Monday, July 22, 2013

Arts and Humanities Fest Comes to St. Elizabeths East in Ward 8

Four Separate Days of Food, Fun, and Summer Activities, All FREE to the Public!

The Humanities Council of Washington, DC and Building Bridges Across the River at
THEARC recently announced the kick–off of the Arts & Humanities Festival at St. Elizabeths East to be held on Saturday, July 27, 2013. Made possible through a grant awarded by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development, the festival will be held over four separate days with a culminating event on Saturday, August 24, 2013. The festival is free and open to the public.

The heart of the festival is located on the grounds of one of the District’s most prized historic sites, St. Elizabeths East, in the 1100 block of Alabama Avenue SE. The East Campus will soon be the home the Gateway Pavilion which will serve as a focal point for the St. Elizabeths East Innovation Hub which will begin to take shape in August 2013. The Pavilion will host concerts, community events, and festivals, as well as corporate meetings, trade shows, and conferences.

The Arts & Humanities Festival is the perfect event to celebrate the communities, history and heritage of DC and Ward 8, while embracing the changes to the historic St. Elizabeths East campus, still the home to the first federally operated psychiatric hospital in the United States. 

Festival events will kick-off on Saturday, July 27th, followed by a summer celebration weekend on Saturday and Sunday, August 17th and 18th, and a closing event on Saturday, August 24th. Each Festival day will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and feature an exciting scope of activities, live performances, art exhibits, readings and workshops and other exciting activities that will be fun for
the entire family. 

Attendees will have the opportunity to whet their appetites with a variety of food. An opening ceremony with Mayor Vincent C. Gray is scheduled for Saturday, July 27th at 1pm.

“The overwhelming support from the community and our partners is paralleled by our ongoing commitment to create platforms to experience the best of Ward 8 and engage its residents to help shape that vision,” said Catherine Buell, Executive Director of St. Elizabeths East. 

This kick-off Festival event line-up includes special appearances by emerging urban vocalist IhsAn Bilal, Rapper, AB The Producer, Anthony Anderson and the cast of Anacostia – The Series, and the East of the River Boys and Girls Steelband. Special narratives provided by noted author, Dr. Courtney Davis, Jay Coleman and master storyteller the Honorable Baba-C, Griot. Additional artists will participate in the events held on Saturday, August 17th, Sunday, August 18th and Saturday, August 24th. 

For more information on the upcoming Arts & Humanities Festival at St. Elizabeths East, please visit us at, follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@AHFest_DC.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who's a Washingtonian? Grant To Bridge DC's Invisible Divides

Grant Requires New Collaboration Between Two or More Geographic or Cultural Groups

Who's a Washingtonian? Grants ($5000) Current Deadline - Proposals Due: September 1

Visit to register for a FREE Humanities Council grants workshop or visit to begin an online application now.

The Humanities Council requests proposals for grant projects that actively seek to spark dialogue between groups of residents that have historically been isolated from one another either geographically or culturally. Using the humanities disciplines as lenses, these projects will help Washingtonians better understand the ties that bind them such as music, literature, history, religion, and language. 

Each "Who's a Washingtonian?" grant proposal must feature the following three components...

1. A clearly articulated effort to link two geographic or cultural groups in the city that rarely come in contact with one another.

2. A clearly defined theme, explored through the humanities disciplines, that the two groups will explore collaboratively. 

3. A "civic reflection" component. 
Civic reflection discussions have three elements – a group of people, the civic activity they are involved in, and an object (usually a short reading, image or video). We begin by talking about the object in front of us, the thing we share and have in common, and gradually open up into larger questions of civic engagement, social justice, and the work we do in the world. 
- From the Center for Civic Reflection (

Examples of potential projects may include:
  • Two geographically distant neighborhoods may simultaneously create traveling exhibits on their history and culture and trade them with one another upon completion.
  • Long time residents and recently arrived residents may produce an oral history project through which they seek to examine one another’s goals, motivations, and cultures.
  • Several religious organizations may host an interfaith conference during which they may discuss their perspectives on the challenges currently facing the DC community
  • Book clubs from different neighborhoods may create a project wherein they celebrate their mutual appreciation of a particular work or genre

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Last Week's DC Community Heritage Project Symposium

Insightful commentary on last week's event from Humanities Council Grants and Special Projects Intern, Sneha Sharma

Washington D.C. residents don’t always have all that much in common with one another. They come from different cultures, backgrounds, and hold a diverse array of professions. Some residents have lived here their whole lives and others just moved in. Often, one of the only things these residents hold in common with one another is the history that surrounds them. Washington D.C. has a rich and extensive history that visually reveals itself through the mix of old and new architecture and the plethora of museums. In order to find a collective sense of community, residents ideally should understand this shared history. 

Not only did the panelists at last week's DC Community Heritage Project Symposium address these abstract ideas, they also discussed the importance of architecture and urban planning in relation to community. Throughout history, racism and rising property prices displaced residents and disrupted any shared sense of community that previously existed. In the present society, residents’ common knowledge of these past events can strengthen their understanding of the community and of each other. Since all the panelists possess strong community ties, they ably discussed how their interactions and work within the community improved when residents identified with their community’s history. Through their statements during the discussion, these panelists all reinforced the idea that a community’s history is always relevant to the present residents whether these residents have been here for five or fifty years. 

After the discussion, I realized that these speakers would never have come together if not for the city’s history that they are all so invested in. This demonstrates the strong sense of community that history can help create. The panel itself was well attended and was followed by a Q and A session where some attendees voiced their personal experiences and opinions in relation to the discussion topic.

(Sharma is a student at The University of California Riverside and is currently studying at the University of California DC Center)