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Wrapup from 3rd Arts District Branding Meeting

by Borderstan.com September 15, 2010 at 2:47 pm 0

Theatre J Arts District MidCity

The third public meeting on the Arts District that will encompass 14th and U Streets NW was held at Theatre J on September 13. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay

Theatre J at the DC Jewish Community Center was the venue for the third public dialogue meeting on branding and marketing the Arts District centered around the 14th and U Street corridors.

Like the earlier sessions, Monday evening’s format opened with comments from Carol Felix, lead branding consultant, and Andrea Doughty, project leader. A panel discussion followed and the meeting wrapped up with questions and comments from an audience of about 50 people.

Felix again stressed the need for a simple, quickly understood brand to market the arts district and how it must act as an umbrella for the mini-brands that fall within the boundaries of the district (Shaw, Little Ethiopia, Logan, U Street).

Among the commenters were an artist associated with the Mid City Artists, and a business owner associated with the MidCity Business Association.  Both talked about the efforts over the years to build the Mid City name and the positive impact it has had for the artists and business owners.

Project Phases

According to Felix, plans call for the branding materials to be in place by early December. The second phase of the current project will be marketing the new Arts District; funds are slated to run through March.

There still seems to be some concern about what happens down the road after the district is given a name and who or what would carry on the plans laid out in the branding project. There was general agreement from a few panelists and audience members that some sort of “curator” would be needed to foster collaboration among all the organizations (and perhaps others) that are part of the grant: Cultural Tourism DC, the Logan Circle Community Association, the Constance Maffin Memorial Fund, and the MidCity Residents Association..

A few times during the evening it was noted that success often leads to higher rents and forces out the very organizations that were the intended beneficiaries; Lincoln Road in Miami Beach was noted as an example.

Arts District Boundaries

Boundaries of the district is also a frequent topic of discussion at the public dialogues. The map of the proposed area shows a thick red line delineating the borders. Several panelists suggested that the district have much more blurred lines that allow it to spill over into neighboring areas.

Among the arts organizations that fall just outside the proposed limits of the district are The Smith Farm Center for the Healing and the Arts at 1632 U Street, the Church Street Theater at 1742 Church Street and  Capital Fringe at 607 New York Avenue.

Tentative Dates for More Meetings

Approximately 200 people have attended the three meetings. The first meeting was August 31 at Busboys & Poets on 14th Street (see Borderstan’s wrapup) and the second was at the Warehouse Theater on New York Avenue NW.  Minutes from each of the first two meetings are available on line at the group’s blog: Minutes from August 31 Public Input Session and Minutes from September 7 Public Meeting.

Tentative dates for additional meetings are October 12, 18 and 25.

Study Led to $200,000 Grant

Last year ANC 2F-Logan conducted a study to examine the zoning and economic development needs of the 14th, U and 7th Street NW corridors, which the city calls the Uptown Arts District. Among the noteworthy findings of the study was the desire for more daytime foot traffic, to help struggling arts and retail establishments, and the need for a strong, visual brand at street level.

Earlier this year $200,000 in grant money from NIF was awarded and pooled by four non-profits, Cultural Tourism DC, the Logan Circle Community Association, the Constance Maffin Memorial Fund, and the MidCity Residents Association. Approximately $75,000 is budgeted for street graphics, light pole banners, billboards and street tattoos. More information is available from the group working on the branding program at their blog.

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