The Arts needed for East Campus to shine?

The following is an edited contribution by John W. Euill, III. John is a 34 year-old resident of the Cool Spring neighborhood in Adelphi. He takes classes at UMUC and frequents Rt. 1 everyday. Thanks, John.

The Birchmere, Alexandria, VAI’m excited to hear about developments such as East Campus coming to the area. I feel they are long overdue. I think the area’s college town feel will be enhanced while also making it a destination for the region. I do have one concern, that there will be no consideration for the live arts. What gives many urban destinations their appeal and draw are their ability to support the live arts. For example, Georgetown, U Street, Silver Spring (future site of Birchmere), and Alexandria.

We have an arts district within walking distance, a high school with an arts component (Northwestern), and a college campus where a good portion of its population appreciates the arts. I feel it would be a big misfortune to have an arts district a mile down the road and not have any venues where local and international artists can perform. What good is it to have an arts district nearby if all of the artists residing in it have to leave town to perform?

We have a good start with the Clarice Smith Clarice Smith Performing Arts CenterPerforming Arts Center on the UMD campus. But is there consideration for a jazz club or a small music hall somewhere off campus? Perhaps even a comedy club would break up the residential/retail mix. Most people have shops to go to in their own neighborhoods – mostly all of the national retail chains. What most people don’t have are places to go to hear a good local band or a national headliner, or to see their favorite comedian live. Who says that stuff needs to be in downtown DC only?

Having a Cheesecake Factory here may be great. But people can go to other areas for that. It won’t draw them here. On the other hand, if they see in the paper that their favorite jazz artist or comedian is performing in College Park, guess what? That brings them here. Then they eat and shop here before or after the performance. They bring their friends here the next time. Then they shop and eat here. East Campus becomes a draw for people outside of the area and it gets recognized in the media. People will come if there’s enough incentive.

Georgetown has its Blues Alley. U Street has its many venuesBlues Alley, Georgetown for live music and even a theater house. Alexandria (and soon Silver Spring) has The Birchmere. What will we have? Just places to shop and eat? I’m sure studies have shown that you attract a certain demographic if there are live arts in the area. Could there be a study provided that shows statistics on how live arts venues affects an area? Many great universities have a nice assortment of live arts nearby: UC Berkley, U of Chicago, NYU, Georgetown, Howard, etc. We have the opportunity to be named among them not only for academics, but an exciting place to live and visit. Let’s not waste that chance.

5 thoughts on “The Arts needed for East Campus to shine?”

  1. Interesting comments by John E. I have been to three of the open discussions concerning East Campus, and my understanding is that the developers are seeking to have an entertainment venue along the lines of a Birchmere included in their plans. This is in addition to the open space activities that might cover everything from an outdoor film screening, to an arts and craft festival, to smaller musical groups performing outdoors. Of course we will have to wait and see what actually transpires, but I personally find it a bit odd that everyone has such strong opinions on what should or should not be included in the East Campus plans. In the forums I have attended, I have observed people demanding that we have this and demanding we have that. While I agree that community input is important (and personally believe the developers are listening and giving creedence to our input), the “community” is not going to be risking 400-plus million dollars on this venture. In a perfect world [for some], the entire East Campus site would have nothing but bike trails, organic food free-trade eateries, and indie music shops. Reality dictates that there will be a mix of about 70 to 80 percent large-scale commercial ventures, with an eclectic mix of other shops that add color to the local scene. BTW — if you like jazz, McCoy Tyner has already played at the Clarice Smith venue, and Chick Corea is scheduled to perform there in March 2008. I like Blues Alley a lot, but would much prefer to see people like the two just mentioned at a larger venue such as CSPAC.

  2. I think it’s worth mentioning that Santa Fe Cafe has had some success as a live music venue recently. They’ve had some big names like Everclear, Nine Days, Josh Kelley… these are acts that wouldn’t be out of place at somewhere like the 9:30 club or a similar place.

  3. John,
    Good post. I agree that CP could support more of a music scene. CSPAC is great but sometimes I just want to kick back with a brew and listen to some music. I recently checked out on open mike night at College Perk and was impressed with the music there. Even the New Deal Cafe in nearby Greenbelt brings in some great artists. I’m sure that if the EastCampus scene is lively enough then some of the establishments will start bringing in music.
    Very exciting times ahead and I for one am looking forward to it.
    -Clay Gump

  4. The Post reported over the weekend that the Birchmere – Silver Spring discussions have come to an end, and Silver Spring is shopping for another, larger venue to come in. It also said that the Birchmere would continue to look for an expansion site elsewhere in the area…

  5. And what does Birchmere do? Instead of considering the PLANNED arts and entertainment district in Hyattsville, they start looking in DC. As if people in Prince Georges County can’t appreciate good music. Who fills most of DC’s music venues? Hmmmmm. People from VA and MD. It is frustrating. Are they not aware of Prince Georges County?

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