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2014 just got a little less festive for Anacostia.
The neighborhood had its coming-out party of sorts in 2012 with the first annual Lumen8Anacostia, a three-month bash that aimed to put the maligned east-of-the-river spot on the map as an arts destination. The second Lumen8, spanning nearly as long last year, helped cement the neighborhood’s burgeoning reputation for being not just safe, but lively and fun.
The third Lumen8, however, will have to wait: The festival scheduled for this fall has been canceled due to lack of funding.
Nikki Peele, director of marketing and business development at ARCH Development Corporation, the Anacostia-based firm that’s tried to revitalize the neighborhood through the arts and is the driving force behind Lumen8, says ARCH applied for public and private grants for Lumen8 that never came in. (The first Lumen8 was funded partly through an ArtPlace grant via the D.C. Office of Planning.) This year’s festival was initially going to be held in the spring. Then, when funding was still lacking, it got pushed back to the fall. Now it’s been scrapped altogether.
“We just didn’t get any grant funding,” says Peele. “We couldn’t afford to take on the whole financial burden ourselves.”
The cancellation of this year’s Lumen8 is the latest stutter-step for a neighborhood with all the right fundamentals for a rebirth—-Metro accessibility, a riverfront location, attractive historic properties, a walkable main drag—-but a seemingly endless store of bad luck. The popular and, in a neighborhood severely lacking in sit-down eateries, potentially transformational restaurant Uniontown Bar and Grill on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue closed in 2012 not because of slow business, but due to internal complications after its owner was convicted of drug smuggling. Likewise, an ownership dispute shuttered the remaining proper sit-down spot last year, just a year after its previous re-opening. (Both have since re-opened.) Development projects have been just as hard to come by.
ARCH notified community members of the Lumen8 cancellation last week. Peele says that while nothing had been set in stone, many people in the neighbohrood had expressed interest in participating. “There wasn’t a small business that didn’t ask me about it,” she says. “There wasn’t an artist that didn’t ask me about it. There wasn’t a volunteer that didn’t ask me about it.”
Ultimately, Peele says, ARCH opted to cancel the festival rather than scaling it back. But ARCH has been in talks with the Anacostia Business Improvement District about holding a smaller arts event later this year, and Peele expects there to be a Lumen8Anacostia 2015.
“We are definitely hopeful that we’ll be able to hold Lumen8 next year,” she says. “We understand that Lumen8Anacostia is important to a lot of people.”
Image from the Lumen8Anacostia website