Raining Money on the Arts
45th Kennedy Center Honoree Gladys Knight; Credit: Derek Blanks

They say you have to spend money to make it. Several D.C. institutions are testing out that theory this week, with a grant going to the Anacostia Business Improvement District and a tuition-free apprenticeship to help young adults find creative career paths. It’s basically raining money on the arts.

Art-vestment: A new grant from the Mayor’s Office wants to ensure Ward 8 is a “premier destination for the arts in Washington, D.C.” According to Friday’s press release announcing the grant, the Anacostia Business Improvement District has been awarded nearly $4 million to support the creation of its Anacostia Arts and Culture District. The money is intended to support the neighborhood’s “longstanding cultural institutions” as well as local artists. The grant will also fund new programs to both engage residents and attract visitors, support public art in streetscapes, and help expand the BID’s Friendly Logistics Operators Team. Lastly, the grant will also support “improved access” to the neighborhood via a shuttle service for residents and visitors. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio hopes the investment will also benefit other businesses such as neighborhood restaurants and retail stores, which would also create more jobs for locals. “The Anacostia Arts and Culture District is a transformational placemaking plan that puts arts and culture at the forefront,” says Anacostia BID’s Executive Director Kristina Noell in the release. “This grant will help us amplify the creativity and artistic innovation that has always existed in Ward 8 and create a vibrant place that speaks to the community and visitors alike.”

Honor Thy Artists: The Kennedy Center has announced its 45th batch of Honors recipients and what an … interesting … collection of artists they’ve assembled. Empress of Soul Gladys Knight finally gets a nod after delivering a stirring rendition of Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free” at the 2021 Honors. I’m hoping they’ll reunite the voices behind “That’s What Friends Are For” during her tribute. Composer and conductor Tania León, known for her large scale and chamber compositions, as well as her work with arts organizations across the world, will also get a rainbow medallion. The three other honorees did some of their best work in the ’90s but are getting recognized this year, like George Clooney, who gets one of the few awards he doesn’t already have. And perhaps a higher power advised the selection committee on the final two selections, U2 and Amy Grant. I think many of us were over the Irish rockers well before their 2014 album, Songs of Innocence, was forced on anyone with an iTunes account, but their prolificness and lack of internal drama apparently makes them worthy of recognition. With Grant, the Kennedy Center is diversifying their list of honorees—she’s the first contemporary Christian artist to get the award. Will someone lead the entirety of the Opera House in a sing-along of “Baby Baby” or “El Shaddai” during her segment of the ceremony? We’ll have to wait until December to find out. Overall, this group of honorees skews heavily toward popular musicians and leaves out stage performers and playwrights, disappointing many Broadway babies. Let us hope the divas get their due next year. —Caroline Jones

45th Kennedy Center Honoree U2; Olaf Heine

Party On, Phil: On Friday, July 22, the Phillips Collection announced the return of its signature evening event, Phillips After 5. Scheduled for Sept. 1, the event revolves around the museum’s recently opened exhibition Lou Stovall: The Museum Workshop and will focus on D.C. culture. The JoGo Project, with its blend of contemporary jazz and go-go, will play, while NoMüNoMü, a local intersectional arts collaborative, lead a printmaking workshop. The city’s second-oldest Black-owned beer company, Soul Mega, will offer free samples, while Ben’s Chili Bowl slings half smokes and beer and wine will be available for purchase. Tickets are $20, unless you’re a member, then it’s free. 

Back in Technicolor: OutWrite, the city’s annual LGBTQ Literary Festival, returns on Aug. 5 with three days chock full of queertastic programming. Once again virtual, the event features 70 LGBTQ writers from around the country including poets, novelists, and playwrights for a total of 19 readings, panels, and workshops, including a tribute to D.C.’s own Essex Hemphill—all free and accessible online. Find the full schedule at thedccenter.org/outwrite-2022-festival-schedule.

Courtesy of OutWrite

Here’s Looking For You: Calling all local artists—Hillyer is now accepting proposals for its 2023 exhibitions. Proposals will be reviewed and selected by Hillyer’s Artist Advisory Committee, which will also offer an advisory program for accepted artists, meaning the artists and arts professionals of the committee will work with each artist to prepare for their exhibitions and related programs. Accepted artists will receive a monthlong exhibit in one of the gallery’s three spaces. The deadline to apply is Friday, Sept. 16.

Allow Me To Introduce: The Arts Institute for Creative Advancement is a new yearlong educational meets apprenticeship program that will train young people in technical theater. Young adults, ages 18–24, who are struggling to engage with school or work are invited to apply for the intensive program, which will prepare them for offstage theater careers such as lighting and audio engineering, set construction, scenic painting, rigging, and stage management. 

Led by the Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts, Life Pieces To Masterpieces, Sitar Arts Center, and the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, along with more than a dozen other local arts education organizations, the program was created by the DC Arts Education Alliance to provide career path options to youth from local communities hardest hit by the pandemic. It also seeks to address the city’s shortage of skilled technical production workers, which is currently impacting the local theater industry among others. With a $500,000 matching grant for the first two years of the institute from the Share Fund and an additional $250,000 in Community Project Funding for the pilot year in the House’s fiscal year 2023 appropriations bills (as secured by D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton), the program has $750,000 in funding for its first year. “If unaddressed, this labor shortage will cripple D.C.’s nationally renowned theater industry,” says Theater J Managing Director David Lloyd Olson in the press release. “The Institute will be a boon to DC’s thriving creative economy.”

With an inaugural class of 20 students, the tuition-free program will launch in January 2023 and all the participants will be paid to learn and work. Upon graduation, participants will receive nationally recognized certifications. The deadline to apply is Oct. 1, and the program is open to youth who did not complete high school, as well as those who have diplomas, GEDs, and some (limited) post-secondary experience; no prior experience in theater is required. “We’re thrilled to be creating and implementing a curriculum in theater production that will be accessible to young adults who have faced obstacles in traditional learning environments,” says Deb Gottesman, co-executive director of the Theatre Lab, which will house the program. “And, at the same time, we look forward to doing our part to diversify a high-wage, high-demand field that is currently more than 80% white.”