Enters Third Year with Expanded Performances at The Atlas
Where is the one place the eclectic arts-lover can go to take in dogs in tandem with their comedian owners, classical Indian dance, new age jazz, hip-hop performance theater, a gay date night and family-oriented theater all under one roof? The Atlas Performing Arts Center, of course!
Those who have attended the first two years of "Intersections: A New America Arts Festival" have likely become accustomed to experiencing a seemingly impossible range of concerts, dance recitals, theater, performance art and other genres which defy exact definition conveniently packed into three days, three weekends.
This year, the three-weekend festival, which opened the latter part of February and runs through March 11, features the best established and emerging artists from the District and its environs—and then some. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday.
"We were eager to increase the number of opportunities for both artists to perform and audiences to attend," said Mary Hall Surface, festival artistic director.
"Thursday has become a popular night for attending arts events and going out in general, so we added Thursdays to meet both demand [having many sold out shows at last year's festival] and to increase opportunity."
Last year, "Intersections" attracted more than 9,200 art-loving visitors, up from 6,000 in its first year, according to Sam Sweet, executive director of the Atlas. "This gave us the confidence to expand the festival this year to 12 days over three weekends," he said.
"We want the Atlas to be a center for community conversation, where a range of artistic experiences can be celebrated, and we've recognized that the lobby and the cafe area are just like a town square, with people coming together to talk about what they've just seen, give tips to other attendees, or enjoy a free performance at the Cafe stage, which we now think of as a vital performance space."
"Intersections" encompasses more than 150 main-stage performances, 30 free café concerts and 25 special events. While some artists are new to "Intersections," others like hip-hop performance artist Paige Hernandez, who returned this year with a follow-up to last year's "Paige in Full" with "Liner Notes," local—yet world class—jazz singer Imani with her trio, and the Spilled Ink Project and Srishti Dances of India have been with the festival since its debut in 2010.
With a major focus on cultivating relationships with artists and performances for audiences that encompass the diversity of the Washington metropolitan area, "Intersections" endeavors not to leave anyone out.
"Intersections celebrates the arts as a spark for conversation and connection of artists and audiences of all ages, races, cultures and art forms," Surface added. "In our 'Discover the New America' themed shows [one of our three festival thematic roadmaps], we choose companies that give voice to specific communities within the kaleidoscope of contemporary culture. We're eager to include the GLBT community and perspective as a part of the fabric of D.C. and beyond, just as we include senior, youth, African-American, Hispanic, Indian-American and others."
Community relations have been an integral part of the mission of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, which opened its doors on the H Street corridor in late 2004 after being
shuttered since 1976, when the building closed as a movie theater.
"We [also] learned how key our partnerships are, whether it's partnering with the artists and groups, volunteers, school and community groups, or local merchants and retailers. Intersections takes place in this building, but it relies on and we hope spreads back to the larger community around us," Sweet said.
"This summer we had a little event to unveil a plaque commemorating the Atlas being added to the National Register of Historic Places," he said. "It was a great mix of people. We had staff currently working at the Atlas, of course, as well as donors to the campaign to renovate the building and architects and other project members who helped make that happen," Sweet said.
"But we also had a number of people from the local community who grew up with the Atlas – some residents, retailers, and a couple of board members who shared stories of the theater as one of the neighborhood spots back when H Street was a thriving retail corridor. Some of the residents in attendance now live at Delta Towers, and performed at the event as the Northeast Senior Singers. That group was the first one to be a partner at the Atlas Performing Arts Center when it was renovated and reopened to the community."
"Intersections: A New America Arts Festival" isn't the only thing going on at the Atlas. This year, two new music series were added to an already full plate at the burgeoning center, which sparked a renaissance along the H Street corridor that now includes fine dining, a thriving bar scene and retail outlets.
"I thought we could best expand our programming and serve both artists and audiences through adding two music series - Jazz at the Atlas, and New Music at the Atlas," Sweet elaborated.
And there's more.
"Finally, we welcomed Rorschach Theatre as artists-in-residence here to complement the theatre offerings of current groups, such as African Continuum Theatre," Sweet added.
"We have begun partnering with Dance Place to add more dance performances to the great work done by our arts partners, Step Afrika! and Joy of Motion. The marquee now is lit much more often."
Tickets for "Intersections: A New America Arts Festival" are available at www.intersections.org or at the Atlas Performing Arts Center box office at 1333 H Street, NE. Call (202) 399-7993 ext. 2.