I am super thankful to be able to work for such a great organization. The working hours may be long (sometimes really long), the job often thankless, and at times fulfilling our mission of neighborhood revitalization comes with a healthy dose of skepticism (from both within and outside of the Ward 8 community) but I really do love what I do. It is such a treat to be able to see the fruits of our labor in the very same ward where I live.
So pick up a copy of this week's Washington City Paper (or read it online here, here, here, here and here) to learn more about the emerging arts scene in Anacostia and what my employer, ARCH Development Corporation does to that end. ARCH uses arts and cultural activities to revitalize the Anacostia community and support small business development. That being said I feel I would be remiss if I didn't address something here on my blog (which as always are my personal opinions and don't represent anyone or anything.)
Do I think that the arts are the ONLY path to bring economic development and revitalization to Anacostia?
Using the creative economy as a catalyst to boost economic development and revitalization is smart, and considering a number of factors specific to Anacostia it is also very practical. The great thing about having an arts district is that you can also have a business district, a technology district, an education hub, affordable housing, great schools, and all that good stuff. Art pretty much goes with anything and pretty much can appeal to everyone. Art can be used to enhance a community's highlights and strengths -- it doesn't have to take away from it.
That being said this is the path that ARCH chose to take for its organization but it doesn't mean that is the ONLY path. So while I know that most of my fellow Ward 8 neighbors understand and appreciate ARCH's mission and our projects I also realize that there are some folks who will undoubtably be grumbling under their breath (or posting comments under a pseudonym) about how "arts don't address the real issues." They will probably question how arts and culture effect the lives of returned citizens and combat issues such as literacy/crime/affordable housing/etc. Well, the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of real issues effecting Ward 8 and it will take a lot of real strategies (and people) to solve them.
|Community treasure Phil Pannell|
at Honfleur Gallery
We as residents and community advocates also need to understand that not one single organization or one single person (or politician) can solve all the problems currently facing Ward 8. We need a community of ideas and an army of advocates to support that community. It literally does take a village.
In my own personal experience, I find that most failure can be contributed to spreading oneself too thin. People try to do everything perfectly and ultimately they fail at everything. That is why organizations have strategic plans (you can read ARCH's plan here). A strategic plan helps organizations plot the course for how their organization is going to fulfill its mission over a period of time. It also allows them to prioritize their resources. I wish I saw more of these plans in Ward 8 so I could understand more clearly how organizations are solving issues effecting our community. So while ARCH is good at doing what we do (or at least try to do) we don't try to do everything, we try to focus on our mission. There are already great organizations out there doing great work - their way. We don't need to compete nor do we want to. We (ARCH) see ourselves more of a catalyst to opportunities and not the "end all and be all." To be honest, we are a very small organization with a very small operating budget (you should see my salary, lol). We walk a fine line everyday between doing what we want to do and what we can do with the needs and input of the Anacostia community forming our focus.
|Community engagement old school style|
|Duane Gautier, CEO of ARCH giving a presentation to the |
Historic Anacostia Block Association on current ADC projects
So while I am so very excited, proud, and thankful for the recent Washington City Paper coverage I am looking forward to reading more great articles about things to come for Anacostia, Fairlawn, Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, Deanwood, and other east of the river neighborhoods that are on the rise! May this be the first of many positive cover stories to come. :)
P.S. ARCH did make a request (through our awesome SMD Commissioner Kendall Graham) to be on the June agenda for ANC 8A before their summer hiatus. ARCH wanted to update ANC8 and the community on our plans to open a cafe in the Anacostia Arts Center and introduce them to the new cafe operator but alas, the approval was not granted during the ANC's executive meeting for us to be on the June agenda. Hopefully ARCH will have better luck when ANC 8A resumes their meetings in the fall because we would really like to keep the community informed as soon as possible on our projects and request their feedback and support.
P.P.S. ADC is a nonprofit organization and we are always in need of funds to turn our ideas into a reality. If you are so moved to support our programs you can make a donation HERE or you can make a donation to the Anacostia Playhouse HERE, they are pretty cool too. :)
See you on Thursday! And now back to work!
To submit an article or to inquire about advertising send an email to Advoc8te@congressheightsontherise.com