemporary Dance Explores Asian American Experience http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/dcentric-picks-contemporary-dance-explores-asian-american-experience/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/dcentric-picks-contemporary-dance-explores-asian-american-experience/#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2012 16:53:07 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15199 Continue reading ]]>

Zain Shah / Courtesy of Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co.

Katia Chupashko performs in "Becoming American," about being a Korean child adopted by white Americans.

What: Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co. spring dance performance.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Where: George Washington University’s Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre (800 21st St. NW).

Cost: Tickets range from $15 to $25.

Why you should go: The contemporary dance performance focuses on identity and the Asian American experience, including a piece that tells the story of a Korean child adopted by white American parents and how Asian Americans live as “hyphenated” Americans.

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DCentric Picks: Intersections Festival http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/dcentric-picks-intersections-festival/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/dcentric-picks-intersections-festival/#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2012 19:32:21 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14313 Continue reading ]]>

Courtesy of Atlas Performing Arts Center

Srishti Dances of India will perform 7 p.m., Saturday. Multi-generational artists will stories of the immigrant experience.

What: Intersections: A New America Arts Festival

When: Thursday through March 11.

Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center

Cost: Ticket prices vary by show, but there are 30 free performances.

Why you should go: The third annual festival, with more than 150 performances, aims to present a variety of art forms, such as  music, dance and theater, that connect audiences of diverse ages, races and cultural backgrounds. Performances include youth tap dancers, live storytellers and French-Vietnamese jazz guitarists. Some shows will be followed by discussions between artists and audiences, a space that allows for cross-cultural conversations.

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Black History Through D.C. Murals (Photos) http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/black-history-through-d-c-murals-photos/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/black-history-through-d-c-murals-photos/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2012 19:28:55 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14235 Continue reading ]]> From Northwest to Southeast, D.C.’s public murals help tell the story of black history. Take a look at our gallery below, showcasing some of these public artworks.

Notable figures depicted in the murals include: Carter G. Woodson, considered “the father of black history;” activist and leader Malcolm X; abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass; and poet Langston Hughes.

Some of the murals are funded by the District government, while others are privately-commissioned. There are also a few that are quite new, while others will soon disappear due to development. The gallery presents a snapshot of D.C. murals relating to black history, so feel free to post photos of other such murals in the comments section.

This mural on 7th Street NW in Shaw depicts historian Carter G. Woodson, considered the "father of black history." Woodson lived in D.C. Poet Langston Hughes and historian Carter G. Woodson, both once Shaw residents, are depicted in the Shaw Community Mural on 9th Street NW. The Shiloh Baptist Church is also shown in the mural, a black church that played an important role in Shaw's community life. Frederick Douglass is the centerpiece of this mural on Bread for the City's building on Good Hope Road SE. Douglass lived in a home nearby. Malcolm X is included in a mural on the building housed by Sankofa Cafe and Bookstore on Georgia Ave NW. The image comes from a famous poster that shows Malcolm X wiedling a rifle and looking outside of a window, underneath the words "By any means necessary." This relatively new mural off of U Street NW includes imagery evoking the 1963 March on Washington, which was originally called "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." Duke Ellington is one of Washington's native sons. This mural on U Street NW was originally near the U Street Metro Station but was dismantled and moved a few blocks down to the True Reformer Building. This Duke Ellington mural was just completed in late 2011, and was painted on a building on Ward Place NW near where the jazz legend was born. This mural off of New York Avenue NE pays homage to some of D.C.'s great music legends, including Marvin Gaye. The Black Family Reunion mural shows a collage of an anonymous family through the years. Originally commissioned by the National Black McDonald's Operators Association, the 18-year-old mural on 14th Street NW will soon be replaced by development. ]]>
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Is D.C. Too Expensive To Be Creative? Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye Weighs In http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/is-d-c-too-expensive-to-be-creative-ian-mackaye-weighs-in/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/is-d-c-too-expensive-to-be-creative-ian-mackaye-weighs-in/#comments Fri, 13 Jan 2012 17:37:18 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13356 Continue reading ]]>

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.

Although it’s very challenging to make a living off of one’s art in D.C., that doesn’t stop creativity, which comes from people of all social strata. MacKaye recalled how the drummer for Henry Rollins’ band State of Alert had a naval admiral for a father.

“Punk kids would walk onto the observatory to practice at the admiral’s house,” MacKaye recalled. “Those guys, you’d think of them as having means. But it didn’t change the fact that as kids they were bored and creative and they wanted something to be a part of.”

“The punk thing, the emphasis was on creating a set, a tribe,” he continued. “There’s art movements that have come up and it’s the art of necessity. If you want to belong to something, you better go find somebody similar to get connected to.”

Can D.C. give rise to such a movement again? MacKaye believes that D.C. has “incredible potential” for it, despite it being an expensive town.

“I think this city is really ripe for this sort of thing, because of the compression of the city but also because so many people come here, people who are interested, they come here and they want something so badly,” he said.

That’s encouraging to the musicians of Gold Leaf. Now, they just have a new place to practice.

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DCentric Picks: MLK Day, ‘Remaking America’ and Free Art http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/dcentric-picks-mlk-day-remaking-america-and-free-art/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/dcentric-picks-mlk-day-remaking-america-and-free-art/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2012 19:01:56 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13420 Continue reading ]]>

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.

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DCentric Picks: NSO In Columbia Heights and ‘MLK Streets Project’ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/dcentric-picks-nso-in-columbia-heights-and-mlk-streets-project/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/dcentric-picks-nso-in-columbia-heights-and-mlk-streets-project/#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2012 18:19:54 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13147 Continue reading ]]>

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.

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DCentric Picks: Sulu DC and ‘African American Life On Pennsylvania Avenue’ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/dcentric-picks-sulu-dc-and-african-american-life-on-pennsylvania-avenue/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/dcentric-picks-sulu-dc-and-african-american-life-on-pennsylvania-avenue/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2011 15:29:07 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=12260 Continue reading ]]> 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.

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DCentric Picks: FotoWeek DC Exhibit http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/dcentric-picks-fotoweek-dc-exhibit/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/dcentric-picks-fotoweek-dc-exhibit/#comments Thu, 10 Nov 2011 20:15:08 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=12110 Continue reading ]]> 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.


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