Several years ago, I was sitting in a bar with a bunch of coworkers. We went out a couple times a week for beer, always to the same place. They were fine people but, good lord, how many times can you hear the same old stories?
While we were rehashing the same old petty little workplace dramas, a group of staffers from the Portrait Gallery came in. They had more interesting things to say than me and my coworkers, for they were talking about art.
It was then that I vowed to get more involved in the creative scene in DC.
In 2010, I was fortunate to not only sample a lot of what the city has to offer, but also participate in it.
First off, a word on snow. What’s the best stimulus program for the arts? A massive snowstorm. Not only does it give artists time at home to work, it prompts droves of photographers to venture out in the cold to capture the magical, transformed city.
DC has never looked better. Shrouded in white, bereft of cars, you wanted Washington to remain this way forever. There’s a gentle tranquility to the snow that was brilliantly caught by Flickr users like a.w. miller, bossa67 and Pepper Watkins. Their pictures show the power of photography to create magic.
During this mini-Ice Age, I ventured out to take photos of the Snow Globe show at Transformer. Ballerinas performed in a tiny storefront.
Eventually, it did get warm in DC, just in time for the cherry blossoms. The highlight of the season was Cherry Blast, a Pink Line Project party in Adams Morgan. Dancing and performance art filled a storage facility. The space was so awkward and so crowded that I thought, “Hipster death trap.”
No one died, of course, and it was another great party. You always remember the small moments. For me, it was the musician playing guitar in the massive freight elevator, serenading us as we slowly ascended. Absurd, touching and memorable all at once.
Pink Line Project
I am, of course, biased toward the Pink Line Project. I knew Philippa Hughes, founder of the site, before she was famous enough to appear on the cover of the City Paper. And I am a writer for the site, covering filmmaking and photography in DC. What I like about Pink Line parties is that they get you to venues you might have never visited, like the Textile Museum, which hosted the packed Hapi Hapi Hour, or the newly opened Artisphere in Rosslyn.
Capital Fringe Festival
Along with Paul Gillis and Kay Campbell, I got to be an official photographer at the Capital Fringe Festival. Julianne Brienza (director of Cap Fringe) had seen me hanging around with my camera and decided to put me to work.
The first show I did was (Snap)shots on a Greyhound Headed Home. I was in the front row as two half-naked dancers came out. I stared and then remembered, “Oh, yea, I’m the photographer” and picked up my camera.
I saw more theater over the two weeks of the festival than I had in years. The heat was unbearable, the spaces tiny, but the performances were packed.
I’m a huge fan of Rome and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending but the defining show of Fringe for me was Ridgefield Middle School Talent Night. Two people, tons of crazy characters, interaction with the audience – that’s what Fringe is all about.
Also what Fringe is all about – meeting creative people. Actors, reporters, bloggers, singers, dancers, cross-dressers and audience members commingled between shows at Fort Fringe. It was fun to just sit there, drink my favorite beer (Bell’s Two-Hearted), and watch people come and go under the big tent.
September brings the DC Shorts Film Festival, a local event that I’ve been involved in various capacities for years. My favorites were a couple of very funny films: Enter the Beard and the Imaginary Friend Practical Manual.
DC Shorts is also known for its great parties, the best being the one at Madam Tussaud’s where I finally got a picture of myself with Marion “Mayor for Life” Barry.
In October, we had the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition. I was one of the judges and this year got to see the whole process – from the intake of scripts to the award for best short screenplay.
We had five finalists in the competition who came to DC. I accompanied them to the casting session, where the writers got to pick the actors they wanted to act out their scripts. The writers had a day to rehearse. Since one of the writers couldn’t make it, I took his part, playing the role of narrator.
The scripts were read aloud at a live screenplay reading that took place during the ScriptDC screenwriting conference. While the writers of Interview Date won $2000 to turn their script into a film, all the participants have gone on to great things.
There’s been criticism of Fotoweek, that’s it gotten to be too big and not local enough. Some of that is warranted – it takes place all over the metro area and includes so many events (and a really confusing web site) that it’s almost impossible to figure out what to attend.
The event that really demonstrated what Fotoweek should be was NightVisions. Local photographers swarmed the city and then delivered the results to Fotoweek Central, which picked out the best pic from each photographer, printed them, and then hung them. This was perfect – an easily explainable idea, local participation, a result that you could point at.
Finally, I was really impressed by the InstantDC show, which demonstrated that you can make art with an iPhone.
And I didn’t just like it because the beer was from ChurchKey – there were some great photos from people like Jim Darling. It was inspiring to see what’s possible with a device that you carry around with you every day.
Let’s face it: 2010 was a crap year. Recession, war and other unrelenting problems stalked the land. Art offered consolation and reward.