The City's Artists And Cultural Gems That Are Showing Off Their Amazing Talents

BY By Michael McCarthy; Alice Cisternino | November 27, 2019 |

WE LIVE IN A CITY BRIMMING WITH RENOWNED ARTISTS AND CULTURAL GEMS—MANY OF THEIR STORIES ARE MADE POSSIBLE BY PATRONS WHO GIVE THEIR TIME, TALENT AND RESOURCES GENEROUSLY.

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PATRON
TYLER LEWIS

PLAYER
EMMA BUTTON

After hearing about the idea to launch Dissonance Dance Theatre nearly 15 years ago, Tyler Lewis never had any doubt he’d support the cause—especially since one of the tenets of its mission is diversity. Lewis says the company’s creative director, Shawn Short, and its dancers have always pushed the artistic envelope. “Art is what helps us make sense of the world,” says Lewis, director of coalition communications and research for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. With Dissonance, “the work gets more challenging; the concepts, more emotionally resonant; and the dancers, ever more accomplished,” says Lewis, who has been on the troupe’s board since 2012. “I think any audience member who has followed Dissonance has been privileged to see a company that’s expanding.” Soloist Emma Bunton is an example of Dissonance’s mantra of pushing boundaries. Lewis says Button, who has trained everywhere from Northeast Atlanta Ballet to City Ballet of San Diego, “has the ability to hold the audience’s attention in a way that’s moving.” The dancer says Dissonance has adapted to social norms and created modern work that resonates with audiences. “Ballet can serve as an insightful and passionate voice for those who are willing to appreciate it,” she says. “The smallest nuances in the movement are capable of speaking volumes.” Diaspora, Feb. 15 (tickets available Jan. 15), Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE

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PATRON
J. MAY LIANG

SHAKESPEARE MEGAFAN PRESERVES THE BARD’S TIMELESS WORDS.

When it comes to Shakespeare, J. May Liang believes the Bard belongs to everyone. “The themes in his works are universal—love, friendship, revenge, power, discrimination. The fact that these are still issues we wrestle with 400 years later speaks to his genius.” Which explains why Liang and her husband, James Lintott, have been passionate supporters of the Folger Theatre and Library. The couple was the first to commit $1 million to support the library’s efforts to preserve its First Folios—a printed collection of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623. The Folger’s collection of 82 First Folios is the largest in the world. The new Wonder of Will campaign is about “walking the walk,” says Liang. “If we truly believe Shakespeare is for everyone, then we need a space and programming to welcome everyone to find Shakespeare in a way that best appeals to them, whether it’s through the books, performances or immersive learning experiences.”

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PLAYER
REGINA AQUINO

HELEN HAYES WINNER RELISHES PERFORMING FOR DIVERSE AUDIENCES.

Years ago, actress Regina Aquino walked onto the Folger stage for the first time and nearly lost her breath. She’d seen many productions at the theater, so when it was audition time, she was more than a little awestruck by the majesty of the space. “I had to take a minute to collect myself,” says Aquino, who recently won a Helen Hayes Award and will play Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor at Folger this winter. “I remember thinking Robert Richmond, the director, must have thought I was so silly, standing there grinning from ear to ear.” J. May Liang’s efforts with the Wonder of Will campaign also inspire Aquino. “She recognizes the value of exposure to Shakespeare has on growing minds. And as an Asian American woman, I’m proud to have her as a role model—a woman after my own heart.” The Merry Wives of Windsor, Jan. 14-March 1, 201 E. Capitol St. SE

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PATRON
AKIO TAGAWA

VISIONARY WANTS DC ARTISTS TO HAVE MAGNIFICENT WORK SPACES.

Akio Tagawa knows how important it is for artists to have an enriching space to work and commune with other creatives. So, when the birth of Stable was discussed a few years ago, he was interested in supporting the endeavor to provide affordable studios alongside public programming and exhibitions. “What Stable is doing for DC is so important,” says Tagawa, who’s the principal and co-founder of Linea Solutions, a management and technology consulting firm. “For too long, artists in the area have been generally expected to work in isolation or to build their networks individually, and Stable is now able to provide a mechanism to develop a community of artists.” Tagawa lives in DC and Los Angeles, and supports modern and contemporary art institutions in both cities. Locally, he’s a co-chair of the Hirshhorn’s Collectors’ Council and on the board of Stable. “The fact that art brings people together on so many levels is a great thing—and what makes it so important to me.”

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PLAYER
STEPHEN BENEDICTO

ABSTRACT ARTIST FOUND A HOME TO CREATE, ENGAGE AND CELEBRATE.

Stephen Benedicto employs a variety of tools—combining machines and his own hands—to create abstract panels with thousands of incised lines in shimmering deep grays and blacks. An ambivalent relationship to precision drives his work. “Technology is good for repetition, but I don’t want to lose the physical touch,” says Benedicto, who lives in the District. In June, Benedicto moved into a studio at Stable as part of its inaugural group of artists. Discussing the importance of patrons, he says: “It’s a serious problem for artists to start up. You need a collector or a partner to create stability.” And after moving studios six times in the last four years, he found a home in Stable, adding: “Here, artists are engaged and showing up.” 336 Randolph Place NE, Stable Studio #302

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PATRON
ASHELY DAVIS

POLITICAL INSIDER RECOGNIZED COUTURE’S LURE IN DC.

No one in the DC fashion or arts community could have predicted the monumental success of the recent Rodarte exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The show, which celebrated the genius of sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, reminded Ashley Davis about the power of persuasion. Davis led the Couture Circle, a group of influential Washington women who raised money to launch the show. “I love fashion and try to push the style envelope in political Washington circles,” says Davis, a managing principal and founding partner of government affairs firm West Front Strategies. “For a museum that covers serious women artists, launching a fashion exhibit is brave and groundbreaking—and this is only the beginning for the Circle and its fashion reach in DC.”

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PLAYER
VIRGINIA TREANOR

CURATOR SETS SIGHTS ON MUSEUM’S FASHION FUTURE.

“Fashion is often written off as being frivolous or inaccessible, but the members of the Couture Circle understand the importance of fashion in communicating ideas just like any other visual art form,” says Virginia Treanor, associate curator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the main local curator for the Rodarte exhibit. Treanor says working with Ashley Davis and the Circle’s 26 women was wonderful. “We shared a belief in the power and importance of women’s creative contributions to society. We look forward to continuing to integrate fashion-based exhibitions into our programming. The Rodarte exhibition was such a success, and it demonstrated that there is definitely an audience for fashion in DC.”

Photography Courtesy Of: Greg Powers