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What is Southwest DC? What do the past, present, and future of the neighborhood look like to its residents, as the community changes around them? These questions and more lie at the heart of Crossing the Street: SW Is…, a new public arts project underway in Southwest, led by local arts educator Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT).

SW Is… is part of Crossing the Street, a District-wide creative placemaking initiative sponsored by the DC Office of Planning (DCOP). As the DCOP prepares to release an updated DC Comprehensive Plan and the first-ever DC Cultural Plan later this year, they have engaged 15 local nonprofits to curate projects fostering civic interaction in neighborhoods experiencing rapid demographic and social change. YPT was selected as the curator for Southwest, and has spent months canvassing the neighborhood, organizing community leaders, and asking residents, “What is Southwest?”

SW Is… officially launched on Aug. 20, and has already engaged Southwesters of all ages in a conversation about life in the area. “Southwest is a very diverse neighborhood, filled with people from various backgrounds who are united by their sense of community,” says YPT Creative Programs Director Thembi Duncan, who is spearheading the project. “We are honored to give residents, especially young people, a space to share their thoughts and feelings creatively.”

The project has taken the form of free, all-ages playwriting workshops in community spaces around the neighborhood, along with interactive public art pieces designed by local artist Asha Santee. Keep an eye out for the interactive art pieces in October! SW Is… will culminate in a performance event on (**UPDATED**) Sunday, November 6th.From noon to 3 p.m., professional actors and community members will read theatrical pieces inspired by Southwest at important sites around the neighborhood. Afterward, all are invited to gather in The Lot for a festive celebration of Southwest’s history and culture. All SW Is… events are free, family friendly, and open to the public!

Want to take part in Crossing the Street: SW Is…? Though writing workshops have already ended, there are still many ways to get involved with the project:

  • Visit the art installations in October! The main piece will be near The Lot, with others scattered around Southwest. All installations will allow visitors to interact and engage creatively. Post your photos on social media using the hashtag #CrossingtheStreetSW!
  • Come to the final performance! Bring your family to the North Lot (behind the Safeway complex) on Nov. 6th for a day of fun, fellowship, and art dedicated to Southwest DC.
  • Share your thoughts on social media. Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram @YPTDC with the hashtag #CrossingtheStreetSW to get in on the conversation!

For more information about SW Is…, visit yptdc.org/Events/SpecialProjects. Let your word be heard, Southwesters!

By: Jeff Gilliland
Communications associate, Young Playwrights’ Theater

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