Beneath the hustle and bustle of Dupont Circle lies an old streetcar track, a close cousin of the District’s modern Metro system. Once planned as a hub for transit, the system never quite materialized as intended and lay dormant for decades, before the hard work of community organizers transformed it into a space for art, music and neighborhood gatherings. Anyone traversing the circle might notice the shuttered staircase leading to the artistic abyss that is Dupont Underground, without ever investigating further.
If you’ve never descended the steps, this Saturday, September 25, is a golden opportunity to do so: from 7 p.m. to midnight, nearly 30 artisans, entrepreneurs, and craftspeople will converge on this metro upside down for “Art All Night.” The event features an eclectic array of local jewelry, art, ceramics, vintage clothes, prints, and confections. And Ladygod (Skye, Kelly, Kate and Seth) and DJ Bri Mafia will provide the soundtrack for the night’s festivities.
So why this, why here and why now?
According to David Ross, the head of Dupont’s Basement at the Dupont Underground, the philosophy is straightforward: to provide a marketplace that reflects the eclectic talent and diversities of the region.
“The pandemic exploded how retail operates. Online sales and outdoor markets became even stronger hits than they were before,” Ross notes. “It’s important to be varied [and] not have too much of one thing. This town has a lot of [normal stuff] going on, and most retail shops close pretty early. I don’t see why a group of friends shouldn’t be able to go out for a late dinner and then be able to shop late-night while enjoying drinks and amazing music or watch a performance while doing so.”
The initiative strikes all the right chords; it’s innovative and responds to the dearth of late-night shopping options Washingtonian crave, while also serving as a unique opportunity for local vendors.
This type of market, held in a fun and energetic space, “is a great opportunity for those who are trying to [get a storefront somewhere] or increase their online sales,” Ross says. “It’s an amazing vehicle to get the word out about your product and test the marketplace.”
On Saturday, you’ll discover a variety of vendors, including Joseph Kim, potter and founder of Taeri Ceramics. An artist with a fondness for clean, unbroken lines, Joe chooses to focus on the material itself to provide the charm and beauty, allowing the natural texture and variance of the clay itself to be a decoration. Although he seldom creates ceramics for sale, he’ll be at the market and provide a rare chance to procure his work this weekend.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a D.C. community market without some local to-go libations available for purchase. To that end, Bianca Cerise from A Tale of Two Tins will be here, too. A Tale of Two Tins is a beverage company specializing in made-to-order (MTO) cocktails with all freshly-juiced ingredients (locally-sourced, when possible), handcrafted syrups and premium spirits. Through her company, Cerise encourages friends and neighbors to become mixologists, expanding their understanding of spirits and exploring new and unusual flavor combinations their palates may not be used to.
An artist herself, Cerise draws inspiration everywhere — from walking around a farmers market to touring as many restaurants and bars as possible in every city she visits.
“I also draw inspiration from current events, and past role models that often influence fun drinks for holidays such as women’s or Black history month,” Cerise says.
Bianca joined the Dupont Underground market, because as an artist herself, she wanted to be a part of this special place that connects the community to each other and the spirit of D.C.
And while the Dupont Underground stands alone in terms of the uniqueness of the location, rawness of the physical structure, and artistic-energy oozing from its walls and overall imagining, it also represents the city’s next creative leap as an emerging mecca for artists and creatives.
With that evolution has come a rich mixture of spaces where you can enjoy local art; spaces that extend to the city’s edges — from Georgetown, to Chinatown to Union Market.
So why not do it in a subterranean network of tunnels?
“It’s one of the coolest venues in the city, if not one of the best along the East Coast, regardless of all of the artistic and political drama that surround it,” Ross, who has a long history of involvement with the space, says. “It’s truly a D.C. asset; it’s hard to get excited about other spaces after having been able to play around with 75,000 square feet underneath Dupont Circle.”
For the safety of all, vaccinations are required and all attendees are expected to be masked at this weekend’s “Art All Night” at Dupont Underground.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.