From Rachel Nania and Luis Gomez.
Here at “Borderstan People,” we like to profile local movers and shakers who are spicing up the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Philippa Hughes is well known in the DC scene. Today, we are happy to introduce Philippa, DC arts patron and “chief creative contrarian” for The Pink Line Project.
For many of you, this is not a first time introduction. Hughes has been a major player in the DC arts scene for several years. And chances are, if you’ve attended a few art events in the area, you’ve run into Hughes.
Borderstan: I know you have probably had to describe this many times before, but please tell our readers how and why you traded in a career in law for a career in promoting, collecting and socializing art?
Hughes: I started out by blogging about my personal interest in contemporary visual art and hosting salons in my home for creatives. These things grew to the point where I started to realize that there was a real need for something that would connect people through the arts. I started Pink Line with the idea that somehow I would make the arts more accessible by giving people easy entry points that were fun and welcoming with the hope that that would get them started on a lifelong love for the arts. Some people might not have gotten the early exposure to arts that many of us were lucky enough to have, so we have to start by providing simple baby steps to get people started. Oh, and because people always ask me, the Pink Line is a reference to the metro system. The difference is that it doesn’t just go from point A to Point B. The Pink Line connects everything together through the arts!
Borderstan: How has The Pink Line Project grown since you began your work in 2007? And where do you see it headed in the future?
Hughes: My goal is to change the way DC is viewed by the world and by the very people who live in it and around it. It’s not just a town of politics and government, lawyers, lobbyists and bureaucrats. DC is also filled with creative people and just plain interesting and inspiring people well beyond Capitol Hill and the National Mall.
Borderstan: You describe yourself as not being an artist, but as one who likes to be surrounded by creative people. What’s your favorite creative outlet in the city? Where do you like to go and what do you like to do to express your creativity?
Hughes: My favorite creative outlet is to stand up paddleboard on the Potomac. I read a great article that said that one of the best things you can do to improve your creativity is to spend time in nature. Doing so relaxes your brain, and a relaxed brain is a creative brain. Plus, it’s a way to recharge your energy.
Borderstan: You were named by the Washington Post as DC Tweeps 2011 “Favorite Arts Scenester” – Congratulations! Tell us about your strategy/theory for using social media in today’s communications environment.
Hughes: My strategy is to provide the most interesting, useful and fun information I can find to anyone who follows me on social media. I want to inform and I want to show how important arts and creativity are to life and to our humanity.
Borderstan: There are a lot of contradicting opinions about DC’s art scene – some say that the District is a great city for artists, while others say it is too conservative and transient. What is your take on DC’s current art scene? What do you think the future holds in the next five to 10 years?
Hughes: I think DC can be a culturally conservative place and the arts community can do more to push people. DC is filled with smart people and smart people are generally curious people, who seek intellectual stimulation . We should not underestimate their ability to appreciate difficult art. I think we can be better at pushing artistic boundaries, in general, to provoke discussions and experiment artistically. There are some young artists like Vestibule, Aether Art Projects and Kool Raunch that are pushing these boundaries in the performance art media, and I am really excited about their work and what it means for the DC art scene.
Borderstan: You serve as a commissioner on the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. How has serving on this board helped you to bring and promote public art in the city?
Hughes: I was very involved with the 5×5 Art Project, which brought temporary public art to DC on a large scale. We chose five important curators from an impressive list of applicants who then each selected five artists for a total of 25 art projects that were installed throughout the city. It was an enormous undertaking that resulted in a lot of seriously impressive art works.
Borderstan: One of your most recent art events was Lumen8Anacostia – Why did you feel it was important to become involved in this project? In your eyes, was the event successful?
Hughes: LUMEN8Anacostia was one of the most wonderful art projects in which I have ever been involved. It was a truly magical day that brought people together through the arts. The community really came out and enjoyed the day, and people from across the city ventured over the Anacostia River to explore and discover. Pink Line was responsible for programming the largest space, the former police evidence warehouse. ARCH Development took the lead in producing the overall festival, which saw light installations throughout historic Anacostia and Temporiums pop-up in vacant spaces.
Borderstan: A former article mentioned you were hosting, on average, one event per week. Are you still continuing to host events this frequently? Are you planning any upcoming events in the neighborhood?
Hughes: Absolutely not! Pink Line has cut back drastically on the number of events we produce. During that period when we were hosting weekly events, we were experimenting with all kinds of possibilities. Now we are focusing on fewer high impact events and on supporting art events hosted by others.
Borderstan: Do you have any favorite local artists or local art galleries? What is your favorite gallery in the Borderstan area and why?
Hughes: I can’t choose a favorite! So many great artists and art spaces!
Borderstan: How long have you lived in the Borderstan area and what do you like most about living in the area? Any favorite restaurants, bars, shops, park benches, etc.?
Hughes: I have lived in Borderstan since 2004. I can’t think of another neighborhood in DC that I would want to live in. I love living here, because everything I need is within a 10-minute walk or a 20-minute bike ride from my home. My favorite places to shop: Muleh, Lettie Gooch, Ginger Root. Lately I’ve been going to Dickson pretty often, but I switch things around between American Ice, St. Ex and maybe Marvin on Mondays. My go to restaurants for food: Coppi, Posto, Estadio, Cork and the Greek Spot. I like catching a small show at Montserrat House; I’ve done yoga in Meridian Hill Park; I love our little farmer’s market… I could go on and on. I love Borderstan!