Students from The Washington Ballet perform at the After Dark @THEARC Gala on Sept. 29. (Courtesy of THEARC)
Students from The Washington Ballet perform at the After Dark @THEARC Gala on Sept. 29. (Courtesy of THEARC)

The “After Dark @THEARC” gala celebrated 13 years one of its partners, Building Bridges Across the River, has had improving the quality of life for children and adults who reside east of the Anacostia River.

Saturday’s gala at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreational Campus in Southeast, which provided attendees with a firsthand look at the new building, raised more than $800,000 for the facility.

“The After Dark @THEARC Gala was a tremendous success,” said Rashaan Bernard, Building Bridges Across the River president. “The money that was raised will help us continue to open the doors of hope for thousands of local children and adults in our community. The commitment from our 14 nonprofit partners also ensures that our neighbors in Wards 7 and 8 are able to receive the best-in-class resources.”

Rahsaan Bernard (left), Building Bridges Across the River president, speaks at the After Dark @THEARC Gala on Sept. 29 as William A. Von Hoene Jr., Exelon senior executive vice president and gala co-chair, applauds. (Courtesy of THEARC)

THEARC features a 365-seat community theater, black box theater, urban farm, regulation-size gymnasium, libraries, computer labs, classrooms, dance studious, music and visual arts studios, an art gallery and a public playground.

In addition to BBAR, the facility has 13 permanent nonprofit resident partners: the AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation, Artreach, the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys, the Boys and Girls Club FBR Branch, the Children’s National Health System, Covenant House Washington, the David Lynch Foundation, DC Central Kitchen, Levine Music, The Phillips Collection, The Washington Ballet, The Washington School for Girls and Trinity Washington University.

Over the past 13 years the gala has provided community members, political leaders, corporate supporters and neighboring nonprofit organizations an opportunity to witness the talent of local aspiring artists, dancers and musicians.

This year’s event included performances from The Washington Ballet, the Levine School of Music, and THEARC’s state-of-the-art Frederick Douglass animatron presentation — an exact replica of Douglass’ study in his Anacostia home, which features more than two hours of his most famous speeches.

“Exelon is proud to support THEARC, and I am proud to be on THEARC’s board of directors,” said William A. Von Hoene Jr., Exelon senior executive vice president. “We are committed to being a good neighbor and giving back to the communities we serve, and it is a pleasure to be a part of the extraordinary work THEARC is doing for families in Wards 7 and 8.”

THEARC provides youth and adults across Wards 7 and 8 in the District of Columbia with equal access to essential arts, education, health and youth services programs. Wards 7 and 8 are home to 40 percent of D.C.’s youth, and nearly half of those children live at or below the poverty line, making it challenging for them to receive equal access to essential health, educational and cultural services.

Since its opening in 2005, THEARC has provided high-quality programs and services to children and adults living east of the Anacostia River, enabling them to participate in dance classes, music instruction, fine arts, continuing education, mentoring and tutoring and to receive medical and dental care and other services at a substantially reduced cost or no cost at all.

The newly completed $61 million, 203,000-0square-foot campus sits on more than 16 acres of National Park service land and includes a 5,000-square-foot state-of-the-art playground and basketball court. THEARC was created with input from the community, allowing residents of Wards 7and 8 to have equal equity and a sense of ownership in the campus. Many residents volunteer their time to support efforts at THEARC and some have even joined THEARC staff.

With the completion and opening of THEARC’s facilities, the center is poised to become a national model as a programs and services hub for communities.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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