In partnership with the Revenue Authority of Prince George’s County, Joe’s Movement Emporium (Joe’s) is launching “Creative Suitland”, a creative placemaking project in partnership with the community of the greater Suitland, MD area. Joe’s was approached by the Revenue Authority to enhance arts and cultural activities as a means to boost the local creative community. Joe’s is a leader in the creation of the Gateway Arts District and the Art Lives Here initiative that informed the organization’s expertise in the field of creative placemaking. A vacant strip mall space, formerly occupied by Hunter Memorial AME Church, is currently in renovation to become the Creative Suitland Arts Center, located at 4719 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, MD. The venue is across the street from the Census Bureau offices and walking distance to the Suitland Metro Station. An opening is planned for January 2020 that will allow all to tour the planned theater, studios, arts education classrooms, offices and meet artist partners. This project will be the second arts center in Prince George’s County for Joe’s.
Since January 2018, Joe’s has worked with community stakeholders, local officials, and the neighborhoods of Capitol Heights, Forestville, Silver Hill, Temple Hills, Camp Springs, District Heights, Coral Hills, Marlow Heights, Hillcrest Heights, and Suitland areas to identify community artists, assets, and cultural resources. The team collected data to identify critical community issues and assess the community’s self-identified needs. According to surveys, the biggest areas of concern were public safety, academic readiness, and small business development. More than half of participants reported not knowing artists in the area although 30% of participants identified as an artist. Regarding desired use of the planned arts space, 80% desire live performances, 62% wish for arts education programming, and 56% mentioned arts exhibitions.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks envisions a thriving community: “The greater Suitland area is an important and historic part of the County that I want to ensure receives the support it deserves, especially for arts and cultural development. The Creative Suitland project will serve as a bridge to build audiences and infuse the area with programs by local artists, spurring greater economic development and giving visitors from around the region an opportunity to get to know this amazing community.”
Revenue Authority Executive Director Peter Shapiro shares, “the team is doing a great job with this space, more than I could have ever imagined.”
“When I relocated to Temple Hills from Southside DC in 2013, I felt the art scene was very quiet,” says Britt Barbour, Community Outreach Coordinator. “I’ve always known Prince George’s County was booming with talent, but I didn’t see a lot of spaces where creatives could gather and build.”
Handirubvi Indigo Wakatama, the Creative Suitland Project Coordinator reflects, “the vision of our artist partners is what will foster the artistic journey and direction of the Creative Suitland Project and Arts Center.”
The program vision of the Creative Suitland Arts Center is based on written and verbal interviews, surveys and feedback from the Suitland area community members, small businesses and representatives. Below is a list of programs envisioned for the completed space.
- HERITAGE WORKS: a series of workshops teaching culturally specific skilled art forms and/or connecting community with their history and heritage. Examples: hand-dancing, historical tours, model crafts, and more.
- ARTIST DEVELOPMENT: planned series of professional development workshops specific for visual and performing artists. Examples: finding artist housing, marketing best practices, starting your own business and more.
- SPACE FOR ARTISTS:
- VISUAL ARTS: opportunities for local visual artists to teach workshops, exhibit work, and/or rent studio space.
- PERFORMING ARTS: opportunities for performing artists to teach workshops and classes, rent affordable rehearsal space and present their work.
- THEATER: opportunities for performing artists to rehearse and perform in newly renovated theater space featuring top of the line lighting and sound equipment. Technical support in the form of lighting designers, sound engineers and stage managers will be available upon request for approved productions.
- FOOD EQUITY: supporting options to increase access to healthy food across the Suitland area in conjunction with health-conscious activities. Examples: Poetry & Produce programming and Cooking Classes.
- ARTS EDUCATION: out-of-school programming available after school and during summer onsite and at local schools featuring visual arts, music, drama, dance, etc. Examples: Producers Club partnership with Center for Visual and Performing Arts at Suitland High School, artist presentations to classrooms, summer camps.
- COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT: Office space and rehearsal spaces will be available to non-arts community groups for meetings, fundraisers, classes & workshops, public presentations and more. Examples: Workshops by local government, staff holiday parties for businesses.
ABOUT CREATIVE SUITLAND
CREATIVE SUITLAND is an arts-based community development strategy to include existing residents and businesses in defining the cultural and creative spirit of Suitland. Through collaboration, community will be invited to choose programs, exhibits, public art, performance series, and murals to showcase the talents and perspectives of local artists and cultural groups. The planning process will define the local creative industry to offer support and opportunity. The outcome desired is a cultural identity to reinforce connection and belonging to the shared spaces of Suitland, to nurture small business, to enhance the local creative industry, and to build a stronger arts audience.
Creative Suitland Project Coordinator Handirubvi Indigo Wakatama is a visual artist, curator and arts educator. Indigo earned her B.A in Fine Arts from Corcoran and M.A in Arts & Teaching from George Washington University.
Creative Suitland Outreach Coordinator Britt “Sankofa” Barbour is an educator, filmmaker, and theater artist from Washington, DC. She studied film and journalism at New York University and Virginia Commonwealth University, respectively.
(via Joe’s Movement Emporium. Photo courtesy for Joe’s Movement Emporium.)