POW! WOW! DC Does Art on a Large Scale

May 2018 H Street Life

Artist Naturel (Lawrence Atoigue Jr.) painted this mural as part of the POW! WOW! festival in 2016. Photo: Elise Bernard

Warm weather is finally upon us, and the District is blooming in more ways than one. Yes, there are flowers, but also breath-taking art both indoors and out, on small and grand scales. And though we must bid farewell to an H Street NE institution, an intriguing successor promises to grow in its place.

POW! WOW! DC Does Art on a Large Scale
Mural festival POW! WOW! (https://www.powwowdc.com) returns this month, giving us all a great reason to hit the streets and see some exciting works. POW! WOW! DC is a local arts festival, but also part of the global POW! WOW! arts network that got its start in Hawaii in 2010. Although the local festival, based in NoMa, only lasts for 10 days (May 5-14), some of the art will be around for all to enjoy for years. During those 10 days artists from around the globe will travel to the District to celebrate art and creativity, to educate, to inspire and to just bring people together.

The festival’s name has its roots in the colorful, action-packed pages of comic books. The name expresses the powerful impact of art on the individual and the viewer’s reaction to the art, as well as alluding to the coming together of a community to create and celebrate art. District artist Kelly Towles is heading up this year’s effort. As in years past, the artists taking part in POW! WOW! DC will be a mix of locals and those from far-flung locales, including Berlin and Kingston, Jamaica.

The festival kicks off with a party and art event on May 5 at NoMa’s Wunder Garten (http://wundergartendc.com, 1101 First St. NE) and an unoccupied lot that POW! WOW! will be using at First Street and Pierce Street NE. Tours of the mural sites will take place at scheduled times throughout the festival, and you can catch the Secret Walls Live Graffiti Battle on May 10 at Union Market’s Dock 5 (1309 Fifth St. NE, https://unionmarketdc.com/retailer/dock5).

Joanathan Bessaci Ribaillier’s Fabulous Cutouts at Gallery O on H
While the POW! WOW! creatives use paint as their medium, French artist Joanathan Bessaci Ribaillier (https://www.jbessaci.com) works in old maps, cutting and layering them between sheets of glass to create works with texture and depth that can seem to convey motion. Specifically, Bessaci prefers Michelin maps dating from the 1920s through the 1970s. They remind him of the maps he saw in flea markets in his youth and of the paths various family members took on their immigrant journeys to France. You can view his works at Gallery O on H (https://www.galleryoonh.com, 1354 H St. NE) through May 18.

Big Brother Is Watching You at the Atlas
This month, Scena Theatre (http://scenatheatre.org) takes on “1984,” George Orwell’s classic dystopian tale of government surveillance and control. The troupe will perform Robert Icke and Duncan McMillian’s adaptation of the book. Tickets are $15-$45 with discounts for seniors and students, as well as an industry night on May 21. At the Atlas Performing Arts Center (www.atlasarts.org, 1333 H St. NE) through May 27. 


Church & State Closes Its Doors
Church & State, the intimate cocktail bar located on the second floor of 1236 H St. NE, closed late last month. The brainchild of Erik Holzherr, who many will know as the owner of Wisdom (https://www.dcwisdom.com, Pennsylvania Ave. NE) as well as Atlas Arcade (https://dcatlasarcade.com, 1236 H St. NE), Church & State opened in January 2011. The bar paid homage to that American creation, the cocktail. So strong was this commitment that a peek behind the bar would reveal that every bottle lining the shelves hailed from within the United States or one of its territories or possessions. While a geographic limitation like this could threaten to stifle a drink maker’s creativity, that was never the case here. Bartenders embraced the challenge of mixing small-batch liquors with vermouth and other ingredients made in-house.

Church & State had announced the impending closing three weeks earlier on social media, inviting patrons to stop by for farewell drink specials. The closure message also teased that the new concept for the space would involve “taking the best parts of C&S, and melding it with something fresh and fun.”

Tour the Arboretum’s Azalea Collections on Mother’s Day
Although a visit to the US National Arboretum (https://www.usna.usda.gov, 3501 New York Ave. NE) is highly advised anytime, it might be the perfect unexpected way to spend Mother’s Day. The arboretum is offering tickets ($15) for a Mother’s Day tour of the azalea collections led by Barbara Bullock, long-time curator of the collections. Enjoy the beautiful blooms while you learn about the history of azaleas at the arboretum and beyond and get advice on how to grow them at home. Sunday, May 13, 1-3 p.m., advance registration required.

Union Market’s Outdoor Movie Series is Back
Union Market Drive-In (https://unionmarketdc.com/events/union-market-drive-in-2018) kicks off its outdoor summer movie series with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on May 11. Tickets are $10 per car or free for walk-ups. If you choose to arrive on foot or bike, you’ll be wise to bring a blanket or cushion, as the site is paved. You can pack a picnic or enjoy the offerings available from vendors inside Union Market (https://unionmarketdc.com, 1309 Fifth St. NE). All films are shown with closed captions. The series will run through November with one film per month. Upcoming movies include: “Clueless,” “Like Water for Chocolate,” “Black Panther,” “The Lion King,” “Cool Runnings” and “Hocus Pocus.”


For more on what’s abuzz on, and around, H Street NE, you can visit my blog at http://frozentropics.blogspot.com. You can send me tips or questions at elise.bernard@gmail.com.