The Arts


Can A Party Change Perceptions Of Anacostia?

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.

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Art Driving Gentrification?

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.

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DCentric Picks: Contemporary Dance Explores Asian American Experience

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.

DCentric Picks: Intersections Festival

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.

Black History Through D.C. Murals (Photos)

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.

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.

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.