This is one in a series featuring our city neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.
July 16, 2012, Washington, DC: On most mornings, Nikki Peele drives to work from her condo in Congress Heights. Beth Ferraro bikes over the river from her apartment in northwest DC. They meet in Anacostia, a neighborhood that many Washingtonians avoid. But it’s there in the southeast quadrant of the city that Nikki and Beth invest their time, their energies, and their passions into an historic neighborhood where change is underway.
Alongside many others, Nikki and Beth are instrumental players in a collaborative effort to redefine Anacostia as a hub for artists and an incubator for small businesses. Nikki serves the director of economic development and marketing for ARCH Development Corporation — a community non-profit intent on fostering a creative economy to fuel community revitalization — and Beth works as the creative director at Honfleur Gallery and the Gallery at Vivid Solutions, two of ARCH’s projects. Where some see blight, people like Nikki and Beth see potential. Where some see an empty lot, they envision a sculpture garden.
They are now among many in Anacostia who frequently come together to celebrate this community’s ongoing makeover. On Friday night, crowds gathered at two neighborhood art galleries for opening receptions: At Honfleur, they came to see “East of the River”, an exhibit featuring the work of 17 artists with roots in the communities east of the Anacostia River, and at Vivid Solutions, they explored “Inside Outside”, an exhibit showcasing first-person accounts of formerly incarcerated men. The events were prime examples of increased levels of neighborhood participation, using art as the vehicle for change.
“We have events for the exhibits here at both Honfleur Gallery and the Gallery of Vivid Solutions every six to eight weeks, so there’s usually a big opening,” Beth recently told Neighborhood Nomads. “They always go longer than they should, everyone goes out afterwards, and it’s always a pretty good mix of random people, both locals and the art crowd. It’s a good diverse group.”
“Obviously, I love the galleries, but it’s not just the exhibits that I love,” Nikki said. “I like these spaces because there are few opportunities in our communities to commune with one another. For me, in Anacostia, all of my good times when I get to see my neighbors or my coworkers or meet new people have been in these spaces.”
“I think we are really at the precipice of some amazing things going forward — absolutely,” said Nikki. “I keep saying, If you’re not here, get over here asap.”
Learn more about Anacostia from Nikki and Beth after the jump.