Washingtonians were treated to a week of street performances, courtesy of the Kennedy Center. Instead of holding their latest festival in their cavernous tomb of a performance center, they spread the acts across Washington, DC. The “Look Both Ways: Street Arts Across America” festival brought acts to Eastern Market, Wilson Plaza, Farragut Square, the Old Post Office, and Yards Park. Washington doesn’t have a strong busking community, certainly not compared to my years in Bolder, Colorado, where the Pearl Street Mall was a gathering spot for tight-rope walkers and musicians. The week’s musical highlight was Mucca Pazza, a “circus punk marching band” from Chicago. They were a perfect fit for Eastern Market, ambling around 7th St (already closed to traffic for the market) and energizing passers-by. The most amazing spectacle came on Friday night, when the Old Post Office was lit up with colored lights and the block of Pennsylvania Avenue was closed off for more street performers. The evening ended with a dance by Project Bandaloop, with dancers suspended from the clock tower, dancing across the wall. Amazing!

Pom Poms
Mucca Pazza in Eastern Market

Augustine & Pinot
Happenstance Theater (Augustine & Pinot) in Eastern Market

Evan Young in Eastern Market

Double Yo Yos
Yo-Yo People (John Higby & Rebecca Loomis) in Farragut Square

Midnight Circus in Farragut Square

A Cut Above
Saw Lady (Natalia Paruz) in Farragut Square

Two Small Creatures
Entomo” (Elías Aguirre & Álvaro Esteban) at the Old Post Office

Under Control
Paolo Garbanzo at the Old Post Office

Air Force
Project Bandaloop on the Old Post Office Tower

Midnight Circus at Yards Park

Wild Things
Nana Projects at Yards Park

Many Mouths
Mouth Monster (Emily Schubert) at Yards Park

Bread & Puppet Theater at Yards Park

The Red Trouser Show at Yards Park

Most amazing of all was that all performances were free. (Many acts also performed at the Millennium Stage, the Kennedy Center’s daily free performance in their lobby.)

While it’s great to see the Kennedy Center program events throughout the city, it’s a shame the Center’s own home would be such a poor fit for a “lunchtime invasion” or any sort of outdoor happening. The Center is dead during the day, and even at night there are few people milling about. Though it sits on prime riverfront property, it doesn’t connect at all to the water; freeways cut it off from the rest of the city.

So, for a week the artists were went to where people normally congregate. Eastern Market and Yards Park were ideal venues, crowded with people and a sense of a fun adventure around the corner.

More photos via the lbw2012 tag.

Kennedy Center Brings Street Art to the City

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