Theresa Cameron’s arts and culture background is among the qualities that drew Van Ness Main Street to hire her as its executive director early this year. In just a few short months, Cameron has put her skills and background to work toward a revitalized Van Ness commercial district.
Already she has organized a forum for arts organizations and artists, and Jazz @ VN, a concert series at local businesses. And at the May ANC 3F meeting, Cameron announced planning would begin soon for “Art All Night at Van Ness,” part of a city-wide arts festival on September 24th.
Cameron took the time to share more information about the upcoming events and her approach to reviving our Main Street.
Q: Could you explain how you see the connection between cultural arts and business revitalization?The arts and creativity are a large part of community development and redevelopment. Take for instance some of the ways the arts has helped regenerate communities right here in the District. Union Market and its development started because artists saw an opportunity and worked to stabilize and create a new vision for a forgotten part of DC. Now it’s part of an historic development effort that includes new start up businesses, retail and residential.
And while I was working at the Arts and Humanities Council in Montgomery County, we developed Arts and Entertainment District legislation that would give businesses and artists incentives for locating in these Districts. One of the Districts was downtown Silver Spring, where the redevelopment of the historic Silver Theatre, which is now AFI Silver, helped lure small and large businesses and associations. For every dollar invested in the arts it generates nine dollars in returns. And nationally, many communities with Main Streets use the arts as a component of attracting and maintaining local business through events and promotions, and reuse of buildings for cultural and creative activities.
Q: When people look at Van Ness, they see concrete and not many attractive restaurant choices. It is hard for them to get past the negatives. What assets do you see at Van Ness, and how will Van Ness Main Street build on those assets?
First of all, we LOVE all of our restaurants and we are working to help them attract more local customers. Our Jazz @ VN series was developed to showcase our local restaurants and create an activity to highlight our restaurants as well DC’s vibrant jazz scene.
We do need more restaurants for our 12,000 residents. I, personally, would also like to see a bar/gathering place in Van Ness. Some have talked about a place like Busboys and Poets.
Van Ness has many assets including its residents, the University of the District of Columbia, access to Rock Creek Park, an international community, beautiful walkable neighborhoods, educated community, upcoming developments, cultural institutions like Hillwood, Levine Music, and WAMU as well as several very important and well-established artists that live in the neighborhood.
Q: On April 23, you organized an arts forum sponsored by Levine Music and the Hillwood Museum, both important cultural institutions in the neighborhood. Could you tell us who attended and what came out of this meeting?
The Upper NW DC Arts Forum gathered artists and arts organizations from Upper Northwest DC so they could learn about each other and begin to organize. We have many valuable assets, and yet no one has taken the time to pull them together to begin discussions about collaborations and ways to work on joint marketing projects. This is important as we highlight ongoing cultural activities to our local businesses and assist them in developing ways to market to those concertgoers and entice them to stop in Van Ness and spend some money.
Q: Tell us more about Art All Night on September 24th. You had mentioned that we could attract 5,000 people to Van Ness that night. How would that work?
We have been selected to be part of a DC-wide festival celebrating our local businesses and the arts – Art All Night. The festival is exploration and celebration of contemporary art, encompassing many of DC’s most vibrant neighborhoods: Congress Heights, Dupont Circle, Van Ness, Tenleytown, H Street Northeast, North Capitol and Shaw.
We are currently securing venues for all the activities for Art All Night and we will also be distributing a call for artists to participate. This year the focus will be on local talent in both visual and performing arts.
Our organization meeting for Van Ness will be on Tuesday, May 31 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the new Park Van Ness Building located at 4455 Connecticut Avenue, on the first floor. At this meeting we will talk about the event and gather ideas about a potential Van Ness theme, venues, and activities and artists and arts organization participation. We will be looking for volunteers who want to assist in event organizing, marketing, community input/development, and/or day of the event. RSVP by Monday, May 30 to Theresa Cameron, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: And there is Jazz @ VN. The first event was at Acacia on April 30, and the next one will be at Bread Furst on June 30. Could you tell us more about this event?
Jazz @ VN is a way to get our residents into our local restaurants and highlight both UDC and Levine Music programs. The first one was held in collaboration with UDC and Acacia Bistro to celebrate international jazz day. Our next one coming up will be at Bread Furst on June 30, 6 to 7:30 p.m., and will feature The Singing Capital Chorus. The chorus will be singing some pop/jazz tunes and Bread Furst will have wine and snacks for sale.
Q: If you had a crystal ball, and you could look at Van Ness in five years, what would you see?
A vibrant business district with new local businesses and a growing community where the creative economy thrives.