It’s always been easier to tell people I’m “from D.C.” rather than the Northern Virginia suburb of Falls Church. I was raised on field trips to the Smithsonian and infrequently trekked across the Potomac with my friends for birthdays, concerts or afternoon window shopping. I also was the kid who could easily identify towering landmarks for visiting relatives, swelling with pride for my city, with every word. It wasn’t until I began writing for District Fray two months ago, though, that I awakened to the richness of its arts community and the beautiful complexity of the people stewarding its diverse culture. Through learning about these creatives and the spaces they’ve helped cultivate over the past few months, I’ve discovered why they are D.C.’s beating heart: it’s their innate ability to foster connection through a vibrant and constant exchange of art, music, ideas and energy. Venues like Plain Sight DC, an open-air gallery born out of the innumerable closures throughout the pandemic; and people like Brandon Hill and Peter Chang, who put on their second-annual Umbrella Art Show in November, are succeeding in creating spaces for artists and residents to collide in innovative ways. Read on for more of the people and places that help make D.C. a hotbed for creativity.
20 Creators to Know
Lindsay Adam is a visual artist living with cerebral palsy whose work focuses on the intersections of self. Her Blackness, womanhood and disability are integral to her art, which purposefully blurs lines, colors and figures to showcase the inextricable link between all facets of her identity. Ultimately, she aims to reclaim Black peace — both for herself and others affected by harmful one-dimensional narratives. lindsay-adams.com // @lindsaybriadams
Nia Keturah Calhoun
Nia Keturah Calhoun is a Maryland-based multidisciplinary artist who specializes in work focusing on the real and imagined connections of Black America. Believing that “ideas are art,” she dreams in a diverse range of styles, with a portfolio of graphic design, lyrical works, animation and more. She’s commissioned for D.C. events and companies such as The Women’s March and Songbyrd, and most recently worked with artist Maggie O’Neill on her high-profile mural “Together.” nias.work // @niaketurah
Peter Chang + Brandon Hill of No Kings Collective
Highly regarded in the D.C. arts scene for both their creative talent and kindness, Peter Chang and Brandon Hill have provoked residents’ excitement for arts content and events since 2009. In November, they organized their second-annual Umbrella Art Show, a pop-up fair designed to make art more accessible. Avoiding terms that box their work in, they dub themselves a creative “agency” to illustrate the wide range of resources and projects they engage with. From murals to pop-up installations to event curation, the tireless pair continues to reorientate the local aesthetic. nokingscollective.com // @nokingsdc
Julia Chon // Kimchi Juice
Julia Chon, known as Kimchi Juice, is a young artist well-known around the D.C. area for her endearing animal portraits and paintings depicting her Korean heritage. Aiming to lift up the resilient women of Korea — and specifically, those who raised her — her portraits are strongly influenced by “Han,” a Korean concept with an elusive English definition that communicates the sadness and strength born from a tumultuous history. As a budding talent in the mural scene, she’s on the heels of prolific artists like Aniekan Udofia and Miss Chelove with her unique style and perspective. @kimchi.juice
Nancy Daly + Rex Delafkaran of but, also
Nancy Daly and Rex Delafkaran, the duo behind but, also, are serious about broadening the idea of what a gallery and store space can look like — but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Taking note of the buttoned-up aesthetic D.C. is typically known for, they opt for a more laid-back approach that prizes authenticity, above all. This shines through in their work, personalities and commitment to providing helpful services to local artists to help them sharpen their craft. but-also.com // @but____also
Halim A. Flowers
Halim Flowers is motivated by the idea that the weapon of “radical love” is the ultimate antidote to social inequities and he’s making life-affirming art that’s leading the charge in this love revolution. After being tried as an adult at age 16, as an accomplice to a felony murder, and imprisoned for 22 years, Flowers found solace in crafting a personal method of artistic expression. By engaging with mediums such as poetry, spoken word, photography and paintings, Flowers artistically deconstructs the social paradigms of inequality and hatred, and contributes to a local artistic scene motivated by care. halim-flowers.com // @halimflowers
Brittany M. Greene
Brittany M. Greene’s work is a varied portfolio of watercolor, pen and pencil, and digital pieces, which often come back to two main themes: inspiring youth and celebrating Black women. Her art features women and girls in their element, and she hopes that simply depicting and celebrating them as they empowers her viewers — especially young ones — to be themselves. With a degree in bioengineering and a wide range of academic and artistic interests, she aspires to leave a roadmap for others like her eager to take the creative leap — to embrace, challenge and feed their artistic side. brittanymgreene.com // @britt_mgreene
Khadija Jahmila is a Maryland-born Afro-Caribbean mixed-media artist and entrepreneur. Central to her practice is portraying and celebrating Black women as otherworldly, supported by a wide range of artistic endeavors including her signature surrealist collage style and art prints. Armed with a love for the environment, Jahmila’s work has a strong grounding in sustainable approaches, and her fine art is often created from salvaged goods. khadijajahmila.com // @khadija.jahmila
Sarah Jamison’s work explores authenticity and the human condition through the lens of contemporary digital life. Using traditional fine arts materials, Jamison’s drawings bounce with color and movement within rigid geometrical forms. She aims to capture the uneasy feeling you get scrolling through an endless feed, wanting viewers to take notice of the firm grip technology has on our society — oftentimes using the very medium she warns us about to emphasize this dystopian narrative. sarah-jamison.com // @sarahjanejamison
Rik Holden, known as Rikasso, is a visual artist with a flair for play, encouraging viewers to look at his paintings like a game of “Where’s Waldo.” Aiming to make his art relatable, he employs various themes, characters and colors to reach a diverse range of viewers — hoping they’ll discover a little bit of themselves in his work. @rikasso
Cita Sadeli // Miss Chelove
Cita Sadeli, known as Miss Chelove, is a local art director, designer and muralist recognized for her incredible talent in D.C. and internationally, with murals in places as far-flung as Belgium, Pakistan and Colombia. Her vast portfolio reflects her multicultural background, with roots in the tropical mysticism of Java, Indonesia and the go-go, punk and hip-hop influences she absorbed growing up in D.C. Her street art-fueled work aims to tell local stories through a biographical lens, shedding light on narratives about marginalized groups and themes, such as powerful women of color, indigenous cultures, vibrant D.C. subcultures and environmental issues. chelove.com // @misschelove
Ania Sinuik is a designer and illustrator whose work focuses on fashion, beauty, feminism and mental health, with strong patterns and bright colors elevating her mostly female subjects. The compelling, vibrant illustrations catch your eye and invite you to see the power of the women she portrays — while daring you to look away. aniasiniuk.com // @ania_sini
Marta Staudinger is an artist and curator whose work focuses on improving the arts ecosystem in D.C. by drawing attention to local artists. In 2015, she founded the Latela Art Gallery, a multi-purpose space that serves as a curatorial office and artist studio, which is regularly activated for exhibitions. A torchbearer in advancing contemporary women-led art initiatives, Staudinger launched the GLB Memorial Fund for the Arts and “Women In the Arts” in May and October of 2020 respectively, with an overall goal of supporting and bolstering DMV women artists. martastaudinger.com // @martastaudinger
Formally launched in 2020, Studio Sonic is a multidisciplinary creative studio specializing in film production. Co-founders Pierre Edwards and Eliud Arbelo II appreciate the value of hard work, and they use this motivation to fuel their mission of telling unique stories in unexpected and unorthodox ways. Reaching beyond the realm of what’s considered standard for creative studios, Edwards and Arbelo II utilize tools such as graphic design, videography and digital media to bring the story of D.C. to life on a grand scale. studiosonic.co // @studiosonic.co
Born in Thailand and emigrating into the U.S. at 19 years old, Emon Surakitkoson has noticed the impact of people’s preconceived notions — and her art challenges these assumptions. In her life, she’s confronting familial expectations of success by harnessing her talent as a visual artist. From recently having her art commissioned for Kimpton Banneker Hotel’s grand opening in July to nabbing a spot at 52 O Street Studios, you’d be hard-pressed to discover a fine artist more embedded in D.C. emonsurakitkoson.com // @emonartdc
Justine Swindell is an illustrator whose work crosses mediums and time. Infused with retro vibes and vibrant visual storytelling, her art is as colorful as her perspective. She collaborates with businesses, publications and people to help bring brands and other designs to life, refusing to box her creative talent in. justineswindell.com // @justineswindellart
Zsudayka Nzinga Terrell
Fine artist, art educator and Vice President of Black Artists DC, Zsudayka Nzinga Terrell makes art all about celebrating who you are — and we’re taking this opportunity to celebrate her incredible style, class and the important work she does with the community. As an owner of Terrell Arts DC, a family-based business specializing in fine art, she seeks to create opportunities for D.C. residents to interface with art, and engage in political and social happenings. Interested in the intersection of identity and belonging, her art challenges viewers to include Black stories in American stories.
terrellartsdc.com // @zsudayka
If you’re from the area, you’ve probably heard of Aniekan Udofia — and if you haven’t, you’ve likely seen one of his many vibrant murals on display throughout the District. From the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl mural and the colorful Marvin Gaye portrait to disparate pieces tackling literacy and gun violence, there’s not much ground he hasn’t covered. Whether making a political statement or attempting to highlight the history of D.C., his understanding of storytelling and the human form ensures his works are as much a part of D.C.’s history as the events and people he depicts. aniekanudofia.com // @aniekanreloaded
Painting fun, bright portraits of people and animals, Visconage is a self-taught D.C.-based artist who creates the “silly things [he] wants to see become real.” His art is influenced by an array of American pop culture subjects such as movies, politicians and musicians, and conversations he’s overhead — often eavesdropping on lively bar exchanges. But don’t fret: The possibility of your alcohol-induced ramblings becoming the subject of Visconage’s next piece is a reward you reap for being an active participant in the local culture. visconage.com // @cavisconage
A visual artist whose work challenges the boundaries of traditional painting. Luther Wright says his style is to “have no style at all.” An artistic explorer, he wants to take his viewers on a journey of discovery. He believes that in meditative states, we’re able to access another facet of reality — and he shares what he sees for all of us who have trouble tapping into our third eye. lutherwrightart.com // @lutherwrightart
10 Spaces to Visit
52 O Street Studios
This four-story warehouse on 52 O Street NW was built in 1914 and has been home to a wide range of artists, designers, musicians and more for over 30 years. Originally converted into artist studios in 1978 by Eric Rudd, the idea was to cultivate an affordable space for Washington-based artists. Today the warehouse continues to support that vision, with its open, flexible spaces offering an artistic safe haven and community for all who enter. 52 O St. NW, DC; fb.com/52Ostreet // @52ostreet
Arena Social Arts Club
Founded in 2019, Arena Social Arts Club is a relatively new multifunctional community space whose mission is to highlight minority artists and curators. The space aims to uplift creators of color and preserves the history and heritage of Black culture in an industry that lacks diversity. And if you’re a prospective participating artist, you can rest assured knowing you’ll retain 100 percent of any sale for original artwork. 507 8th St. SE + 2100 L St. NW, DC; arenasocial.org // @arenasocialdc
Culture House DC
Culture House DC is a functional arts venue for all who seek to encounter the power of art — and want a taste of something a little unorthodox. Providing exhibitions, events, live performances and artist workshops, the venue hopes to cultivate a space for community members to enjoy and learn more about arts culture — and ultimately be moved to make lasting changes within their community. 700 Delaware Ave. SW, DC; culturehousedc.org // @culturehousedc
Femme Fatale DC
Co-owned by Cee Smith and Adriana Mendoza, Femme Fatale DC was founded in 2016 with the intention of changing the retail game. Offering a diverse range of fun and interesting events such as tarot readings, cocktail classes and open markets, they’re at the forefront of community-event planning. Through cultivating a space where femme-aligned and non-binary artists of color can form strong creative and working relationships, Femme Fatale DC takes great strides toward uplfting marginalized voices – and making business more fun. 3409 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC: femmefataledc.com // @femmefataledc
This local artist-owned gallery has remained dedicated to supporting and showcasing D.C.’s most promising emerging artists since 1971. The space offers an alternative gallery experience through artist talks, workshops, consultations, demonstrations and more. Boasting a rich diversity of original works and artists, you’ll be glad you found the Foundry Gallery for its artistic variety alone. Plus, its high-quality art at affordable prices will make you want to stay. 2118 8th St. NW, DC; foundrygallery.org // @foundrygallerydc
Lost Origins Gallery
Lost Origins is an intimate and inviting space that aims to inspire community with art. Through exhibition and events, it presents projects of all mediums based on concept alone. Providing a space for gathering, expression, ideas and culture, it’s a venue that promotes understanding in all its forms – and unlike its name suggests, its brilliance won’t be lost on you. 3110 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, DC; lostorigins.gallery // @lost_origins_gallery
National Building Museum
The National Building Museum is a must-see in the D.C. area because of its cogent exhibitions about the nature of our built world, and for its breathtaking architecture that will leave you in awe of its magnitude. Its current exhibit — titled “The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall?” — interrogates the international consequences of an otherwise symbolic idea made real. Creating immersive installations that engage viewers, the museum ultimately hopes to portray the power of the built world to shape lives, communities and our future – and to push us to be thoughtful about the ways we contribute to that world. 401 F St. NW, DC; nbm.org // @nationalbuildingmuseum
More than a name, Plain Sight is a way of presenting artwork — though it doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see the boundary-breaking work co-founders Teddy Rodger and Allison Nance are providing. Filling a void left by many art space closures during the pandemic, its open-air, active street view gallery enables a pandemic-safe perusal of local artists’ exhibitions. 3218 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; plainsightdc.com // @plainsightdc
Planet Word, a museum that seeks to inspire and renew a love of words and language, is impressive for its cutting-edge voice-activation exhibits, and for its consistently timely and interesting events. Constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve of language and life, its interactive galleries and exhibits form an immersive experience, which bring words to life in fun ways. 925 13th St. NW, DC; planetwordmuseum.org // @planetworddc
Striving to provide a home for non-mainstream local programming, RhizomeDC is a community arts space dedicated to promoting experimentation and creativity in all its forms. The venue hosts an array of programs, such as concerts, workshops, performances, exhibitions, talks and more — all with the goal of supporting creativity in all its forms. Blurring the lines between amateur and professional, teacher and student, RhizomeDC is breaking the mold of traditional instruction models — opting for a truly communal experience. 6950 Maple St NW, DC; rhizomedc.org // @rhizome_dc
2021 was a year for rediscovering the District and, in many ways, meeting it for the first time. At District Fray, I’ve had the opportunity to interview local creatives whose products are badges of the arts community’s ability to persevere and succeed despite – or perhaps because of – these challenges. Each offered me interesting insight into what it means to create and cultivate art that uplifts community.
One conversation stands out as I think about how I can nurture community in my own life: a chat with local choreographer and artist Britta Joy Peterson who spoke about her installation piece “already there.” What was meant to be a 15-minute interview about the project’s production blossomed into an hour-long conversation about the importance of paying attention. Coming out of the interview, I saw Peterson’s vision not only for her installation, but also for the world: one where people from all walks of life can commune and be truly present with each other.
What’s amazing about the people and places that make up D.C.’s vibrant arts community is the tremendous dedication they share to its well-being, even if left unarticulated: one that encourages individuals to lead with curiosity and a willingness to show up without judgment in all they do. As 2021 closes out, this knowledge serves as a timely reminder for us to step into the new year with our eyes open to the people, places and possibilities that surround us.
Don’t miss many of the artists and creators featured in this roundup at Culture House DC on Saturday, December 11 from 7 p.m. to midnight for a celebration of D.C.’s cultural renaissance. “Only in D.C.” is a collaboration between the artists, Events DC and our magazine and will include a panel, artist activations and a vendor market. Learn more about this free event here.
Culture House DC: 700 Delaware Ave. SW, DC; culturehousedc.org // @culturehousedc
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