During 202Creates Month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), in coordination with the D.C. Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME), organizes a bevy of events in recognition and celebration of the local creative community.
The 37th annual Mayor’s Arts Awards counted among the most recent of these efforts.
Local creatives, along with educators, entrepreneurs, and arts-based organizations, once again came together in observance of an ever-expanding cultural economy that has provided artists and organizations millions of dollars in economic opportunities.
Festivities on Tuesday, Sept. 13 went well into the night as the hundreds who converged onto Capital Turnaround at Navy Yard in Southeast grooved to the sounds of go-go, R&B, blues, spoken word, and a blend of other musical genres.
Beat Ya Feet: The Movement opened up the show as students of the Beat Ya Feet Academy joined their adult counterparts at the front of the theater. Their foot and hand movements captivated the audience and captured the flavor of a go-go function.
Others who took to the stage included Christylez Bacon, Carly Harvey, known as D.C. Queen of the Blues, tap dance phenom Gerson Lanza, Billboard-ranked pianist Marcus Johnson whose musical number honored fallen artists and media figures, Ethio-Jazz group Feedel Band, and singer Kenny Sway.
GoGo Symphony wrapped up the program as audience members jumped out of their seats, ran to the front and two-stepped well after awardees, hosts and others stepped off the stage.
Television broadcaster Britt Waters and renowned Black female impressionist Sylvia Traymore Morrison kept guests laughing throughout the evening. Waters’ commentary and Morrison’s impressions of comedian Monique, singer Dionne Warwick and veteran actress Whoopi Goldberg kept guests in constant reminder about the significance of a large gathering in a post-pandemic world.
Those who presented awards acknowledged not only the nominees, but D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and OCTFME director Angie Gates. Bowser herself gave a shout out to Gates for helping actualize a vision where the District residents, regardless of location, could tap into their artistic talents.
Audience members broke into applause several times throughout the evening as industry peers accepted awards, shouted out their neighborhoods and community partners, and espoused their love for the craft.
Categories ran the gamut and included businesses that enhanced the creative industries as well as leaders in media arts, community advocacy, humanities, arts education, youth creativity, visual arts, fashion and writing.
D.C. natives and longtime residents counted among those in the limelight that evening.
Writer-producer-director, and Northeast native, Mia Hicks took home the Excellence in Media Arts Award, while Duke Ellington School of the Arts alumnus Chinedu Felix Osuchukwu accepted the Excellence in Arts Education Award.
Meanwhile, photographer Myles Minishotta and Matthew Crittendon received recognition in the creative arts and performing arts respectively. Lady Clipper Barbershop on U Street also won an award in the fashion and beauty industry category.
Bowser, in at least her seventh year as a speaker at the Mayor’s Arts Awards, paid homage to Vanilla Powell Beane, nationally renowned seamstress and longtime owner of Bene’ Millinery & Bridal Supplies in Northwest.
Audience members rose to their feet as the centenarian took to the stage on what was her 103rd birthday.
Earlier in the evening, Keyonna Jones accepted an award for Excellence in Community Arts Advocacy.
Jones, executive director of Congress Heights Arts & Culture Center (CHACC) in Southeast, has spent nearly a decade exposing youth and adults to cultural opportunities east of the Anacostia River.
CHACC, located across the street from The Washington Informer, incorporates elements of the African diaspora in its offerings. It also aspires to include young people in the economic revitalization taking place throughout Wards 7 and 8.
In her acceptance speech, Jones didn’t mince words as she thanked her father, businessman Phinis Jones, along with her mother, children, and partner. She also made it known that Southeast came to carve a space on the local creative scene.
“I’ve been on this stage for years giving awards and tonight.. we’re taking it home,” Jones said.
“This is for Southside baby. This is for seven years with the Congress Heights Arts & Culture Center, southside creatives and entrepreneurs. This is for my babies to show them they can be themselves and live off their passion.”