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Spotlight on Anacostia

Ward 8 arts initiative could be ‘transformational’ for neighborhood

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Andrea Hope and Tommie Adams look over prints he hopes to have exhibited in the Lumen8Anacostia festival in April. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

With the Smithsonian here and a host of other well-established galleries hosting exhibits — sometimes of national renown — it’s easy to get overlooked in the Washington art scene. But there’s a flourishing art community east of the Anacostia River, a handful of galleries and, come April, a bounty of opportunities for everyone to see them both in the established art houses there and in a bevy of abandoned buildings and warehouses.

Anacostia, just one of the Ward 8 D.C. Southeast neighborhoods east of the River, is changing. On April 14, residents there will launch Lumen8Anacostia, a three-month arts initiative that’s using a $250,000 grant the D.C. Office of Planning received from ArtPlace (a collaboration of nine of the country’s top foundations, eight federal agencies and six large banks that supports “creative placemaking” with grants and more) to be administered to four D.C. neighborhoods (the others are Brookland, Deanwood and the central 14th Street area N.W.) to create temporary art and culture spaces in “emerging” neighborhoods where vacant and/or underutilized storefronts and empty lots will be transformed into art knolls. Arch Development Corporation, which has been working since 1991 to revitalize historic Anacostia with several initiatives and economic development plans, is implementing Lumen8.

Though not an LGBT-specific initiative, one of the organizers, Jeffrey Herrell, is gay and his partner, Tommie Adams, is hoping to have his photography exhibited in one of the spaces. They moved to Anacostia in 2005, delighted at the amount of house and yard they could get for a fraction of the price they would have paid in Washington’s glitzier neighborhoods. Herrell says they love the neighborhood and are delighted to see its cultural side being tapped.

Lumen8 organizers from left are Beth Ferraro, Andrea Hope, Jeffrey Herrell, Nikki Peele and Phil Hutinet. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I’m a big ambassador for Anacostia,” Herrell says. “I’m always trying to get my friends to move here and I’ve succeeded a few times. I have great neighbors here. Yes, there have been some ups and downs … but I think [the neighborhood] has been stigmatized. … The neighbors are extremely close, really tight in terms of friendships and the neighborhood kind of brings you together. I really like living here.”

Herrell says he knows two artists who live on his street and has another neighbor who’s an actor/performance artist. His next-door neighbor is also gay, there’s a lesbian couple on his block and another he knows of a couple blocks over. He and Adams say gays in Dupont and Logan would be surprised to discover how easygoing most straight Anacostia residents are with their LGBT neighbors.

“People here really don’t care,” Adams says. “Sometimes the kids will say something at first, but people here don’t really care if there are differences. I guess they have worse issues to deal with.”

Anacostia does, of course, have its problems. About 94 percent black (Ward 7 is 96 percent), Ward 8 residents are plagued with the city’s highest unemployment rate — 35 percent according to the latest figures available from NeighborhoodInfo D.C., a partnership between the Urban Institute and the Washington D.C. Local Initiatives Support Corporation — and 20 violent crimes per 1,000 residents in 2010. Both, sadly, are the highest rates of D.C.’s eight wards (Ward 7’s unemployment rate is 19 percent for those 16 and older; Ward 3 has the lowest with just 3.4 percent of its 16-and-older residents out of work).

But those figures are part of the reason Lumen8 organizers say Anacostia needs some light, quite literally. In addition to the various exhibits planned, organizers plan to illuminate several Anacostia buildings for the festival. A portion of the grant money will go to Intelligent Lighting Company, which will project lights and images on several buildings there.

“We’re lighting it up literally as well as trying to shine an overall spotlight on the neighborhood,” Herrell says.

“So few people really know the location, they think Anacostia is everything east of the river,” says Nikki Peele, an Arch employee who lives in Congress Heights, another Ward 8 neighborhood. “Even lifelong D.C. residents sometimes think that. They’re not sure of the history here, what’s here to do. For too many people, the information they have is that this is a somewhat scary place, so for a project like this, especially on this scale, it has the opportunity to be a transformational moment and not just for the community but for the outside perception of it … it’s very much a family community with an almost village-like feel. … the name was chosen for a reason — to bring both light and understanding.”

Organizers are selecting artists to have their work shown now from a pool of about 20 applicants who heard about the event through neighborhood listserves and word of mouth. After the April 14 kickoff, exhibitors will have to agree to have their gallery spaces open each Saturday and then six hours on another day during the week for the rest of April, May and June. Aside from the neighborhood’s existing three galleries, space such as a former police warehouse and several vacant storefronts on Martin Luther King Avenue and Good Hope Road will be converted into temporary exhibition space. Portions of the funds from the grant will be used to convert the various spaces and to give to the artists to realize their visions for their exhibits.

Herrell says it’s a good opportunity for both D.C. residents in general and also for the Anacostia artists, most amateurs, who’ve never had their work exhibited before.

“They may not be able to afford to open their own store, but this will give them a taste of what it’s like,” he says.

“It’s a very large-scale project,” says Phil Hutinet, Arch’s chief operating officer. “It’s going to be a huge benefit to the artistic community and to the neighborhood.”

 

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Out & About

10 LGBTQ events this week

A Gaga afterparty and a cardboard boat regatta among attractions

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(Washington Blade photos by Vanessa Pham and Michael Key)

Below are our picks for some of the most fun and creative things to do this week in the DMV that are of special interest to the LGBTQ community.


Reign

Logan Stone hosts ‘Reign’ on Monday. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Monday, August 8
8-11 p.m.
DIK Bar
1637 17th Street, N.W. (second floor)
Facebook

Join Logan Stone, Dabatha Christie and Hennessey for a fun-filled drag show at Dupont Italian Kitchen Bar tonight at 8.


OMGaga Afterparty

Lady Gaga (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Monday, August 8
10 p.m.
Green Lantern
1335 Green Court, N.W.
Facebook

Did you catch the Gaga concert tonight? Whether you did or not, join the afterparty at Green Lantern. Show your ticket stub from the concert for a free drink on the dance floor.


Drag Bingo with Desiree Dik

Desiree Dik (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Tuesday, August 9
7-9 p.m.
Red Bear Brewing Co.
209 M Street, N.E.
Facebook

Join Desiree Dik for a game of bingo at Red Bear Brewing Co. on Tuesday. Free to play.


Queer Trivia

Wednesday, August 10
7-9 p.m.
Dew Drop Inn
2801 8th Street, N.E.
Facebook

The Mistresses lead a night of Queer Trivia on all things gay at the Dew Drop Inn on Wednesday.


Thirst Trap Thursdays

Join Cake and the queens for Thirst Trap Thursdays. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Thursday, August 11
10 p.m.
Pitchers DC/A League of Her Own
2317 18th Street, N.W.
Facebook

Venus Valhalla and Cake host the Thirsty Thursdays drag show at Pitchers/ALOHO on Aug. 11.


LGBTQ Social at Wild Days

Friday, August 12
7-9 p.m.
Wild Days Rooftop Bar at the Eaton Hotel
1201 K Street, N.W.
21+
Eventbrite

Have some casual conversations with new friends in the LGBTQ community over drinks in a relaxed atmosphere. Hosted by Go Gay DC.


A Love Letter to RENT

Friday, August 12
10 p.m.
JR.’s Bar
1519 17th Street, N.W.
Free admission
Facebook

Watch a drag show dedicated to the hit musical RENT. If you miss the first show on Friday, come by on Saturday at 4 p.m. for an encore performance.


Lights On, Barks Out! Disco Heat Drag Brunch

Saturday, August 13
Seating 11 a.m./show 12 p.m.
Astro Beer Hall
1306 G Street, N.W.
$15 cover
Facebook

Join host Doming0 for the Disco Heat Drag Brunch on Saturday at Astro Beer Hall.


Lake Anne Cardboard Boat Regatta

Lake Anne (Blade file photo by Vanessa Pham)

Saturday, August 13
2 p.m.
Lake Anne Plaza
1609 Washington Plaza
Reston, Va.
Facebook | Website

Watch a cardboard regatta race along Lake Anne in Reston, Va. Or, you could even participate (rules here)!


Mister & Miss AGLA Scholarship Fundraiser

Miss AGLA 2020-21 Ashlee Jozet Adams and Mr. AGLA 2020-21 Xavier Bottoms will be honored at the event alongside the newly-crowned Mr. and Miss AGLA 2022. (Photo via Facebook)

Sunday, August 14
7-9 p.m.
Freddie’s Beach Bar & Grill
555 23rd Street S
Arlington, Va.
$10 donation requested
Facebook

Join a fundraiser for a good cause: a college scholarship for an outstanding Arlington County Public High School senior. Also, the 2022 Mr. and Miss AGLA will be crowned.


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Photos

PHOTOS: United Night OUT

Team DC and Federal Triangles honored at halftime

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2022 United Night OUT. (Washington Blade photo by Kevin Majoros)

United Night OUT 2022 was held on August 6 at Audi Field with DC United taking on their Atlantic Cup rivals, the New York Red Bulls. The two teams battled to a 0-0 scoreless draw in their 99th meeting. The LGBTQ community event was co-hosted by Team DC and the Federal Triangles Soccer club who were both honored at halftime.

(Washington Blade photos by Kevin Majoros)

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Arts & Entertainment

Abbi Jacobson engaged to her girlfriend Jodi Balfour

Last week, Jacobson and Balfour made their first red carpet debut at the Los Angeles premiere of A League of Their Own. 

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Photos from Bigstock.

Abbi Jacobson, the Emmy Award nominee, is engaged to her girlfriend Jodi Balfour. She confirmed the news to People as she celebrated with her costars in the upcoming Amazon Video series A League of Their Own.

D’Arcy Carden, the costar and Jacobson’s friend of 15 years, said, “It’s out. It’s great. We’re so happy. We love [Jodi].”

“Abbi’s engaged! Abbi’s engaged! Abbi’s engaged!” Chanté Adams, also a costar in the upcoming series, followed, “We’ve had to hide it for … No, I’m kidding.”

“No, you have not. You have not had to hide it.” Jacobson responded, blushing, “That was not a thing. It was not a secret.”

Last week, Jacobson and Balfour made their first red carpet debut at the Los Angeles premiere of A League of Their Own. 

The couple started dating in 2020 and celebrated their first anniversary last October. Jacobson shared some selfies of them on instagram: “One year with this incredible human. Don’t know how I got so lucky ❤️.” 

Likewise, Balfour wrote in the caption: “365 days of the best surprise of my life 💚.”

Jacobson officially came out as a bisexual in the interview with Vanity Fair. “I date men and women,” she said, adding as long as the person is “funny” and is “doing something they love.”

Balfour, a South African actress, is known for her performances on For All Mankind, Supernatural, The Crown and True Detective. 

Jacobson is both cast and co-creator of A League of Their Own, in which she would tell the stories of these LGBTQ women in the 1940s. She also talked about Maybelle Blair, a consultant of the show as well as a former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player who came out at 95. 

“But Maybelle’s point of view, specifically on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League experience, what that was like to play baseball at the time, what it was like to be a queer woman in the league, was pretty important for some of the stories we were telling. But at Tribeca, she had not come out publicly and that was so incredible. And don’t you feel like it’s like, ‘95!’ I’m like, ‘This show needs to come out.’ She came out because we made this show.”

The first episode of A League of Their Own will be released on August 12.

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