WI Bridge

Magic in Our City: Washington D.C. Nurtures and Produces Some of the World’s Dopest Creatives

Creatives are not a monolith. This article spotlights a diverse set of inspirational district-based artists and entrepreneurs who are making magic in our city. The Bridge heard from a variety of multi-talented creatives including, a filmmaker, an arts advocate, creative entrepreneurs, a vocalist, a producer, musician, and a convener leveraging digital multimedia.

Their perspectives and experiences are a testimony to the past, present, and future brilliance of D.C.’s creative economy. Our creatives continue to transcend local influence through access to global arts institutions, collaborating in creative spaces, and by way of platforms that offer technical and financial resources. The visions of these artists continue to shine a light on the unique vibrancy of Chocolate City.

KOKAYI
Vocalist, Artist, Producer
IG @kokayi
What would you like to see from D.C.’s creative scene?
I would love to see more spaces that would allow for random meetings of creatives.

What are the strengths D.C. offers filmmakers creating in D.C.?
DC offers creatives a plethora of opportunity, from being able to directly access institutions that get you paid (SoundExchange) or protect your intellectual property (copyright and the United States Patent and Trademark Office) to funding opportunities from both national and local institutions (National Endowment for The Arts, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities) as well as an audience of global creatives and indigenous residents that understand the DIY nature of this city.

What magic do you bring to D.C.’s creative space?
I think I carry with me the intangible historical memory and culture of chocolate city, I try as a global creative to spread those seeds throughout every space that I touch, to let people know that though the hubs for entertainment may not be our city, we nurture and produce some of the dopest creatives in the world.

How do you stay inspired in the D.C. art scene?
I stay inspired by seeking out new creatives as well as checking in on the more seasoned creatives who continue to thrive in this city even as they continue to globally exhibit their respective work.

Charles Jean-Pierre
Artist, Educator
IG @cjpgallery

Charles Jean-Pierre
Charles Jean-Pierre

What would you like to see from D.C.’s art community?
I would love to see more patronage and more spaces like STABLE where you have 32 of D.C.’s best artists sharing experiences, resources and gallery space. Artists in this city have a symbiotic relationship with collectors. Their investment helps artists continue their work, build their reputation, and allow us to evolve and create even more value.

What are the strengths of D.C.’s art scene?
D.C. is one of the smallest big cities in the U.S. The longer I’ve been in the D.C. art scene the more I realize how tight-knit it is. Everyone knows each other for the most part and we are trying to grow the creative economy. The greatest strength of the art scene is its potential for growth and proximity to national and international institutions. All of the museums, universities, embassies, and NGOs are potential clients or collaborators. I’ve been able to curate two exhibitions at the Haitian Embassy in D.C. and have works in two U.S. Embassies in Africa through the State Department’s Art in Embassies Program. The DC Commission on the Arts is strong and supportive. I’ve been able to guest lecture in the Fine Art Department at the University of Pretoria in South Africa through their International Sister Cities Grant. My personal favorite is the Black Love Experience that happens every spring. It brings out the best and brightest from the diaspora to celebrate our excellence.

What magic do you bring to D.C.’s creative space?
My get it done attitude and hard work ethic is not magic. It’s taken me a while to acknowledge my magic, but I think it is my ability to blend art, education, and community seamlessly. I’m an artist, educator, and empath which makes it easy for me to reflect the light in people.

How do you stay inspired as an artist?
I stay inspired by reading, listening to music, and traveling. I’m constantly researching and trying to learn new things. I love exploring new genres of music, asking strangers for book suggestions, and traveling to places that help me grow. I love connecting dots.

Jessica Stafford Davis
Arts Advocate, Entrepreneur
IG @jessicastafforddavis

Jessica Stafford Davis
Jessica Stafford Davis

What would you like to see from D.C.’s art community?
It would be great to look at other cities as models that are art getting the “arts” right. Maybe we could find models in cities such as New Orleans or Miami. I believe there is a way that artists, government, developers, and supporters can be in a win-win position. Also, I think the area needs a contemporary art museum as an anchor. Finally, I see a need for more people to put their money where their mouth is. There is a need for increased monetary support.

What are the strengths of D.C.’s art scene?
I see a group of passionate people and organizations doing great work, such as organizations and establishments like STABLE, Transformer, Washington Project for the Arts, Art of Noize, and Eaton. They are doing a great job advocating and supporting artists. This work is what is helping to push D.C. arts space forward.

What magic do you bring to D.C.’s creative space?
My focus is on cultivating the culturally curious and helping them become art appreciators and patrons. My magic is on full display when I am helping to educate those who want to learn more about the arts but have had trouble navigating these spaces. Hopefully, these “culturally curious” will go on to become a part of the cultural ecosystem.

How do you stay inspired as an arts advocate?
I stay inspired by not trying to do everything and be everywhere but watch. By being on the periphery, I believe it allows me to see things from a different perspective. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I think you have to make sure it is your unique voice you are sharing.

Filmmaker, Writer, Photographer
IG @britt.sankofa

Britt Sankofa
Britt Sankofa

What would you like to see from D.C.’s creative scene?
I would like to see more opportunities for artists of different age groups to collaborate, whether it’s creating innovative projects or providing intergenerational mentorship. Art “scenes” tend to be youth-obsessed while art institutions have age- and education-based hierarchies. Art doesn’t work like that. With the right formatting and intentions, D.C.’s art scene is vast enough to hold spaces where we can all learn from each other, despite our age and experiences.

What are the strengths D.C. offers filmmakers creating in D.C.?
D.C. is not considered a film hub like NYC, LA, ATL, or even VA, so filmmakers have taken alternative routes to tell stories. Video installations, experimental films, performance art, music videos, etc. don’t follow traditional Hollywood linear narrative formats. I am surrounded by like-minded artists who appreciate the art of the moving image and create environments that influence how audiences view film.

What magic do you bring to D.C.’s creative space?
My strong relationship with history has given me a magical life perspective. “Sankofa” is an African term that loosely translates to “go back and get it”. I am fascinated by how images, experiences, TV shows, smells, objects, family stories, etc. shape our identities. Although I don’t always have access to high-quality equipment and software, I do not let it stop me from creating meaningful work. I take pride in whatever I bring to the table — shaky camera and all — because I believe in my message.

How do you stay inspired in the D.C. art scene?
My biggest inspirations come from outside of the film world. I love PERFORMANCE– theater, live music, etc. When lived in Richmond VA, a “smaller city” with a huge appreciation for local arts, I fell in love with PERFORMANCE — theater, live music, etc. I carried that appreciation with me when I moved back to D.C. in 2015, got involved with Capital Fringe, and became a regular at my friend’s shows. I’m learning to marry my love of performance and film. Film allows you to manipulate time and do a “take 2”. You aren’t afforded that opportunity when you’re on stage.

Mykel Konohia
Entrepreneur Creating Space in Arts + Film
IG @thebiggerkel

Mykel Konohia
Mykel Konohia

What would you like to see from D.C.’s art community?
In NY, my colleagues and I have hosted a series of events called CLIPS, showcasing the many variations of short-form film and digital multimedia. I’d like to work with a small-shop cinema to help promote the multimedia digital arts that are based in D.C.

What are the strengths of D.C.’s art scene?
The consistency and persistence. For example, this year was a big year for GoGo. There was a time when we couldn’t even play it on U St. because it was deemed problematic. Now, it’s been named the official sound of Washington, D.C.

What magic do you bring to D.C.’s creative space?
My best work is done in collaboration and when I’m involved in a team. Personally, I’m kinda handy and a jack of most trades. My team and I, First Family, work to use both analog, digital media, and technology to liven environments and establish more engaging atmospheres, whether it is by starting conversations between strangers or challenging the imagination of the audience.

How do you stay inspired as a professional working in the arts?
I believe that there is a collective consciousness of ideas floating around out there. Keeping an open mind, continuing conversations with my peers, and having a constant mission and goal definitely helps.

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