by Rebecca Chillrud
September 28, 2018
In 2016, the award-winning radio series “Anacostia Unmapped” hit the airwaves on WAMU. The series featured interviews of and by residents of the predominantly black Anacostia neighborhood, a community east of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., that is often overlooked. In the opening story, “The Lion and the Map,” series producer Kymone Freeman talks about seeing a map of D.C. apartment rental prices that included Arlington and Alexandria (both in Virginia) but erased the part of D.C. east of the Anacostia. The series provided an outlet for Anacostia residents to fight back against this kind of erasure and tell their own stories of the community’s history and culture.
This year, 12 artists and curator Karen Baker brought new life to the project with “Anacostia Unmapped 2.0,” an art exhibit inspired by the radio series. The exhibition was born from the idea of animating “The Lion and the Map,” which artist V. Kuroji Patrick made a reality, and expanded to include artistic representations of several of the stories, funded by a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (CAH). The visual format provides an opportunity for the stories to reach a new audience, giving them an even greater impact.
The exhibit also highlighted the neighborhood’s connection to the nearby Anacostia River. The Anacostia Watershed Society contributed two pieces to the exhibit: a series of photographs by Martha Tabor Working Images Photographs of cleanups that took place on the Anacostia River in the 1970s and an artistic representation of a storm drain that highlights how litter ends up in the river.
It’s fitting that "Anacostia Unmapped" was revived this year, which was named the Year of the Anacostia thanks to a couple of notable anniversaries. This year is the 100th anniversary of the law which preserved open space along the river as Anacostia Park. It also marks 200 years since Frederick Douglass, whose historic home is in the Anacostia area, was born.
The exhibit was displayed at the CAH building from August 6 through September 14. Several other galleries have expressed interest in the exhibit, and Baker says she hopes to have another exhibition of the pieces in early 2019. In the meantime, the photos of Anacostia River cleanups will be displayed in other D.C. government buildings and “The Lion and the Map” animation will air on DCTV sometime in October 2018.
Learn more about the "Anacostia Unmapped 2.0" exhibit.