FYIDC: Halcyon’s ‘By the People’ Festival Brings Art to Every Quadrant of the City

by Katelyn Rutt

Artist Maya Freelon’s immersive tissue paper sculpture installation will be on display at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. (All photos courtesy Halcyon)

For the first time, a unique blend of international art and dialogue is coming to every quadrant of city at once. Halcyon’s four-day “By The People” festival will take place from June 21-24 at various festival hubs, satellite locations and one-time event spaces throughout Washington, D.C.

“Austin has South by Southwest and Aspen has its Ideas Festival,” Halcyon CEO and Cofounder Kate Goodall says. “It’s time for Washington, D.C. to have its own destination festival — one that is open and accessible to all, that reinforces this country’s founding principles and builds on its longstanding commitment to civil discourse.”

Goodall added that the timing of this brand-new event could not be better, as it coincides with the summer solstice. Not only does the festival serve as a platform to unify those from different backgrounds, but Goodall hopes that it will also encourage a sense of empathy in those who attend. The event is structured to open up a clear line of discussion on the themes of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

Wolf Trap Opera and the Hong Kong Ballet featuring Terra Firma Dance will perform twice over the weekend at Union Market’s Dock 5.

“The marriage of arts and dialogue reminds us that there is much more that unites us than divides us,” says featured speaker and Kiddar Capital CEO Todd Hitt.

These overarching themes will be interwoven throughout the entire festival, as well as highlighted in public discourses from a variety of distinguished speakers. In addition to talks from businessmen and thought-leaders such as Hitt, there will also be discussions led by activist Yousef Bashir, exoplanet scientist Dr. Avi Mandell and Dr. Robert Waldinger, a Harvard professor and pioneer in the study of adult life and development.

Attendees interested in seeing how art comes together to tell a story will enjoy the interactive art installations, available all over the city, as well as the various ballet pop-ups, augmented reality displays and performers. Kristin Adair’s “CELL 17” will provide viewers with a glimpse into what life is like inside a prison cell, while Nick Cave’s “Drive By” video installation will dazzle onlookers with its exotic and colorful dance. Erin Curtis’ “Curtain/Wall” painting, which alludes to the separation of men and women in different cultures, will provide a mind-boggling optical illusion while broaching a very interesting topic.

D.C.’s own DuPont Brass will perform at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries museum.

Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton said that he hopes the impact of the festival will last far beyond its four-day span, and that it will stir up an important truth in the hearts of all who attend.

By the People arrives at the perfect moment,” enthuses Skorton. “I believe robust engagement and debate drive the progress and dynamism that defines America. My hope is that By the People will not only inspire empathy and respect that are necessary to bridge divides in our nation, but will reverberate well beyond the nation’s capital and long after the festival’s conclusion.”

Four-day event passes, which allow access to all free events, are available online. View the event schedule here, and reserve ticketed events here.

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