The Arts


‘30 Americans:’ Creating a Show of Heralded Contemporary Black Art

Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

Kehinde Wiley, Sleep, 2008. Oil on canvas, 132 x 300 inches.

The ongoing “30 Americans” exhibit that recently opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art showcases work by some of most important African American artists of the past 30 years.

The 76 pieces of art are owned by Donald and Mera Rubell, who hold one of the world’s largest, private art collections. Mera Rubell tells WAMU’s Metro Connection that they noticed a trend in their collection about five years ago:

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D.C. May Lose One of the Last Remnants of Black Broadway

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Cynthia Robbins, Lincoln Theatre board member, makes an appeal for funding to save the theater.

When the Lincoln Theatre opened in 1922 on U Street, it was one of the jewels of “Black Broadway.” But with money running out, the historical landmark is at risk of closing.

“They say, ‘Before Harlem, there was U Street,’” said Rahim Muhammad, who grew up in the area. “So to me, the Lincoln is more important than the Apollo.”

During a Thursday afternoon press conference in front of Lincoln Theatre, board members blasted Mayor Vincent Gray for not answering their calls to hold a meeting to discuss saving the theater. Gray has said the theater’s business model is “not sustainable” and that the city couldn’t “pour money” in it.

Without a $500,000 boost, board members said the theater could close by the end of the year.

The possible closure of the Lincoln Theatre may be a sign of bad economic times. But some say the theater, on a now totally-gentrified corridor, holds a special place in D.C.’s black history and it should be preserved.

Rick Lee, a Lincoln Theatre Board member, criticized the city for giving money to other theaters such as Ford and Arena Stage, and yet failing to allocate anything to the Lincoln Theatre in Fiscal 2012, which begins Oct. 1. They have received $250,000 in past years.

“Even though the mayor is black, I almost feel like it’s a racial thing because I don’t see why you would have this theater, as beautiful as it is with all of this potential, and nickel and dime it,” Lee said. “I’m offended.”

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Finding Space to Create in Pricey D.C.

Courtesy of Bora Chung

Aaron Martin (left), Brandon Moses (middle) and Michael Andrew Harris (right) practice in Gold Leaf Studios.

Brandon Moses and Michael Andrew Harris, members of the band Laughing Man, met up at their studio space in a worn warehouse on a recent Thursday evening. Moses strummed his guitar and sang into the mic. Aaron Martin, who shares the studio with the band, joined in on his saxophone for an impromptu jam session.

Seemingly neglected, the vacant warehouse has been repurposed for just this sort of activity — for artists to create without concern of disturbing neighbors. Harris rapidly hit his snare drum without constraint. The music went through open window and spilled onto the Mt. Vernon street below.

But through that window, you could see the new high rises across the street, a sign of D.C.’s healthy real estate market. And soon, the warehouse — home to Gold Leaf Studios — will be replaced with a $57 million, 11-story mixed-used complex. About 30 artists who work out of 11 Gold Leaf studios will have to vacate by January 2012.

“Obviously they’re going to make a lot more money,” Harris, 31, said. “We’re just artists paying a couple of hundred dollars for the space.”

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Luther Place: Sacred Commons, Social Justice


Luther Place's first mural: Saint Francis of Assisi-- and a congregant's Dalmatian!

Earlier today, I published the first part of an interview with Reverend Karen Brau of Thomas Circle’s Luther Place church; they just dedicated a mural on the 14th street side of their building to “Saint Martin of Birmingham”, whom you may know as the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s the remainder of our conversation, as promised:

Where did the idea for this mural come from– what inspired it?

I’ve been at Luther Place for two years; I came from inner-city Baltimore where I worked in neighborhood ministry…we did things with vacant lots, gardening and art. In Baltimore, we had the gift of many vacant lots. Here, that’s not the case, so we thought ‘how do we use what we have?’ Instead of putting up a big fence and having it be just our space…we explored what commonality means by sharing this art outside.

We are always reforming, we have this sense that God is calling us to new things. We looked at the space around Luther Place and we realized that some people will never come inside our church, so how could we honor the outside of it? How could we reach others? By a Sacred Commons. “Sacred” in that it’s holy ground, “Commons” in that it’s held in common by anyone who comes through. It’s also “sacred” in the sense that all people are sacred or children of God, and “common” in that we have the possibility of finding new ways to share and live in common. We need places to practice what that means.
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Saint Martin of Luther Place: a Historic Congregation’s New Mural

Luther Place: Amanda Weber

Luther Place's second mural, featuring "Saint Martin of Birmingham", watches over 14th street.

Before this week, if you had asked me where “Luther Place” was, I would’ve looked at you blankly, despite the fact that I’ve lived here since 1999. Shame on me, for that. Luther Place Memorial Church sits on Thomas Circle; it’s a brick building you’ve probably passed dozens of times if you walk, bike or drive on 14th street NW. This week, the congregation dedicated a special mural featuring “Saint Martin of Birmingham”, or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I spoke to Reverend Karen Brau yesterday about this new piece of public art, her congregation and its history in this city.

Tell me about Luther Place.

It’s a congregation that has been part of this city since the 1870s. In the 1960s, when riots happened on 14th street, we were called to open our doors and be a refuge for people at that time. Now we have a ministry for homeless women that serves over 800 women a year with shelter, job placement and help with recovery from addiction.

I’d love to know more about what Luther Place did during the riots–

The congregation made the decision to open the doors of our church, and it became a point of sanctuary for people who needed a place to stay. Luther Place also became a distribution point…other congregations from different parts of the city brought food to us that could be shared with people being affected by what was going on at that time. I think that act was a turning point; in the words of the gospel, you should love your neighbor, care for a stranger. Those words came to life in a very palpable way. And not everyone could deal with that, so that defined the congregation too.
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Tomorrow on DCentric: St. Martin of Birmingham


Today was very gray, I know.

An hour ago, I spoke to The Rev. Karen Brau of Luther Place on 14th Street about a very special piece of public art, which was unveiled this week (how apposite!). “St. Martin of Birmingham” joins a mural of St. Francis at this congregation, which has been concerned with social justice and our community for several decades. More, tomorrow.

A Free Festival, Tomorrow at the Smithsonian

Robert Burdock

If you’re interested in literature, film or South Asian culture, you would probably enjoy the South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival (SALTAF), which is happening tomorrow — I love it because it’s an event which is unique to D.C. (and it’s FREE):

This year’s festival will feature panel discussions, readings, and film screenings by internationally acclaimed writers and artists. The literary panel will feature poet Pireeni Sundaralingam, editor of the first anthology of contemporary South Asian poetry, Indivisible; award-winning writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of One Amazing Thing; and writer and artist Naeem Mohaiemen, whose work has been featured in galleries around the world. The non-fiction/journalism panel includes Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of the acclaimed Imperial Life in the Emerald City and National Editor at the Washington Post, and writer and activist Canyon Sam, author of The Sky Train.

Date : Saturday, November 13, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. |
Location : Baird Auditorium, National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW |
Metro : Smithsonian or Federal Triangle

Phillips Collection Reopens, with FREE Admission

Kevin H.

Inside the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

Yesterday, there was a fire at the Phillips Collection, a popular museum in Dupont Circle which is currently being renovated (that’s how the blaze got started, on the roof). The good news is no one and nothing were harmed by the fire. Better news? The museum reopens tomorrow and admission fees will be waived for the remainder of the month.

The fire, which broke out on the morning of September 2, was contained and extinguished swiftly. No one was injured. All artwork is safe and secure. Museum conservators have evaluated the artwork and determined conclusively that nothing has incurred significant damage. The building condition is under ongoing evaluation while cleanup and repair are underway.

Most museum phone lines continue to be out of service. For updated information, visit the Phillips’s Web site

Will they split infinitives in Klingon, too?

Star Trek, The Movie

Star Trek

Want another reason why DC is delightful? How about an evening of Shakespeare…in Klingon? That’s right, Klingon. Trek over to the Washington Shakespeare Company in Arlington next month to hear it for yourself. Via WaPo:

At the company’s annual benefit Sept. 25 in Rosslyn, selections from “Hamlet” and “Much Ado About Nothing” will be performed in the language that was invented for the Klingon characters of the “Star Trek” films. Actors will be speaking the verse in two languages, English and Klingon, and the lines in each will correspond to the Bard’s signature meter: iambic pentameter. The translations are courtesy of the Klingon Language Institute, a Pennsylvania group that published “The Klingon Hamlet” several years ago, in addition to composing the Klingon version of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

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