Courtesy of Olalekan Jeyifous and the City of Alexandria Office of the Arts
Courtesy of Olalekan Jeyifous and the City of Alexandria Office of the Arts

From a new waterfront dining destination made from carved-out shipping containers to compelling new public artwork and tours that highlight the city’s African American history, there are plenty of new things to see along the Old Town waterfront this year.

Alexandria will get a taste of the Mediterranean later this year with two new waterfront restaurants opening in Old Town. Barca Pier will be a seasonal outdoor eatery inspired by Barcelona’s beach bars and made from carved-out shipping containers. Barca Wine Bar, which will be open throughout the year, will boast an intimate, sophisticated setting and vast selection of unique and domestic wines from around the world.

Alexandria’s highly anticipated maritime history experience at the Old Town waterfront, tall ship Providence, is slated to open for tours later this year. This celebrity tall ship, which has appeared in the international blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean,” is a full-scale reproduction of one of the most renowned ships in the Continental Navy. Once open, they will present 30-minute tours of the docked ship as well as cruises on the river.

The biggest art event this spring in Alexandria brings a site of contemplation to Old Town’s Waterfront Park. From late March to November 2020, temporary public art installation Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies  by Olalekan Jeyifous will be on display as the second in the City of Alexandria’s “Site See: New Views in Old Town” public art series.

Jeyifous’ concept frames Alexandria’s African American history through the lens of the city’s industrial and merchant history from the 17th to 20th centuries. Once a prosperous port city that was home to one of the largest domestic slave trading firms in the country, Alexandria was a major center for shipping and manufacturing with an economy inextricably tied to the work of enslaved and free African Americans.

“Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies”  seeks to stitch Alexandria’s story together, featuring symbols that represent Alexandria’s merchant and manufacturing history, including factories, tobacco warehouses and railways. The ground mural will incorporate African American quilting and textile traditions, which are historically tied to storytelling and oral tradition. When viewed as a whole, the pattern will become an abstract grid or map, with the manufacturing icons appearing throughout. From this colorful and rich surface, four large figures will face the water. Ornate metal profiles will be wrapped in sculptural seating platforms that are illuminated in low light.

Coming later in 2020, visitors can learn more about Alexandria’s African American heritage through a new African American Waterfront Heritage Trail, a self-guided tour highlighting people, places and neighborhoods from a diverse time period in Alexandria’s history. The walking trail, presented as an online “StoryMap,” will ultimately include a north and south section and more than 20 stops along the Alexandria waterfront, including Waterfront Park, the Torpedo Factory Art Center and Jones Point Park. Alexandria’s African American Waterfront Heritage Trail is a community initiative supported by the Office of Historic Alexandria.

Stay tuned to for the latest on things to do and what’s happening in Alexandria.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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