With a brass band, go-go music and paintings set up around the stage on a lot along Good Hope Road, creative energy was flowing as D.C. announced the creation of the new Anacostia Arts and Culture District.
At one point, Mayor Muriel Bowser got on stage and started to help paint a picture herself, a few minutes after touting additional funding for more murals around the city.
It’s a celebration that won’t stop anytime soon, either. Bowser noted that events like Art All Night and the city’s Emancipation Day celebration would be coming to the District, too, but the designation will make sure the celebration of the artistic spirit that flows strong east of the Anacostia will continue to do just that.
It’s also something that residents and businesses throughout the neighborhood want to see; at least, that’s the impression left with Kristina Noell, who leads the Anacostia Business Improvement District, after many conversations with Ward 8 businesses and residents.
“The through line was arts, culture, how do we preserve our history, how do we just make sure that we’re able to be here,” Noell said.
But arts and culture is also something she said Anacostia already had happening organically.
“A lot of areas just don’t have the luxury of that, and being a historic district already,” Noell said.
She also pointed to the impact that a similar designation has had for a stretch of Hyattsville that sits along U.S. Route 1.
“It will give us a tool to attract and retain businesses, it will have attention to artists that don’t necessarily get all the attention, but they’re brilliant,” she said, adding it will also help bring tourists east of the Anacostia, where they typically don’t go. “We have things that the world should see.”
One Ward 8 artist who agreed with that is Keyonna Jones, who opened her own gallery in nearby Congress Heights a few years ago.
“It’s really important to have it in Ward 8. There’s so many things that we go through that we need to express,” Jones said. “People were making fun of me when I opened my doors to the art gallery, but now people understand the value of art, and it can really create social change.”
But even beyond social change, Jones said giving people a way to express themselves when the words aren’t there is also important.
“Sometimes words don’t equate to everything that you’re feeling, so art comes in and fills that gap,” Jones said. “Art saves lives. That’s what I really believe. It saved mine. So I’m excited to have people jumping on the bandwagon now.”
She said art will also help revitalize the neighborhood.
“You come and you see art, it makes you feel good, it makes the neighborhood feel good.”