We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
D.C. Arts Refresh and Renew: Let’s Rediscover Our Local Arts Scene (and Coverage)
I was on a panel the other day at which an audience member bemoaned the lack of local arts coverage in the District. I didn’t fix my face or bite my tongue: “If only D.C. had hyperlocal news outlets to cover such things,” I interrupted sarcastically.
I meant what I said. Some outlets with Washington in their name have taken a decidedly national turn—and that’s OK, because Washington City Paper is still here (and we’re not alone). I say this as a means to introduce our 2023 Spring Arts Guide, which is, indeed, filled to the metaphorical brim with local arts coverage. Not just with previews of events rolling through town at the Kennedy Center and the Anthem, but actual local arts events put on for and by actual locals. It’s the definition of local arts coverage, if I do say so myself.
Since January, when spring seemed so far away it felt cruel to issue assignments, I’ve been thinking about what and who to spotlight in our biannual roundup of artsy events in the DMV. Between the winter doldrums and a flickering hope that the worst of COVID is behind us, I wanted to focus on the idea of New and Renew.
With the help of nearly 30 writers, we spitballed on that loose theme and hunted down everything from big-name events—such the National, New Edition, and MUNA—to the local dance collective chitra.MOVES’ two-day TEMPLE performance and Dee Dwyer’s captivating photo exhibit of Anacostia. We have comedy superstars, such as Margaret Cho, coming to town, but also easy-to-overlook improv nights led by some truly hilarious locals. Like me, you might even learn what a “Harold Night” is. As happens, some events such as May 6’s inaugural Tamarindo Festival at RFK Stadium and Shakespeare Theatre Company’s May production of Here There Are Blueberries were announced after coverage was assigned. But in the end I’m awed by this package. It’s a reminder for even the most cynical and sarcastic of how truly talented and creative D.C. is—from its arts events to its arts writers. Don’t sleep on them.
In this day and age it’s almost a cliche to equate spring with rebirth and renewal. But then, some things are cliches for a reason. As the city unfurls from winter, without a COVID spike in sight (knocks on wood aggressively), now is a good time to reacquaint yourself with the very best side of the city we call home.
So do me, and those 28 other writers, a favor: Share this guide with your friends, your family, your coworkers—remind them that there is local coverage and local artists and smaller venues who are doing big and little things that continue to make D.C. more than politics, but a hub for arts and culture. —Sarah Marloff
Table of Contents
DMV Native Raheem DeVaughn on Healing, Therapy, and New Music
It seems only appropriate that I speak with D.C.’s self-proclaimed “Love King,” Raheem DeVaughn on Valentine’s Day. Throughout his more than 20-year career, the singer-songwriter has delivered R&B classics “Customer,” “Woman,” “Queen,” and “Guess Who Loves You More.” But DeVaughn, who admits “technically, I’m single,” has other matters on his mind; most notably promoting and…
Continue Reading DMV Native Raheem DeVaughn on Healing, Therapy, and New Music
DC9 Has a Cure for the Winter Lull: Local Artist Residencies
A few months ago, Ari Voxx thought the only musicians who got residencies were big stars. You know, the Britney Spears and Lady Gagas of the world, who spend months or years performing at an amphitheater in Las Vegas. “Honestly,” the dream-pop singer-songwriter tells City Paper, “I didn’t think that residencies were typically done on…
Continue Reading DC9 Has a Cure for the Winter Lull: Local Artist Residencies
Jru Anthony Defines Modern Pop
Pronouncing Jru Anthony’s first name isn’t all that complicated: Say it as it’s spelled, which sounds like “Drew.” But people routinely get it wrong. “You don’t know how many people call me ‘Jay-Roo,’” he says. “It’s ridiculous at this point.” If Anthony’s remarkable debut album, last fall’s Life for Now, is any indication, it won’t…
Leslye Penelope Imbues Black Broadway With Literal Magic
All too often works of fiction set in D.C. take place in the world of politics, with the Washington Monument prominently in the background. But fantasy writer Leslye Penelope’s latest book, The Monsters We Defy, is set in 1920s D.C. with barely a whiff of the White House. Instead, it’s a supernatural heist novel that’s…
Continue Reading Leslye Penelope Imbues Black Broadway With Literal Magic
Sunu P. Chandy’s Poetry Thrives Between Confessional and Communal
“It was like it took my whole life [to publish this book] and yet it also happened very quickly,” Sunu P. Chandy tells City Paper about her soon-to-be published debut poetry collection, My Dear Comrades. A civil rights attorney and social justice activist, as well as a spouse and mother, Chandy is a proud multi-hyphenate.…
Continue Reading Sunu P. Chandy’s Poetry Thrives Between Confessional and Communal
Dance and Performance
Chitra Subramanian Creates Community Through Dance
Lynchburg, Virginia, is not the easiest place to be different—especially for a Hindu family from south India. But this largely white, conservative city is where Chitra Subramanian’s family came to call home. Her father found engineering work in Lynchburg and the family immigrated from West Bengal in the 1980s, when Subramanian was three. Her classmates…
Continue Reading Chitra Subramanian Creates Community Through Dance
Museums and Galleries
Local Photographer Dee Dwyer Captures Southeast
D.C.-based photographer Dee Dwyer has spent years documenting the historically Black neighborhoods of Southeast, which she calls a “hidden gem in the nation’s capital.” In the exhibit Wild Seeds of the Soufside, on view at Phillips@THEARC, Dwyer connects the “Soufside” community, where she was raised, with characters from Wild Seed, a 1980 novel by the…
Continue Reading Local Photographer Dee Dwyer Captures Southeast
With <em>Incendiary</em>, Dave Harris Lights Up D.C. for the First Time
Even for a writer as accomplished as Dave Harris, the prospect of premiering a new play at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is something to get excited about. “Woolly has been on my list of dream theaters for a long time,” he gushes. “So many writers I have been obsessed with have been on that stage.”…
Continue Reading With <em>Incendiary</em>, Dave Harris Lights Up D.C. for the First Time
Woolly Mammoth’s Kristen Jackson Builds Bridges Between the Theater and Community
“I’m a native Washingtonian, born and raised. I lived outside of the city, but was compelled to come back home to D.C. in a very specific way,” shares Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s Kristen Jackson. In November, Jackson began a newly created dual role of associate artistic director and connectivity director. She currently lives in Anacostia with…
Continue Reading Woolly Mammoth’s Kristen Jackson Builds Bridges Between the Theater and Community