At the April 21st launch of the DC Office of Planning’s Van Ness Commercial District Action Strategy, OP Director Eric Shaw announced that Van Ness would receive $50,000 from a city-wide Kresge Foundation grant for creative placemaking. It’s one of 15 sites across the District to benefit from this initiative, called “Crossing the Street.”. The grant goes toward developing a temporary art installation to support the goals of the Action Strategy, create a sense of place, and have a sustaining impact on the neighborhood’s development. (Read more about placemaking.)
In May, after a competitive process, OP chose Tendani Mpulubusi El, the president and CEO of Ward 8 Arts and Culture Council, as the curator. Tendani has worked extensively in Ward 8 on community-building and placemaking projects and he will work with the Van Ness Advisory Committee. OP’s Ryan Hand appointed its members, which include representatives from ANC 3F, Van Ness Main Street, Forest Hills Connection, BF Saul and the University of the District of Columbia.
The advisory committee met for the first time at Forest Hills of DC on June 16th, with Tendandi and Ryan Hand. Goals, location and timing of the project were discussed with further meetings to occur through July 30th. Everyone agreed that growing the connection between the University and the Van Ness community was an important goal, as well as acknowledging what is unique about Van Ness – the arts and culture and our international community.
Van Ness will also be home to more children over the next two years, as Murch Elementary temporarily moves to trailers on a UDC soccer field during the schools renovation, and due to the possible temporary relocation of the Cleveland Park Library to Van Ness while it is renovated.
Additionally, the area’s location next to Soapstone Valley, highlighted in the 2014 Van Ness hub charette and the ANC-funded design is another standout feature of Van Ness. Park Van Ness frames this gateway to Rock Creek Park with its archway at Yuma Street.
Ryan Hand stressed that there is a very tight time frame with the project needing to be completed by the end of October 2016. Implementation should begin in August. The time period discussed was to build on Art All Night at Van Ness on September 24th, with a series of events following in October.
Both Hand and Tendani were pleased with the ideas and feedback generated. Tendani will come back with some fleshed out conceptual plans for the next meeting.