Don’t be alarmed if you see a baby grand piano in Dupont Circle park Friday.
Local events group Dupont Festival is set to host a Red Bull Flying Bach pop-up performance near the fountain Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m.
Red Bull Flying Bach is a touring “clash of cultures” that combines classical music, breakdancing and modern dance. The show is coming to the Warner Theatre (513 13th St. NW) on Jan. 6-8.
Tomorrow’s performance will feature classical music performed live on a baby grand piano, according to Dupont Festival principal Aaron DeNu. Each performance will be accompanied by dancers and will last about 15 minutes.
“As far as I know, in the 130-plus year history of the park, we’ve never had a baby grand piano temporarily situated for live performances,” he told Borderstan.
Between performances, those who want to play a couple bars on the piano are welcome to try, DeNu added.
“I’d love to have someone swing by and play ‘Rhapsody in Blue,'” he said.
Photo via Facebook / Bomster Jabs
United Social Sports, a local events company, plans to add a Sunday night “game show” league to its lineup of winter bar games, according to company founder Robert Kinsler.
The new game show night is scheduled to launch at Buffalo Billiards (1330 19th St. NW) on Jan. 29 and possibly also Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe (2477 18th St. NW) soon after.
Each week, league members will be able to participate in trivia competitions modeled after game shows like “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” “Cash Cab,” “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” “Family Feud.”
The games will be slightly altered to allow the maximum number of competitors at a time.
“We’re focusing more on the group games,” Kinsler said. “We’re tweaking those things and applying our social sports know-how and magic to it.”
The company first “beta tested” its new game show-themed league earlier this year. If the latest round of game show events takes off, Kinsler said it will become a permanent fixture in the United Social Sports lineup.
Registration costs $49. Those interested in joining the game show league can sign up on the company’s website.
Photo via United Social Sports
Q&A with a Local Comedian is a frequent column that profiles funny people across the city. Want to be featured? Know someone who ought to be on here? Drop us a line.
Natalie McGill is someone that I have seen on the D.C. comedy scene for a couple of years, whether hosting an open mic, performing at one, or both. And I always dug her keenly observant comedy. She recently started writing for political comedy news show Redacted Tonight, which tapes near Metro Center. We talked a little about that and about her background in comedy and writing.
Borderstan: How is writing comedy as a job for Redacted Tonight?
Natalie: It’s really fun and it’s also… I don’t know if “scary” is the right word. Maybe I’ll say scary because up until this point, comedy was always a side thing, like I had my full time job and after my job was done, I went out and did mics and shows and it feels weird, but in a good way, to bridge these two worlds because my day job was journalism.
A lot of my job is scouring and combing through articles and digging deep for stories that people aren’t necessarily paying attention to and then trying to make light of it when sometimes, it’s really not funny.
I always wanted to have a job where I could combine journalism with humor and now, I get to do that, so I’m super psyched about that.
Yeah, I can totally relate to fantasizing about reaching the point of being able to do what you’ve always wanted. Is that what it feels like?
Sometimes, it doesn’t feel real, to be honest. Sometimes, I feel like “oh, it shouldn’t be happening now.” One of my goals in life was to write for a TV show and it’s weird to be accomplishing that goal now because I guess I just assumed that if I ever reached that goal, it would be so many more years out, if I ever reached it, and I think that even if I don’t do anything like this again, I can say that I did it at least once, so I can’t complain.
But, there’s no reason that it wouldn’t happen again. You’re building your experience to do whatever else you want to do.
That is the idea. I do hope that it’s something I can use as a building block. And this is a field that I can stay in. If, for whatever reason, that doesn’t happen, I’m still a journalist and I still have this skill set that I can fall back on.
So, while it’s really cool that I’m getting the chance to do this, I always can realize that “hey, not everybody gets to stay in this business forever and if it doesn’t work out, you have something to fall back on.”
Exactly. So, what is Redacted Tonight? I don’t know much about it.
It’s a news satire show that focuses mostly on politics. Lee Camp is the host and I’m one of the on air correspondents, along with Naomi Karavani, John F. O’Donnell and Carlos Delgado before he moved.
It’s a combination of remote pieces where you’re digging deeper into a story. There’s also conversations with me at the desk about something that’s going on in the news.
It tapes here?
Yeah, in Metro Center with a live audience. I think it’s a really cool thing that it tapes here in DC and that people can see it and watch this type of comedy in their backyard, essentially.
We usually tape on Thursdays and it airs on Fridays. They have a pretty big YouTube following, so they’ll air the full episode, but they’ll also parse out the clips or segments from the show, too – if you want to watch a clip on a specific topic.
Ok and where does it air?
On RT America.
I don’t know if you were trying to plug that, but it’s part of what you’re up to, right?
Yeah, that’s the newest thing in my life.
How long have you been doing comedy?
A little over 5 years now. My first time doing it was Halloween of 2011.
Where’d you start?
At the Looking Glass Lounge [in Petworth]. There was an open mic there – it would’ve had to have been the last Monday of the month. I was freaking out because I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the show because it was Halloween, because you know how sometimes bars – whatever they have planned normally, they just shut it down so they can just have a bunch of drunk people in their costumes come in. I thought that was going to happen the first night I wanted to do it.
Then the host assured me, who was Reggie Melborough, that “no, we’re having the show. It’s fine.” I dragged my roommate there. She did standup before I did, actually. We knew about that mic and that was the only one I knew about to test my first five minutes. That was the one that I was most comfortable with that she would probably be okay going to.
Had you gone as an audience member before?
Yeah, for her stuff and for Elahe Izadi because we used to work together at The Gazette Newspaper. And she was doing it way back then. Sometimes, she would invite friends and coworkers, which included me, to the shows. So, I’d been an audience member for a little while before I started.
Did going to the shows get you pumped to do it?
It took some time for me to warm up to it. When my roommate started doing it, there was no pull for me. One of the mics she did was at Club Japone in Dupont. There was barely anybody in there and it wasn’t very well lit at all. So, did it look attractive then? No.
I think what warmed me up to it was taking time to write things on my own and seeing professional comics that I really, really liked. Because I consumed a lot of comedy and I never thought about doing it until I started honing more what I wanted to say and it finally all came to a boiling point in 2011. I waited until almost the end of the year to do it because I was still scared.
You can catch Natalie’s stand-up at open mics held weekly at The Big Hunt and Bier Baron Tavern in Dupont Circle and Town Tavern in Adams Morgan. Also, check her website follow her on Twitter @NatalieSMcGill for show updates.
The benefit, organized by the local comedy producers with Laugh Owens Laugh, is scheduled to kick off at the Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe (2477-2475 18th St. NW) at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Local comedians such as Natalie McGill, Paris Sashay and Haywood Turnipseed, Jr. will perform during the event, according to Ahmed Vallejos, one of the show’s organizers. The show will also have musicians Antonia and Sean Barna and storytellers Jessica Murphy Garrett, Dee Ahmed and Nick Baskerville.
The goal of the fundraiser is to “raise a lot of money for a great cause and let people have a space where they have fun without any of the worry of the outside world,” Vallejos told us.
“Philando Castile was murdered and I remember I had a conversation… about wanting to give back to the incredible Black Lives Matter movement and weren’t sure how,” Vallejos said. “We brainstormed and came up with this fundraiser. We just couldn’t sit back and do nothing anymore.”
Attendees can also drop cash into a donation bucket during the event. All proceeds will go toward the activist group.
Photo via Facebook / Songbyrd Music House
Q&A with a Local Comedian is a frequent column that profiles funny people across the city. Want to be featured? Know someone who ought to be on here? Drop us a line.
I met Jelani when he tended bar at the now-closed U Street hangout, Stetson’s. He worked with a friend’s boyfriend, so we would occasionally hang out there. At the time, I didn’t know that he ran comedy shows there, probably because I hadn’t really become aware of the scene yet. A little while later, I went back to Stetson’s for a comedy show I had heard about and I saw that Jelani was running it, so that’s when I realized how involved in the D.C. comedy scene he is.
I thought it would be cool to catch up and talk to him about his relationship to comedy and reminisce about the old Stetson’s days.
Borderstan: How would you describe ‘making it’ as a comedian?
Jelani Wills: Once you get a paid gig, that’s when you’re official. Usually more like five years in, but I don’t know. Comedy is changing as technology changes so the standard for making it isn’t the same, like there are many paths to success and everybody doesn’t have to use the same one.
Right now, there are comedians that are getting famous just being internet comedians on Instagram and Facebook.
Yeah, it’s like a new way of becoming successful through different platforms.
Yeah, like print media was really good, but now everything’s on the internet, so things are changing, but I think it’s still important to be able to connect with people. You know the feeling of getting a lot of “ikes on Facebook, it’s cool, right? That’s not the same as a like in person. That’s the thing that us comedians live for, that reaction from the stage. We’re all kind of narcissistic, like that’s why we do this, but there’s different levels of that, where I can see that my social media presence is just as important as a comedian, but I can also make a room full of strangers laugh.
I think that’s the real gist of a comedian: can you connect with this room or can you connect with this generation? But I don’t know, I think I’ve been doing pretty good at it.
Yeah, how long have you been doing it now? Because when we were hanging out at Stetson’s, when you worked there, were you into comedy then?
Yeah, we had the show upstairs. I was working nights and comedy happens at night, so Mike Farf, a really big comic who is also a really good friend of mine, lived across the street and was like, hey, I like comedy. You like comedy. Let’s do an open mic show here at Stetson’s.
I was a new comedian. I had been doing it for three months when [the show at] Stetson’s started. Usually, you don’t just jump into comedy and start producing shows.
But you wanted to do something with comedy and you were working at night, so it was really your only option.
Yeah, I made the best of my situation and it turned into something really awesome. I guess you can produce shows and you can make comedy, but there’s a difference because you’re wearing multiple hats. I would bartend and host the pop-up shows at Stetson’s, like, I notice your nachos, but I gotta tell this joke real quick. Just trying to multi-task. I would do the pop-up show on a dead night. I didn’t have any customers and thought, well, at least I can have eight comedians show up and buy a PBR, and that’s something. But you can also give your peers and your friends stage time. That’s what we all want. D.C. is the up-and-coming comedy scene, so there are a lot of different places to do comedy and there’s a lot of different people producing shows. The way you get better is doing it as much as you can.
Yeah, so how did you get started doing comedy?
My first time doing comedy was when I was 22. It was more of a similar thing where I was working as the bar back at this hip-hop bar and they did a comedy show.
Was this here?
Yeah, this was on U Street.
What was the bar?
This was Queen Makeda and it was a hip-hop bar. I guess you could say it was more of an urban room.
You were 22, so how old are you now?
31, but I would not say that I’ve been doing comedy for nine years because you don’t count them unless you’re doing it consistently. I did it four times and for whatever reason, I was really trying to get into law school and study for the LSAT, so I had put it on the back burner and started working at Stetson’s when I was 25.
I’ve always been the funny kid, the class clown. I was listening to this Dave Chappelle interview and he was saying that he was the youngest of five kids, and the youngest child plays the role of tension breaker. I always felt that way. People would tell me, Jelani, you don’t take anything seriously. I do, but I don’t like tension, so that’s what comedians do, break the ice. It’s uncomfortable, but we’re all going to laugh after all this.
That’s the best part, acknowledging and alleviating because not everybody can do that.
But you have to have respect for the craft, though. You know how people will say, you’re really funny; you should do this. You’re naturally a comedian. Yeah, but you have to learn setups and premises. You have to learn crowd work and how to riff; callbacks and segues.
That’s why people will stray away from internet comedians, where it’s just like, you didn’t learn the basics’ But there are different ways to success. At the heart of it, you have to know the basic principles, like you have to know who George Carlin is, who Richard Pryor is; you have to know who the pioneers of this are to respect your craft. You have to be a student. That’s why there are so many more talented comedians now because everybody didn’t grow up with Comedy Central, a whole channel devoted to comedy, and Netflix specials. There are more opportunities to watch more comedy and read about more comedies.
At the end of the day, it’s your personal experience. You have to be yourself, like the worst thing a comedian can do is steal somebody else’s jokes, ’cause that’s not you. You need a personal connection there, so you can reach the reward of making a stranger laugh.
Exactly. I would agree with that. Changing subjects though, do you have any thoughts on the upcoming election?
This election is crazy this year. Like comics, good politicians can connect with their audience. They can either play on people’s ignorance and fear or they can punch up and make a statement. I prefer the latter.
Jelani produces and performs at the Punchlines show at The Pinch in Columbia Heights every Tuesday at 9p.m. He also hosts a show at Funnies at Fireflies in Alexandria, Va., every Monday at 8 p.m.
Follow him on Twitter for information on upcoming shows.
Photo courtesy of Jelani Wills.
The 30th annual 17th Street High Heel Race festivities kick off at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, according to organizers.
Last year’s event drew thousands of people and dozens of runners dressed up as Michael Jackson, Queen Elizabeth, Dolly Parton and zombified drag queens.
The race will begin at 17th and R streets NW at 9 p.m. During the contest, runners in high heels walk, sprint and stumble toward the finish line at 17th and P streets NW. Crowds usually line up along 17th Street between R and P Street NW hours before the race, so attendees who want to get good photos or see the race up-close should arrive early.
The following streets will be closed between 6:30 and 11 p.m. Tuesday:
- 17th Street NW between Riggs Place NW to P Street NW
- Riggs Place, R Street, Corcoran Street, Q Street, and Church Street NW between 16th Street NW and 18th Street NW
Those interested in running in the race can register at Cobalt (1639 R Street NW) any time before it starts. To work as a volunteer during the event, fill out this online form.
The first High Heel Race was organized in 1986 by JR’s Bar and Grill. Since then, it has become one of Dupont Circle’s most popular yearly events and draws thousands of people annually.
2015 photo by Luis Gomez Photography
The original “Ghostbusters,” “Beetlejuice” or another movie with spooky characters could get a free outdoor showing in Adams Morgan next week.
The Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District is scheduled to have a movie screening during its family-friendly “Adams Morgan Fright Night” at Kalorama Park (1875 Columbia Road NW) on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The organization is letting locals vote online on which film should play. In addition to “Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Beetlejuice” (1988), the movies include “Hocus Pocus” (1993) and “The Addams Family” (1991).
The event, which is set to run from 6 to 9 p.m., also is slated to include a costume contest.
Photo via Facebook/Adams Morgan BID
When I first started regularly attending comedy mics over a year ago, Chris Milner was someone I remembered because of the way he commanded the stage.
When I was interviewing him, I asked him where that confidence came from and his sly, charismatic response was, “It’s all an act. Comedy’s all an act.” From there, we talked about how he got on the scene, his show Specific Ignorance and some of his upcoming projects.
Borderstan: How did you get started?
Chris Milner: Origin story, bare-bones origin story. I didn’t start comedy until I moved to the U.S. Got into it in 2011 and because for no other reason than I was drunk and felt like I could do it, which is super arrogant to think. But the more you do it, the more you realize that comedy is just a combination of arrogance and insecurity, because all you’re doing is saying, I think I’m the most important person for the next five minutes, so you should all listen to me, but at the same time you’re like, I need you to validate me with your laughter, otherwise, this is for nothing.
I just got into it, the scene wasn’t really as good as it is now, then, and over the last definitely three years, it’s exploded thanks to people like Sean [Joyce] running shows. And so it was nice, I got into it at a good time in D.C., ’cause there was this camaraderie. There are still a couple of people that were there when I started, now. It’s nice to be a part of something and at this point now, it’s nice to be the OG, one of the older people in the scene, because you remember when you start, you watch people on stage and think, I’m never going to be that good; I’m never going to be that confident; I’m never going to be that funny.
And then time passes and… there’s no way of noticing of how quickly time can pass in this scene because every night and every day and every week, it’s kind of like groundhog day. You’re going out and you’re seeing the same people, the same shows, listen to the same jokes and before you know it, summer turns to fall, fall turns to winter and another year has passed and there’s more people coming in and you’re looking at it like you’re still learning, but all of the new people that have come in since you started look at you to teach them and it’s really strange to go from apprentice to teacher without really realizing it.
Because time moves so fast that you didn’t feel you learned enough to become the teacher?
You feel like no time’s passed at all, but every time you go on stage you’re learning and every time you see someone do well, you’re learning and every time you bomb or see someone bomb, you’re learning and so, you soak up experience without realizing it and then before you know it, you’re doing good shows, you’re with good comedians, you’re being asked forward to do stuff and then out of nowhere, you’re like, oh, wait a minute. All of a sudden, I’ve gone from being on the bottom rung of this ladder to being further up and I didn’t even realize it was happening. That was that.
Yeah, it seems that just by sticking around you get to that point.
Yeah, exactly. I love it when my peers leave. Like, I came up with some very good comedians like Jamel Johnson and David Tveite and when they left to go to LA and New York, everyone was like, oh, are you really sad they left? I’m like, not really, I immediately became better just because they’re not here anymore. I leveled up.
If you stay in it long enough, you’ll eventually end up being the best because all of the better people will leave. I don’t think they can say that about New York or LA. The standard in general in D.C. now is fantastic. It’s really, really good.
I agree and I think that in just the year or two that I’ve been going to shows here, it’s changed drastically.
It has, and everyone’s popping up with new and innovative shows. I have a show that I think you might know about.
Oh yeah, thank you for touching on that because I wanted to ask you about that.
I always will. I’ll always bring it up in every interview that I have.
I was ‘specifically ignorant’ in forgetting about it.
Well, you just won it all back by perfectly referencing the show [Specific Ignorance].
So how did that get started?
That started in May 2015, but I was thinking about doing it since the winter before that with Jamel, ’cause Jamel and I are very good friends and he was saying, ‘Do you want to put a show on at the Bier Baron? You know, come up with an idea, I’ve got an in there. We could do a show. So, I was like, yeah, of course, I want to try and do that.
I was thinking up concepts. He used to host trivia and I love general knowledge and stuff like that and I love British panel shows. That was something that I grew up on, where no one really wins, but it’s all just about the banter. I really wanted to combine those two things and I came up with this idea and I explained it to him and my other friend Matty and Matty just said to me, that show already exists, it’s called Beat the Geeks and it was very popular for like seven years. I just accidentally thought of a show that already happened, so then I had to change it enough so that it wasn’t the same, and that’s when I thought, oh, let’s use the audience.
As soon as you bring the audience in and make it a more interactive thing, so they’re more present, more engaged and more invested in the show, it’s more fun for everyone. And then, you think about the fact that comedians in general love riffing off the mic, but it’s so rare for them to have the opportunity to do that in front of a crowd, ’cause it’s usually just comedians together in the back of a room or sitting around, smoking weed and talking shit, but this actually gives them opportunity to flex those muscles, which they have and they like to use, but they never get to do it on stage.
So, for them, it’s fun because they don’t need to do their material, they don’t need to do anything that they’ve done or practiced, they can just see what happens and in general, it’s always hilarious. The audience enjoys it because they feel like they control the narrative. All the questions they ask are basically improv prompts for the comedians to riff.
And then, we give them free alcohol, which everyone loves.
What shows do you have coming up?
I’ve got some really fun ones coming up for the end of the year. I’m going with Kasha Patel, combining our two shows – she has a comedy science show – and she reached out about combining them and using her show as a platform to do it with her and scientist comedians, so in November, we’re going to do that and in December. You know Church Night?
I’ve heard of it.
Gotta look into it. So, Church Night, amazing, amazing, amazing satirical church group that performs services at the Black Cat, huge following, very, very funny. They did a web series called Church Night TV that has been nominated in loads of web series festivals around the country – Landon Letzkus, Lindsay Deming. Hilarious.
They’re coming on [Specific Ignorance] in December in character. We’re going to cross-promote. In my show, I give out shots and on their show they give out ‘shots and tots,’ so we’re going to do that if people get a question right and I’m going to be on their Church Night at the end of the year at Black Cat.
Bottom line, the show is going very well. I’m very happy. We filmed a pilot to pitch it to networks in May and the reception is going very well.
In addition to upcoming shows listed in the interview, Chris Milner’s next Specific Ignorance show will take place at 7 p.m. at the Bier Baron Tavern in Dupont Circle on Thursday, Oct. 20, with comedians Benjy Himmelfarb, Rob Maher and Tok Moffat. Follow him @SpecIgnorance on Twitter for information on future shows and @EnglishmanChris for hilarity.
Photo courtesy of Chris Milner
A black photographer in D.C. has trained his lens on African American men and boys in a new Union Market mural with a social justice focus.
Artist Bryon Summers unveiled his “We Love You” photography exhibit on the 6th Street NE wall on the outside of the building earlier this week, according to a spokeswoman for the market.
The mural includes portraits of several black males as part of a multi-media campaign by Summers to capture the images of more than 1,000 African American boys and men.
“The We Love You Project shares portraits of black boys and men, showing each other and the world that we are not worthless,” Summers said in a statement. “We are someone’s son, brother, cousin, uncle, husband, or father; we are loved.”
Summers will have free portrait sessions for the project at Union Market’s Dock5 on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The mural is slated to stay up until Sunday.
Photo courtesy of Union Market
Nonprofit 826DC is scheduled to host a “Ouija Poetry Night” at its “Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Co.” store (3333 14th St. NW) this Thursday starting at 6:30 p.m.
During the writing session, attendees will craft poems with the help of a Ouija board they buy at the store or bring in themselves.
“Whether you consider it a harmless party game or a device for communicating with the other side, you probably haven’t tried using it to write poetry,” organizers said in a Facebook event page. “Come celebrate the end of Mercury in retrograde with a night of quick-fire writing influenced by the paranormal.”
The event will also include food, drinks, magician costumes for sale, organizers said.
Photo via Facebook / 826DC
The nationally touring roadshow that has people thrusting and gyrating alone onstage is returning to H Street next week.
During the event, performers in colorful costumes compete to see who can have fake sex better than their peers. A usual air sex routine involves lots of solitary stroking, thrusting, licking and kissing. It’s like air guitar, but, well, it’s sex, said host Chris Trew.
“They’re so brave and they … act out these routines that we’re taught are super taboo,” he said. “It’s very exciting to have all that contained within a comedy show.”
Not sure if you’re into that kind of thing?
“If you enjoy live sporting events, if you like laughing and if you think sex is fun, then this is definitely the show for you,” Trew added. “Even if you’re two of those three things.”
And you don’t have to just watch, either. Anyone in the audience can sign up to try their hand at faux-fornication, Trew explained.
“I really just want people to know they can sign up the night of the show. Oftentimes, people don’t realize that,” he said. “We want people from D.C. who have never done the show before to come and try it out.”
Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online.
More about the Air Sex Championships from a press release:
If you’re not sure what a pinewood derby is, Crazy Train Studios lays it out like this:
Those familiar with the Boy Scouts of America will understand that the Pinewood Derby was the coolest thing those little nerds ever did. For the uninitiated, the concept is simple–carve a wood block into a custom car shape, paint it, add wheels, then race it against your buds on a giant gravity-powered ramp.
During the race, about 20-30 decorated wooden cars will fly down a long ramp in one-on-one matchups, said event organizer and Crazy Train co-founder Mike O’Brien.
Though judges will award prizes to the three fastest cars, they’ll also hand out awards for the best-looking vehicles. And there will be some interesting designs, including pinewood derby cars made to look like a pink swan and a lightning bolt, O’Brien said.
All who enter a car into the tournament will receive a complimentary swag bag with pins, stickers and other goodies, and Saturday’s derby will also have an emcee, a DJ, beer from Pabst Blue Ribbon and ice cream bars from Milk Cult, O’Brien said.
Though attending as an audience member is free, registering for the race costs $10 per car.
Image via Crazy Train Studios
(Updated at 11:55 a.m. Sept. 28) Stoops and porches around Adams Morgan once again are set to become intimate venues for jazz, rock and other music this weekend.
PorchFest, Adams Morgan’s annual fall music festival, is slated to return with three dozen free concerts in front of a dozen homes and businesses in the neighborhood Saturday, according to organizers. The performances are scheduled to run from 2 to 6 p.m.
The music is set to include Afro-Brazilian female percussion band Batala and “blues, jazz, rock, soul, folk and much more,” PorchFest co-founder Nathan Ackerman said in an email. Additional details on the performers weren’t immediately available.
Festival organizers will have maps for the concerts online and at 18th Street and Columbia Road NW Saturday.
Started in 2013, PorchFest is put on by the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District and Cultural Tourism DC.
Photo via Facebook/Adams Morgan PorchFest
(Updated at 8:51 a.m. Saturday) Though one of D.C.’s largest art events is set to return this year with more neighborhoods than ever before, its founder and former creative director won’t return with it.
In an open letter she penned to attendees and organizers earlier this week, Art All Night founder Ariana Austin said she’s parted ways with the event. Why? A participating community group and a city agency took her idea and ran off with it, she alleges.
“Art All Night was a terrific idea usurped by our sponsoring organization, not properly credited by D.C. government agencies, and a case study in competing business and arts interests in the city,” Austin wrote.
The problem began, Austin said, when Art All Night linked up with Shaw Main Streets. Though the community group “seemed like a terrific sponsoring organization,” they soon began to take credit for the festival, she alleged. (Side note: Alex Padro, executive director at Shaw Main Streets, said he had “no comment” about Austin’s version of events.)
In 2014, Austin said the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities moved to expand the festival without consulting her. When she contacted the agency, she recalled their response as, “oops, was that you who started Art All Night? Sorry!”
Austin continued in her letter:
This year (2016), the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) received a reduced amount of funds from DCCAH to produce the festival, changed the subtitle (from Nuit Blanche which I had a license to use to Made in D.C.), but kept the name “Art All Night” (too generic to be protected by law). Of course I sent a note to DSLBD, but they never responded.
In other words, Austin told us, the groups pushed her out of her own event.
“Nobody makes any distinction between the Art All Night that’s happening this Saturday and the other,” Austin told us. “They didn’t credit it. They didn’t say it started five years ago … It’s just Art All Night.”
When reached for comment, Ana Harvey, the DSLBD’s acting director, responded with the following statement:
We are honored to have played a role in supporting this community festival but the credit for its success and continued growth since 2011 is due to the grassroots efforts of hundreds of volunteers and community organizations. We look forward to supporting this and other programs, such as Made In DC, 202 Creates and Mayor’s Arts Awards, that capture, highlight and promote the intellectual and creative genius of DC’s local maker community.
All in all, Austin said she just wants credit for her idea and recognition for the work she and other volunteers have put in over the years. Austin ended her open letter with three suggestions:
DSLBD, DCCAH, and Shaw Main Streets should immediately put the history of the event on the current website and honor the contributions and intellectual capital that they’ve borrowed.
DC Government agencies must do a better job of giving credit where it’s due, and responding to individual citizens with respect especially when they use their concepts.
The time is now for a general convening with artists, businesses, developers, and government agencies to discuss roles and responsibilities for collaboration and partnerships so we can all benefit from our shared interests in this beloved city.
Though she’s not helping organize Art All Night this year, she’ll still attend the event, however.
“I’m going to go,” Austin said. “I have a lot of friends still involved in this event. We helped them build out this project.”
Photo via Twitter / Art All Night DC
Each year, the National Book Festival brings hundreds of authors and thousands of literature lovers to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (801 Mt Vernon Place NW) for a free celebration of books.
Organizers are scheduled to throw open the doors to this year’s event Saturday at 8:30 a.m. From 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., attendees are free to wander the convention center in search of fun activities and booths manned by their favorite authors.
Author Stephen King, writer and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and famed Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward are just some of the celebrity guests that will attend this year’s event.
Not sure what you should do and see this year? Here are a few highlights:
- Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will be on hand to sign autographs and talk about his new book for kids, “Grover Cleveland, Again! A Treasury of American Presidents.”
- Kate Beaton, the creative force behind “Hark! A Vagrant!” will promote her children’s book, “King Baby.”
- There will be a poetry slam for teens that will “will include some of the nation’s top youth slam groups.”
- Newt Gingrich writes fiction. He’ll attend the festival to promote his newest story, “”Duplicity” (Center Street),” a thriller set in the District.
- Rep. John Lewis is slated to promote the third volume in his graphic novel trilogy, “March.”
- Two words: Diane Rehm.
- Joyce Carol Oates, author of more than 40 stories, plays, novellas and works of poetry, won’t be there to promote her Twitter account, but she will attend the festival to talk about two of her latest books.
- Frequent NPR guest and pop-science writer Mary Roach is scheduled to speak about her latest book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.”
Learn more about the festival in the press release below: