Arts, Creativity, and Community Life

The arts are an important part of community life. Artists help shape our ideas of who we are, showing us the world and ourselves through a creative lens. In D.C.'s Far Southeast neighborhoods, residents engage in a diverse range of arts and cultural activities. Many community organizations such as schools, churches, libraries, and theaters provide venues for creative and cultural expressions. These organizations have always been at the center of community life. They often play an important role in articulating the demands and concerns of local residents, and they enrich daily life by providing spaces for everything from music and dance performances to skits, plays, and poetry slams to art exhibitions and workshops.

Promoting local artists of all ages, these organizations enable people to network, share traditions, and learn new skills and techniques. For instance, neighbors gather for roller-skating performances in Anacostia Park. They share music and liturgical dance in the area's churches. They participate in youth art and theater at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library. They practice the formal precision of ballet and modern dance at THEARC (Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus). Individual artists are central to the creative energy of these local spaces. People like Melvin Deal, who teaches the fundamentals of African dance to children and seniors at the African Heritage Center, and Baba C, who enchants audiences of all ages with his folktales and stories, foster learning between generations and contribute to building healthy communities through art and tradition.

Outside of these formal arts settings, creative people are at work throughout the community. They demonstrate their artistic mastery and connect this to their communities in barbershops, tattoo parlors, beauty salons, and even at homeā€”in kitchens, basement studios, and backyard or garage workshops.

Citified: Arts and Creativity East of the Anacostia River is produced in collaboration with the Anacostia Community Museum.

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"The arts are so many different things. It's not just about me picking up a paint brush, but it's how I do everything that I do. We look at a lot of arts as being visual or dance, but we gotta remember jujitsu and tae kwon do are arts. Boxing is an art.... There's an art to everything."
—Tendani Mpulubusi El, painter, filmmaker, public artist, musical composer, community arts activist, D.C. Arts Commissioner, Ward 8