2010, Number 2
Twenty years ago, boarded-up buildings in the Penn Quarter neighborhood were a legacy from the 1968 riots, while the area around U Street, NW—once known as “Black Broadway” for its plethora of theaters—was a high-crime area, mostly devoid of businesses. Today, both neighborhoods are thriving, in no small part thanks to the arts organizations that call those neighborhoods home. In the Penn Quarter neighborhood, for example, the Shakespeare Theatre has paved the way for other businesses, like restaurants and retail stores, to move to the area. It has further committed to the neighborhood by building its new multimillion dollar Sidney Harman Hall just a few blocks down from its Landsburgh Theater space. On U Street, historic music clubs, such as Bohemian Caverns (open since 1926) have continued to draw business to the area by presenting music legends from Billie Holiday to NEA Jazz Master Ron Carter, while relative newcomers such as Busboys and Poets have become a vibrant community space for the literary and visual arts.
While the arts certainly weren’t the only reason these areas revived, they played a significant part in investing in their communities, which, arguably, helped make the transformation complete. In this issue of NEA Arts we examine a few of the “neighborhood” artists and arts and culture organizations that help make DC not just the nation’s capital, but an arts capital.
New Leaf, 2007, by Lisa Scheer, a sculpture commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro subway station. "When designing this work," wrote Scheer, "my goal was to find an image and emotion that would speak to the spirit of this neighborhood place. A leaf is a simple and familiar thing." Photo by Lisa Scheer.