excerpt from Washingtonian Magazine January 2015
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2014 WASHINGTONIANS OF THE YEAR
Nine local heroes whose good works and generous spirits make Washington a great place
By Leslie Milk | Photographs by Greg Kahn
"Every neighborhood, whatever the income, deserves good art and culture.”
Walk into Honfleur Gallery, with its white walls, pale wood floors, and colorful art, and you might think you’re in SoHo. But this is Anacostia, and the work is by an east-of-the-river artist yet to be widely known.
Honfleur is part of the Anacostia Arts Center, which founder Duane Gautier sees as a catalyst toward changing the sometimes troubled area and people’s views of it. “Every neighborhood, whatever the income, deserves good art and culture,” he says. Gautier started the center’s parent organization, ARCH Development Corporation, in 1991. The arts center, which opened in 2013, includes a black-box theater, galleries, boutiques, and a cafe.
Gautier was working for Pepco in the ’80s when he began a “green” job-development nonprofit in Anacostia. Funded by Pepco and the DC school system, it offered low-income homeowners weatherization services. Finding no local workers trained to do the work, Gautier started ARCH Training Center in 1986. He bought a house for students to work on, then sold it, thus beginning ARCH’s housing program—a project that provided 900 units, including for homeless vets. By 1994, he had left Pepco but continued to focus on training. While consulting abroad, he helped set up artist cooperatives. Gautier returned home with the idea that art could be an economic engine.
When Honfleur opened in 2007, a critic told him no one would come. But they did—and not just to the gallery: In its first year, the Anacostia Arts Center welcomed 24,000 people. The 2012 arts festival Lumen8Anacostia attracted 3,000-plus visitors to the neighborhood on one Saturday. Gautier hopes his efforts will bring both long-term investment and spending money. It seems to be happening: Kera Carpenter of Petworth’s Domku restaurant opened Nürish Food & Drink in the arts center a year ago, and center spaces have drawn two resident theater companies plus a wellness collective. Andy Shallal is reportedly planning a Busboys and Poets and a culinary training center nearby. Thanks to Duane Gautier, Washingtonians are discovering a new Anacostia.