Arts Along the Waterfront

#2 look  around by Bruce McNeil
“Look Around”, Bruce McNeil

In the third issue of the Urban Waterways project newsletter, we explore the impact of the Arts on the spirit of neighborhoods along urban waterways. The Arts have long reflected artists’ visions of the communities in which they play a role. Inversely, these interpretations are informed by the world around them, and the natural world, in its various forms, can often be an important source of inspiration.  What are the practical applications of the relationships between Art, artists, and the communities in which they live?

In this issue, our collaborators in Anacostia, Baltimore, and Louisville discuss how Art can be used as a force of social, economic, and educational change.  Local artists, Barbara Johnson, Bruce McNeil, and Terence Nicholson describe the role of the Anacostia River in their art and the role of Art in the communities surrounding the Anacostia. Kristen Faber, a Baltimore artist, explains efforts of The Charm City Circus, part of the social circus movement, to empower, educate, and heal neighborhoods in Baltimore.  In Louisville, The Waterfront Development Corporation discusses how art has played a role in establishing the Louisville waterfront as a place accessible to all and is an integral part of a revitalized commercial and residential area which had greatly improved quality of life for many residents, while Theo Edmonds and Josh Miller of IDEAS 40203 show how the arts can be used as a force by which communities can build a workforce from within.

As a whole, the contributors to this issue demonstrate the power of Art to reflect not only an artist’s interpretation of the world but also its power to shape what the world can be.

Our third issue   UW Newsletter 3

The Urban Waterways Symposium – Gathering to “Tell Story”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Thurgood Marshall Academy PCHS

2427 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE

Washington, DC 20020

One of the central goals of the Urban Waterways project has been to provide means for the collaborators in our network to share their concerns, practices, and accomplishments with communities facing similar challenges.  On March 28, 2015, the museum will provide a space for our collaborators as they gather for the Urban Waterways Symposium.

Panelists from Baltimore, Chicago, D.C., Hawaii, Los Angeles, Louisville, and Turkey Creek will gather to share their experiences, best practices, and next steps regarding such issues as Education & Practice, Environmentalism & Recreation, Grassroots Leadership, Collaboration, Waterfront Development, and Gentrification & New Urbanism.

The symposium will help to further the project’s long-standing goals of creating a cross-disciplinary dialogue among scholars, government  officials, activists, and scientists, eliciting first-hand  information from residents of local communities, and engaging all who are interested with on-going activities that will enable their participation in reclamation, restoration, and appropriate redevelopment of their urban waterways  and their communities.

Register at

Use Invite Code ACMUWS2015

9:00-10:00 AM



10:00-11:15 AM



11:30 AM-12:45 PM



1:00-2:15 PM


2:30 -3:45 PM



“Contrabands” African American Refugees in Washington During the Civil War

An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 enslaved African Americans fled from Virginia and Maryland to Washington during the Civil War. They were originally called “contrabands.” This was a term coined by the press after General Major General Benjamin Butler’s decision in 1861 to not return three fugitive slaves who had come to Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads in Virginia. Rather than sending them back to their owner—where they had been building a Confederate artillery position—Butler opted to hold them as contraband war loot. Ironically, this legal loophole allowed Union soldiers an opportunity to grant escaped slaves a type of freedom by continuing to treat them as property.

In Washington, these new arrivals were first thrown into jail by the city’s authorities and later taken under the care of the military and interned in a sequence of camps. Subjected to crowding and unsanitary conditions they were decimated by contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and cholera. Infants died due to fevers, diarrhea, and convulsions.

Children often were separated from their families. Some of them were taken in by the military and served as servants for the officers. Others were sent to the Orphan Home located in Georgetown where conditions were as bad as they had been in the camps. Still others were hired out to people who promised to provide education, health care, housing and clothing in exchange for their service, but who, in some instances, mistreated them badly.

Out of these desperate circumstances emerged after the Civil War a population, often identified as “Freedmen,” who made their home in Washington determined to live a new life as free people. In 1860, the African American population of Washington was 14,316, by 1870 the number had raised to 35, 455, an increase of over 200%. These newcomers were the first wave that would make of Washington a majority African American city in mid-20th century.

Today, 150 years after the Civil War, Washington is changing again. Fast-paced gentrification, which has brought into the city a number of young, affluent residents of many ethnicities, has reversed the trend and Washington is no longer a majority African-American city.





African American refugees at Camp Brightwood
African American refugees at Camp Brightwood

Ethel L. Payne: Trailblazing Journalist

This month the Anacostia Community Museum is paying tribute to the Women’s History Movement by highlighting its collections that tell stories of women’s lives and contributions to our society.

Ethel Payne greeting President Lyndon B. Johnson, undated. Ethel Payne Papers,
Anacostia Community Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Avis R. Johnson.



In 2002, the U. S. Postal Service honored four women reporters for their contribution to American journalism by issuing commemorative postage stamps. Among the honorees was Ethel L. Payne (1911 – 1991) , who earned the title “first Lady of the black press” due to her coverage of the White House through seven presidents and the civil rights movement. The award-winning journalist was known to ask difficult questions, especially pertaining to segregation, and combining advocacy with journalism. A trailblazer, Payne became the first African American woman commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her for their television series “Spectrum.” The journalist was also the first black female to focus on international news and one of the first female White House correspondents of African descent. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973) invited her to witness his signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she traveled with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during his tour of Africa in 1970s.

Ethel Payne
Ethel Payne received this Leadership for Freedom Award in 1974 from the Women’s Scholarship Association of Roosevelt University for her human rights work. Ethel Payne Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Avis R. Johnson.

A collection of Ethel Payne materials containing photographs, awards, passports, and artifacts were donated to the Anacostia Community Museum in 1991. You can view the collection here. The bulk of Payne’s personal papers were donated to Howard University before the reporter’s death. To learn more about Ethel Payne and view a display of her papers, join us on Sunday, March 29th from 2:00 to 4:00 for an author talk and book signing with James McGrath Morris.  Mr. Morris will discuss his publication Eye on the Struggle, which focuses on the achievements and challenges of this pioneering woman!

#WomensHistoryMonth   #EthelPayne #Archives #Womenjournalist

The ARC hosting Anacostia River Festival Fish Bike Parade April 12

konobori children's day

The ARC, which hosts a community gallery and ArtReach workshops for youth and adults at it’s 1901 Mississippi Avenue SE location is planning something special for the annual Anacostia River Festival. The festival, on April 12, 2015 held at the Anacostia Waterfront Park will be the site of the first Anacostia River Festival Fish Bike Parade.  What is a Fish Bike Parade?  Picture hundreds of bikes riding around the DC streets with colorful handmade fish windsocks like the one’s pictured above flying over the heads of the cyclists and convening at the festival to create an above water river display.

Over the next few weeks the ARTREACH will host workshops to create your own fish flags inspired by the Japanese tradition of creating carp-shaped windsocks known as “Koinobori.” The fish windsocks will then be attached to poles on the back of bikes for a flying fish performance at the festival.  The workshops are free and open to all regardless of creative experience. :

Wednesday March 11 @ The ARC’s ArtReach studio 1901 Mississippi Ave SE 6-8 PM

Saturday March 14 @ The ARC’s ArtReach studio 1901 Mississippi Ave SE 1-3 PM

Wednesday April 1 @ The ARC’s ArtReach studio 1901 Mississippi Ave SE 6-8 PM

Saturday April 4 @ The ARC’s ArtReach studio 1901 Mississippi Ave SE 10-1 PM

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 4.18.51 PM

For more information contact Melissa Green, Director of ArtReach at