Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District
by Anne L’Ecuyer
The Art Lives Here initiative was originated by a team of artists and community members concerned about persistent retail vacancy in and around the Mount Rainier Circle. Despite the promises of the arts district, bright, hard-working business owners weren’t thriving and stalwart shops never seemed to catch a break. Historic buildings remained empty—even uninhabitable—for decades.
It’s not for lack of effort. Development in the Gateway Arts District has been a big success over the past two decades. Franklin’s, HIP Housing, the Artspace Building, Joe’s Movement Emporium, the Gateway Arts Center, the African American Museum and Cultural Center and the Busboys & Poets complex in Hyattsville are all bricks-and-mortar outcomes of our long term arts-based strategy.
But we still need small business investment that helps individuals build an equity stake and brings our historic downtown to life again. The Mount Rainier circle needs a new look and creative entrepreneurs need an inviting opportunity to take the plunge. The Art Lives Here initiative draws together the vital forces in our community to jumpstart that change through a coordinated season of events, performances, and public art.
The theme for the spring season is renewal and the whole community is invited to take part in the transformation. We begin with Joe’s annual event Sweeping the Avenue, then roll up our sleeves to produce Better Block Night just in time for the opening day of the Farmer’s Market and the Mount Rainier Homes Tour. The Open Studios Tour and our annual Mount Rainier Day round out the festivities, which also include a local 5k run, and dozens of performances, pop-up gallery events, and activities throughout the Gateway communities. We also have a few surprises in store!
Our goals are both economic and energetic. We want a vibrant Mount Rainier Circle, full of thriving independent businesses, and we want all who live in our communities to benefit in real terms from this creative investment. More new enterprises and fewer empty storefronts. Less unemployment and more paid creative jobs. A larger audience circulating in the town center. More talent put to use and a welcoming environment for us all.
Art lives here. We live here. Find out more (tonight!) at our First Friday Launch at Busboys and Poets, April 5 at 5:30pm.