Part of a ceiling in an art gallery run by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities collapsed tonight during a gala opening for “Go-Go Swing,” an exhibit focused on the legacy of D.C.’s signature post-funk sound. Seven or eight people—-depending on whether you believe WUSA or NBC4—-were injured and transported to a hospital.
The incident occurred about an hour and half into the event, according to attendee Chelsey Rodgers, during a set by the band Black Alley. The ceiling collapse, Rodgers tells Arts Desk, took place about 10 feet from the stage, but the audience couldn’t hear it because of the volume of the music. “You just saw it,” she says. The event took place inside the arts commission’s 200 I Gallery space, inside the agency’s 200 I Street SE headquarters.
Rodgers, a former Miss District of Columbia, says the crowd quickly moved away from the area, with three or four people looking like they’d been stunned and blocking their faces from the debris. Within five or 10 minutes, Rodgers says, the room was evacuated. Once the police arrived around 9 p.m., several people were loaded in stretchers into ambulances, Rodgers says. Attendees were allowed to go back inside to collect their things, but the event did not continue, Rodgers says. NBC4 reports that none of the injuries was serious.
Messages to the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities were not immediately returned. The arts commission has occupied the space, located in the former Washington Star printing plant, for less than a year.
According to Rodgers, there was at least one moment of levity. After the collapse but before the room was evacuated, one of the singers of Black Alley said into the microphone, “Oh my god, did we do that?”
Photo courtesy Chelsey Rodgers