Thursday, May 23, 2013

So about that Washington City Paper cover story on Arts in Anacostia

First, I am super excited (and frankly a little surprised) to see the neighborhood of Anacostia on the cover of this week's Washington City Paper. I am also proud to see the nonprofit that I work for, ARCH Development Corporation, featured positively in the articles. It was a very pleasant surprise indeed.

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
I give mad props and respect to others (including fellow Ward 8 nonprofits, community organizations, and advocates) who are contributing in their own way to the revitalization of neighborhoods east of the river. For me there is no competition, no sour grapes, and definetly no reason to undermine another person or organization that does good, regardless of the strategy they take to do it or the focus of their mission. I can't say it enough, "when it comes to finding solutions to the issues the Ward 8 community faces we need to look for partnerships and not divisiveness." The answers will involve more of the word "and" and a lot less of the word "or."  I've written about the crab mentality in Ward 8 previously but I am still amazed when I see it in action. We have to do better, for all of our sakes. 

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
So with that in mind please join me and ARCH Development Corporation on Thursday, May 30th at 6:30pm at the new Anacostia Arts Center (1241 Good Hope Rd SE)  for our next quarterly meeting. Not only will will be updating the community on our projects, we will be asking them again for their feedback and ideas. ARCH holds these community meetings every four months (at least) in addition to speaking at community meetings such as the Historic Anacostia Community Museum (HABA) and at ANC 8A. We also keep people updated on our projects via flyers, postcards, posters, Twitter, Facebook, our website and tons of community meetings.  You can't be a community organization and not be transparent which is why we work so hard to emphasize "community" in "community engagement." It is not so hard considering ARCH has been in Anacostia for over 25 years in one capacity or another. Keeping our neighbors informed is just, well, neighborly.

Duane Gautier, CEO of ARCH giving a presentation to the
Historic Anacostia Block Association on current ADC projects
(Jan 2013)
ARCH is a community organization and as always we need community feedback and ideas so that we may continue to work together. So please, come out next Thursday night and tour the new arts center, find out about upcoming projects, enjoy some refreshments and enter a raffle for a chance to win one of THREE $100 cash prizes! Nothing says "incentive" like good old fashioned cash. :)

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!


The Advoc8te

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Anthony Lorenzo Green said...

Excellent response. It truly takes a village.

The Advoc8te said...

Thanks Anthony!!!! :)

Now can the village please take our spears and point them at some of these problems we need to eradicate? ;)

H St LL said...

Yes, it was a good post. To add one thing, I would say that Anacostia is already vibrant. Several art galleries, my beloved Big Chair Cafe Bar and Grill (and a new restaurant coming), office space, thrift stores, transit etc. It can and will improve further, but I think article kind of glossed over what is already there.

Weird that ANC wouldn't let ya'll present on the cafe. Is there a petty backstory there or something?

Jeanbst2000 said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!!!
(You do not know me.)I can't say how much I appreciate what you do. You have been the go-to resource for me. I read your blogs, watch the vides you have recorded of meetings, and gone back and read more of your historical blogs to get a sense of history and progress. Because of the comprehensiveness, diligence, and passion you have, I had proper information to make informed decision sregarding this ward. Hence, I have recently moved to Anacostia. Big, Big, Thanks!!!!

The Advoc8te said...

@H St LL

I agree that there is a lot of awesome in Anacostia and not all of it is arts related. There has definetly been an increase in new projects and businesses coming to Anacostia. The two new retail stores (one a consignment shop and the other a thrift store) really have me excited. The PUD that Four Points is working on right now really has me amped up.

Regarding the ANC not letting us get on the June agenda I plead the 5th on the grounds that anything I say will almost surely be grounds to punish me further. :)

The Advoc8te said...


OMG! That is one of the NICEST comments I have read on CHotR. You write this thing and sometimes you wonder if people are reading and if it has an impact and then someone like you says that it inspired you to make the move and then it makes it all SO WORTH IT! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for such kind words and welcome to the neighborhood! BTW -- did you tweet a few days ago that you just bought in Anacostia? I think I tweeted you back, I also run the Eat Shop Live Anacostia Twitter page and blog.

Regardless, I hope you come to the community meeting next Thursday! Great way to meet your neighbors! :)

Valarie said...

Love this response! As a non-profit person myself I have always experienced the biggest wins when I truly act like I believe in abundance not scarcity and celebrate others. Partnership and acknowledging our respective strengths to bring to the table is where the ward as a whole will win.