CulturalDC Presents The Barbershop Project

By Editorial Team on June 24, 2019

Sat, 04 May 2019 - Sat, 24 August 2019

Courtesy of CulturalDC.
Currently running through August 24, 2019.

As the centerpiece of CulturalDC’s 20th Anniversary Season, The Barbershop Project is a multidisciplinary arts activation inspired by the art of hair, performance of styling and the cultural institution that is the barbershop. Running May 4—August 24, 2019, the Project is hosted by Building Bridges Across the River, the Ward 8 nonprofit that manages THEARC: Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus.

The Barbershop Project is centered around Mighty Mighty: a collaboration between artist Devan Shimoyama, Barber of Hell’s Bottom owner Kelly Gorsuch and designer/furniture maker Caleb Woodard. They are transforming CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery into an immersive art installation and fully-functioning barbershop which will offer free haircuts to the community.

“From my understanding of the Black barbershop, men come together to decompress and be candid with one another in a safe space. This space isn’t quite the same for LGBTQIA identifying people of color,” says artist Devan Shimoyama.

In Mighty Mighty, Shimoyama’s paintings come to life, engaging individuals in a dialogue about how to evolve from said stereotypes of such performed hypermasculinity in barbershops and how to cultivate a safe, welcome environment for all.

“Queer identifying people of color feel the need to perform gender in specific ways in certain settings. For example, gay Black men feel the need to limit their interactions with other Black men in the barbershop. After some conversations with other individuals who share these sentiments, I realized many of us find ways to mask our queerness in this setting regardless to how out and proud we are in our personal lives,” Shimoyama continues.

Shimoyama’s work has been exhibited throughout America on numerous occasions. He has been featured in The New York Times, Vice Magazine, ARTnews, Hyperallergic and GQ. His exhibition Cry, Baby was on view at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh from October 13, 2018 – March 17, 2019.

“At Barber of Hell’s Bottom we know that a haircut can be transformative for anyone, and it can be especially powerful for the LGBTQIA community. Collaborating with Devan on making his fantastical barbershop scenes tangible and interactive has been an exciting challenge. My barbers and I can’t wait to spend the summer at THEARC, cutting hair and creating a compassionate space,” says Kelly Gorsuch.

“I see this as an opportunity to reveal what seems to escape many – that beauty and expression is above gender or race. It is a reminder to see the beauty in others and ourselves; our lives are far too fleeting to waste them on living up to the expectations of others,” says Caleb Woodard.

To further explore the themes of the immersive exhibit, CulturalDC plans a summer of robust programming that centers on working with other local arts organizations to offer dance, theatre performances, poetry, concerts and photography. All will work together to tell important stories about the cultural significance of the barbershop. Collaborators include Sheldon Scott, Holly Bass and The In Series for pOPERA (pop-up opera). More details will be announced in the upcoming months.

“CulturalDC has been looking forward to bringing the Mobile Art Gallery to THEARC for a long time. The Barbershop Project provides an opportunity to engage with both the wide-ranging resident organizations based at THEARC, and future-minded East of the Anacostia River communities that are informed by DC’s rich artistic history. Devan’s work offers a great platform for relevant conversations and engagement around barbershop culture.” says Kristi Maiselman, Executive Director of CulturalDC.

“Our partnership with CulturalDC is a match made in heaven. THEARC is the largest social service, multi-sector, nonprofit collaboration in the country. This unique position provides an oasis of opportunity for engagement unparralled anywhere else in the city.  Our collaboration with CulturalDC will provide an experience East of the River residents will be talking about for generations,” says Rahsaan Bernard, President of Building Bridges Across the River.

The Barbershop Project presented by CulturalDC runs Saturday May 4,—August 24, 2019.  Mighty Mighty Gallery Hours: Tuesdays–Fridays from 11-7pm and Saturdays from 10-8pm. Barber Hours: Tuesday—Fridays 3-7pm and Saturdays 10-2pm/4-8pm. Located at THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Ave SE, Washington, DC. Admission and haircuts are free.

Devan Shimoyama is a visual artist working primarily in self-portraiture and narratives inspired from classical mythology and allegory. The work of Devan Shimoyama showcases the relationship between celebration and silence in queer culture and sexuality. Shimoyama’s compositions are often inspired by Caribbean folklore, science fiction, and the masters Caravaggio and Goya, though adding a more contemporary expression and sensuality. With the usage of various materials: splattered paint, stencils, glitter, rhinestones, and sequins, Shimoyama creates works that celebrate the Black body as both of magic and mystery.

Shimoyama was born in 1989 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State University in 2011 with a BFA in Drawing/Painting before obtaining his MFA at Yale University School of Art in 2014. He is represented by Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago and De Buck Gallery in New York. He is currently based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Kelly grew up in a hairdressing family. He has spent over two decades in all aspects of the industry, including coloring, cutting, barbering, runway, editorial, platform, teaching, managing, owning, and speaking. Kelly currently owns two luxury salons (Immortal Beloved) and four luxury men’s grooming salons (Barber of Hell’s Bottom) in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA. Kelly designs and builds all of his salons and barbershops. Those environments are steeped in what Kelly calls an Americanized version of Wabi Sabi that lends a natural and mysterious feel to the spaces.

Caleb Woodard (born in 1979) is a designer and second-generation furniture maker. In 2005 he founded his original studio in Washington, DC. In 2013 he moved his studio to the historic district of his hometown in Springfield, Tennessee. In 2015, he began designing and creating a series of functional, yet sculptural lighting pieces. In 2017, a new gallery space was added to the studio, allowing visitors the opportunity to have a personal interaction with his work. His designs continually push the boundaries of form and function with a passion for the organic. He works in wood, metal, stone, and glass. He personally designs and creates each piece with his small team.

CulturalDC ( celebrates its 20th year of creating affordable, sustainable artist spaces in the Washington, DC, area. Since 1998, CulturalDC has brokered more than 300,000 square feet of artist space, including: the Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market, Atlas Performing Arts Center, GALA Hispanic Theatre, Source Theatre and Woolly Mammoth Theatre. In addition to providing space, we facilitate opportunities for and present innovative visual, performing and multidisciplinary artists. CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery is DC’s first moveable artspace and a commitment to use art as a catalyst to build community. Each year, CulturalDC serves more than 1,000 artists and welcomes 40,000 audience members and participants who patron local businesses and contribute an estimated $1 million to the local economy. Facebook: CulturalDC, Instagram: @cultural_dc, Twitter: Cultural_DC

Building Bridges Across the River improves the quality of life for children and adults who reside east of the Anacostia River by providing leadership, management and financial oversight of the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC), 11th Street Bridge Park, THEARC Farm, THEARC Theater & Skyland Workforce Center. Through these projects, BBAR uses a multi-sector approach to address significant social, health, environmental & economic disparities that exist in DC.