Tuesday, June 21, 2011

we are ready

Washington Color Schoolist, Alma Thomas.
I know a lot of creative writers in DC. And I'm not just talking about the menagerie of imaginary helper animals under my employ. I think I'm up to 10 now, counting my latest invention/hire, a camel named Timothy, who types by spitting very accurately at the keyboard. And while that's both disgusting and unbelievable, what's not anymore is the idea that DC actually has a creative community living within its borders (and outside, sometimes, if we go ahead and count places like Silver Spring and Arlington).

Anyway, one of these members of this emerging society of creatives is a music writer named Marcus Dowling, who's not only great at his craft, but still manages to look cool even when photographed next to a gigantic weiner [note: no Congressmen were involved in that link]. And I'm mentioning Marcus specifically not solely to reminisce about the most inoffensive weiner photograph I've ever taken (actually, the only weiner picture I've ever taken, thank god), but because he wrote something that piqued my interest yesterday on his blog, True Genius Requires Insanity. Specifically, it was this paragraph:
Washington, DC is now a city where it is possible to party in a multitude of world class venues with world class performers, seven days a week. It is also a city where people can make a living in the non-white or blue collar world, solely powered by their personal inventive impulses. Artists and writers share space with CEOs and electricians in increasingly greater percentages. When the convergence of independent, corporate and government economies becomes an even game of tug of war, in a never-ending multitude of historical examples has been a harbinger of positive development... DC needs permanent and accessible creative space because DC now has shown itself as adequately prepared for a place that welcomes diverse community...
I'm going to go ahead and step out of character for a minute here (i.e., give my helper camel Timothy a much-needed mouthwash break) and comment on this assertion myself -- I agree with him.

The evidence that Marcus gives in his essay points to the success of the month-long vitaminwater® uncapped LIVE event put on by, well, vitaminwater® (duh) and DC's very own creative culture pushers Brightest Young Things. While that evidence is fine enough, despite that it was part corporate marketing scheme, which actually in spite of my grunge-era coming-of-age instincts doesn't actually connote anything negative in this Facebookish time of our lives, I think the uncapped event was just one rather specific facet of the festering creative volcano that's been seeping its metaphorical lava slowly and steadily out all over this city.

Don't believe it? I didn't for a long time either, but now after working in and around the art world in DC, I know we have something here, albeit kinda still too damn small, especially because the rent is too damn high (shout out to Jimmy McMillan!), which means it's becoming too damn expensive for some really great galleries to operate in prime real estate. It's also important to note that creative types often still hold down more square day jobs. The owner of Industry Gallery, which has hosted several contemporary decorative arts exhibitions that even New York would be jealous of, is owned by a lawyer. I know another lawyer, an artistic photographer, who participates in Art-o-Matic, which will hopefully rear its awesome head again soon. (Seriously, where's it been?!)

Really, there are countless other right-brained folk in this city who use their left-brains to make a living. Economist-by-day, food writer-by-night, Hill staffer/contemporary dancer, non-profit fundraiser/designer and probably an incomprehensible number of other combinations. Judging from the turnout at the art exhibition I curated that opened last month, even if they're not a part of it, an astounding number of traditional DC professionals are still interested in this creative, less-buttoned up still-kinda-underground world. And if you still have your doubts that any of that exists at all, allow me to point to some exciting items that exist in and around our city, many of which have sprung up in the last couple of years:

  • Remaining on the art tip, there's a large scale art fair (the same type you usually have to go to New York City to attend) coming to DC this September.  
  • There's tons of great theater here. Although not new, I believe we have the only Georgian-led (the country, not the state) movement-based theater company in the nation with Synetic, which awed me last year with its interpretation of my favorite novel in the history of ever, The Master and Margarita
  • Also, if you party at the Black Cat or U Street Music Hall ever, you've probably heard that a DC-based DJ created a new genre, moombahton, that's poised to blow up worldwide. Hell, NPR even did a report on it!   
  • We now have the wonderful 826DC space for aspiring writers. 
  • And did you know there's a salon in DC (Immortal Beloved) outfitted with entirely home-crafted furniture, made by the owner? That's f*cking redonk-awesome! 

Additionally, DC boasts talented novelists, photographers, graphic designers, shop owners, musicians, non-fiction writers (OH HAI!) and far too many other no-collar professionals to list concisely and specifically in this essay. (The linked people are just a few examples off the top of my head). The bottom line is people are interested. More importantly, people are creating.

However, people are fragmented. As Marcus pointed out in his essay, we don't have a Mission District or Wham City Collective or a Lower East Side, places where the virtual beating heart of the creative class resides in San Francisco, Baltimore and New York City, respectively. We're scattered. We have certain spots in Dupont, a few clubs on U Street, a writing center in Columbia Heights, a shrinking string of galleries in Logan Circle, a coffee shop in Adams Morgan, an amorphous conglomerate on H Street, and our individual homes, where I think the seeds of most creative endeavors are born and unfortunately mostly remain. It'd be great to have a common space in this city, where the sole purpose was to give amateurs and professionals alike a platform and, more importantly, a common place to exchange ideas.

Adult Kool-Aid® vitaminwater® uncapped did that for a certain sect of this much wider population, but it still had the appeal of showcasing a series of events opposed to creating a culture all its own. Of course with just 30 days to work with, perhaps expecting more is a bit unfair.

That said, I think given more time and a motivated and wide-ranging set of organizers, we can do it. We can create and promote a culture that values more than what nametag you wear during the day. I mean, come on, lest we want to be known forever as the people who socialize like this, goddammit we owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the world. We have a lot to give.

If nothing else, my helper camel Timothy is prepared for a Coca-Cola® uncapped LIVE event...

So, who's on board?


Artist58 said...

Oh no! Don't turn pro-DC!

Marissa said...

I've always been pro-DC-that-doesn't-suck, as I am pro-everything-that-doesn't-suck and DC's creative community, while small (sometimes almost invisible unless you really hunt for it), doesn't suck!