East Side News

March 2018

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“Stretch” by Olivia Tripp Morrow in the NoMa BID lobby. Image: Taylor Barden Golden

Color Comes to Construction
Anyone who has driven through or past the Union Market District knows that it is changing every day. In that spirit, CulturalDC brought its temporary art space to the neighborhood to lend color to the industrial gray.

Artist JD Deardourff transformed the Mobile Art Gallery into a colored alternative reality featuring experimental monoprints that focus on color and energy. “Uncanny Fantastic” is installed to mimic the format of a comic book. Each image functions on its own, but the artist believes the images “work together as a whole.” Deardourff also publishes a comic book of the same title.

Throughout the exhibition, Deardourff held free workshops with the community where he demonstrated the basics of screen printing. The intimate space, literally a 40-foot mobile shipping container, allows visitors to immerse themselves in the vocabulary of comic book art: “exaggeration, energy, movement, contour line, the interplay of sequential images, and, most importantly, artificial color.”

CulturalDC has been working for the last 19 years to “make space for art” by creating affordable, sustainable artist spaces in the DC area. It has brokered over 300,000 square feet of space for artists and arts organizations by working with real estate developers, artists, city officials, residents and other key stakeholders.

CulturalDC takes a hands-on approach to bring art directly to the people, most recently with the Mobile Art Gallery. Throughout the 2017-18 season, the organization will travel across the city, with each exhibit corresponding with and speaking to the surrounding community. By outfitting a portable venue as a multifunctional space for art and partnering with unconventional venues, CulturalDC hopes to help all people experience groundbreaking and thought-provoking art without having to travel too far from home.

The Artful Lobby
The NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) takes bringing art to the neighborhood so seriously that the lobby of its office building is an art gallery. The BID’s building exhibits different art installations throughout the year with the support of The Lobby Project. Currently, the space is exhibiting “Stretch” by Olivia Tripp Morrow.

The single piece spans the length of the lobby hallway and features donated women’s clothing, bed sheets and other textiles as material. “Imbued with untold personal histories,” Morrow explains, “my work obscures the sentimentality of the donated fabrics by my physically deconstructing them; yet their potential significance is preserved by creating a new palette of materials, prompting viewers to form personal associations and infer narratives based on their own history.”

Morrow has a permanent installation at the Anacostia Arts Center and is a resident artist at the Arlington Arts Center, where she also has an installation on view through June.

The Lobby Project promotes work of local area artists and doesn’t shy away from difficult or provocative subjects. The organization was founded in 2013, before many of the current structures in NoMa were a glint in a developer’s eye, in an attempt to utilize the empty space that was 1200 First St. NE. Comfortable furniture and art exhibits and community programming came to a neighborhood that needed a communal space.

The popular “Nerds of NoMa” series is part of that programming that continues to this day, even with the all the changes in the space above.

Getting the Green (Space) in MVT
If you are looking for green space in the District, one of the last areas you would think of is Mount Vernon Triangle, but the community is trying to change that. The MVT Community Improvement District (CID) recently embarked on a data-driven crusade to prove to the necessary stakeholders, mainly the DC government, that park space needs to be preserved in the growing area near Union Station.

According to PlayDC, MVT is the ninth most populous neighborhood in the District but is fourth to last (of 45) in terms of access to open space. There are three times the number of residents per playground as the District average. This has not gone unnoticed by the residents. So, the CID held a series of stakeholder meetings throughout last year and identified the major needs of the distinct groups who live, work and pray in the area. Through this community engagement, the study identified the central qualities of green space that are important to residents, including beauty, relaxation, event space, dog facilities and children’s play areas.

Although the desire for open space is shared greatly among the neighbors, the question is how, first, to protect and enhance the spaces that exist and, second, to create new spaces if possible. There are a few obvious candidates for enhanced open space, as they currently sit vacant or unused. The first is Cobb Park, the open space created as a result of the Center Leg Freeway extension in 1978.The reconfigured roadways have increased the size of the park to 52,000 square feet, which will return to being open space (hopefully) when the construction staging area is no longer needed near the end of 2018. Cobb Park is owned by the city, and the site has been scoped by developers for a possible largescale project.

The second area of interest is the DC-owned parking deck that occupies two acres at Second and H streets NW. Although proposals have been submitted for the deck to be used as open, mixed-use space, the stability of the structure is unclear, which might present a greater problem than opportunity. There are also patches of federal land operated by the National Park Service that the CID thinks might be a viable option.

While the need for green space is obvious, the pathway to secure it is not. The final report will be released in early March, after which the CID will lobby in full force for this effort. “The fact-based, community-led and data-driven conclusions of the MVT Open Space Study affirmed that investing in high-quality parks and amenities will build stronger community by improving neighborhood livability, amplifying the downtown destination experience and enhancing the value of adjacent properties,” according to MVT CID’s president and CEO Kenyattah A. Robinson. “Our community has voiced its strong desire for more open space, and it is vital that the study recommendations be effectuated now, given significant recent development that has created a rapidly diminishing availability of this resource and Mount Vernon Triangle’s projected build-out by the early part of next decade.”

 

Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.