Sandlot Southeast is a space that Ian Callender would describe as “comfortable.” The Suite Nation owner and Sandlot creator designed it that way. An outdoor gathering place, it combines pandemic sensibilities with food and drinks from Black-owned businesses to create a space to meet friends, grab a bite and engage with D.C.’s culture.
“It makes you feel comfortable,” Callender says. “We’re giving you a side of culture, complimentary.”
Soon, Sandlot Southeast will not be the only Sandlot location. This summer, Callender plans to open in three new locations in Georgetown, Anacostia and Tysons Corner, Virginia. The first new location to open will be Sandlot Georgetown, which is hosting a soft launch Earth Day party on Thursday, April 22 at 12 p.m. with PLNT Burger, a vendor that will have a mobile kitchen trailer at the location.
Sandlot’s flexible design allows it to adapt well to different neighborhoods as Callender expands his project across D.C. The original idea for Sandlot was developed when Callender and his friend Kevin Hallums of Rock Creek Social Club decided to create an activation to run with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2018 when it was held at Nationals Park. That year was also the 25-year anniversary of the film “The Sandlot,” and in line with the baseball theme, they named the concept after the movie. Callender and Hallums started working to create the Black-owned venue with the intent to compliment, and live beyond, the All-Star Game.
Sandlot did not have corporate sponsors in time to open during the All-Star Game, but Callender and Hallums used the extra time to refine the concept and build the space. Sandlot Southwest opened in March 2019 as a weekend event space and hosted events like DC Jazz Festival and Art All Night, and was the go-to venue for local go-go bands. Callender’s previous projects, like the repurposing of a church into Culture House (formerly Blind Whino), helped inform the direction he wanted to take Sandlot.
“It was an outdoor venue that wasn’t dubbed a ‘beer garden,’” Callender says. “We were creating the vibe we had at Blind Whino but expanding more on the ability to be more creative culturally and still be unique and make an impact in the neighborhood.”
The only location currently open, Sandlot Southeast, benefits from proximity to Nationals Park and serves as a location to stop for food or a drink while passing through. At that location, local Black-owned restaurants, in partnership with Uber Eats, can serve food from a catering kitchen located at The Bend, an indoor event space at the bottom of the Maren Apartments adjacent to Sandlot Southeast. The location also features cold-pressed juice cocktails made with juice from Turning Natural and spirits from Beam Suntory. But Callender explained that Sandlot Southeast is more than just a restaurant or bar.
“We focus on how we can create an environment where we are introducing new art, we are introducing new moments [and] new experiences that you may or may not have had access to because you simply didn’t go to that part of the city or you just never knew that it existed in the first place,” Callender says.
This week, Sandlot’s versatility is on display as it hosts CulturalDC’s mobile market. On Thursday, April 22, “Overboard” by Andy Yoder opens. Coinciding with Earth Day, the exhibit features hundreds of shoes constructed mostly of materials Yoder collected from the recycling.
In the case of “Overboard,” the container inspired the content. The Mobile Art Gallery is in a shipping container, and while brainstorming ideas for an exhibit, Yoder learned about “The Great Shoe Spill of 1990,” when five shipping containers full of Nikes fell off a boat into the pacific and began to wash up on shores. Yoder’s shoes are modeled after the 1990 Air Jordan V and use flashy, branded material to create a commentary on consumerism.
Yoder explained that the Mobile Art Gallery was created to broaden the audience of contemporary art and that the Nike tie-in helped this exhibition connect with the audience of shoe enthusiasts.
“Sneakers in general are so cool and they cut across so many boundaries,” Yoder says. “Sneakerhead culture is a great vehicle to deliver a message.”
Coincidentally, Callender is a sneakerhead himself and was excited to work with CulturalDC to bring the exhibit to Sandlot Southeast.
“[The Mobile Art Gallery] allows you to add more into the mix of what is important when it comes to community engagement,” Callender says. “It’s art, it’s food, it’s fashion, it’s hyper-local, its geniality and authenticity, and I think that’s what we’ve been seeing with these smaller Sandlot projects.”
Each future Sandlot location has a different appeal in terms of food, drink and entertainment. Sandlot Georgetown will feature a fully equipped Uber Eats food truck that local Black-owned restaurants and Black chefs and caterers can prepare and sell food from. Sandlot Tysons will not serve drinks, but will instead have programming based around health and wellness, arts and culture and community engagement. The Anacostia location is away from residential zones, meaning it could host live music. Callender hopes to open in Georgetown on May 1, Tysons on June 1 and Anacostia on July 1.
For Sandlot Southeast’s hours, visit www.sandlotsoutheast.com and follow @sandlotsoutheast on Instagram. For updates on the Georgetown location, visit www.sandlotgeorgetown.com and follow @sandlotgeorgetown on Instagram. Visit www.culturaldc.org/mobile-arts/overboard to learn more about “Overboard” and follow @cultural_dc on Instagram for updates on the Mobile Art Gallery.
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