The Wash

Art event looks to uplift Logan Circle economy

Small business experts and artists say creativity can be a money maker for a neighborhood in transition.

A Logan Circle art event this past weekend showed businesses in the area a new economic path forward.

Art All Night took place this past Saturday, and it provided local artists an opportunity to showcase their work in venues around the neighborhood. Several residents and small business observers said the event showed that art can be a viable framework for revitalizing the area’s small business community.

The event was part of a citywide program that took place over the whole weekend, but it marked the first time it was held in Logan Circle.

Painter Richshaad Ryan has been selling his paintings on the corner of 14th and S streets, NW, for six years. He was looking forward to the event because he said it provided a platform for him to show his work to people who otherwise might not see it. 

Painter Richshaad Ryan stands in front of his work. (Riley Ceder/The Wash)

He said the support of the Logan Circle community has been the recipe for his success so far and the event was another milestone in his career, one that wasn’t always so easy.

“I lost my business, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do next?’ And the first piece I painted, I sold. I was like, ‘Hey, you might have something,’” said Ryan. “With the continuous support of the community and my consistency, here we are. So now I’m kind of a pillar in the neighborhood.”

Ryan had owned and operated Planet Chocolate City and its two locations from 1997 to 2008. He sold his own clothing label there, which included jeans, sweatsuits, socks, hats, and hand-painted dress shirts.

Others in the art community were just as excited about the event.

Victoria Reis is the co-founder, executive director, and artistic director of Transformer D.C., a nonprofit arts venue that’s been in Logan Circle for over 20 years. She’s also a resident of the area.

She noted the pandemic’s lasting effects on Logan Circle and described Art All Night as a perfect embodiment of how art can grow community through engagement.

“The neighborhood has changed so much,” said Reis. “Older businesses have left, and newer ones have popped up.” 

She said Art All Night’s arrival in Logan Circle was important because it increases the likelihood that people will engage with Transformer and other art venues beyond just one night.

Transformer’s art space on 1404 P St. NW. (Riley Ceder/The Wash)

The event has very real economic benefits for the artists and art spaces in the area, according to the Logan small business community. They said that having a day on the calendar for residents to go out, engage with artists and venues, and buy work means money in the pockets of the artists and places that sell.

Main Street America’s Dionne Baux has witnessed the event and its positives firsthand. She attended the Congress Heights event in a prior year.

“It really provides an opportunity for micro-entrepreneurs as well as brick-and-mortar businesses, said Baux. 

She said that it gives them both a platform to showcase what they’re selling.

Baux is vice president of field services for Main Street America, which represents neighborhood commercial districts across the country.

According to Baux, Main Street America created a four-step way to “revive and rejuvenate commercial” spaces that the Department of Small and Local Business Development implements in Washington, D.C.

The benefits of art in the Logan Circle community extend beyond just the artists and businesses taking part in the event, though. Art brings people together and allows others in the area to sell their services too, says Carl E. Brown, executive director of the D.C. Small Business Development Center at Howard University.

The sun sets over P Street, NW in the Logan Circle neighborhood. (Riley Ceder/The Wash)

“Small businesses, restaurants, coffee shops, even the bars and restaurants, some people go and see and say, ‘Hey let’s get a bite to eat, slice of pizza, and beer [afterwards],’” said Brown. “It allows a lot of people to get out and see that normally would probably be home Netflix and chilling.”

Painter Ryan was excited about Art All Night but knew that one event wasn’t the answer to everything. It’s about the long haul, he said.

“A lot of times, like, with art, I tell artists, it’s like yes, the sale was great, but the sale might not come for two weeks from now. Like, earlier in the day I sold a piece from a guy I met a month ago down at the Ronald Reagan building where I did an exhibit,” said Ryan.

“So, I think that sometimes as artists, you want to like sell right now, but for me personally, it’s like growing the brand because my brand is more important than one sale.”

Riley Ceder

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