The Petworth Jazz Project Strikes a Chord With the Community
There’s no doubt that Petworth is changing. It doesn't take an ear to the ground to hear the news that redevelopment is underway; the rumblings about it are everywhere. Just judging from my conversations with neighbors, taxi drivers, and barfly friends, who have defected from old haunts for new spots on Georgia Avenue - it seems well known that the same force behind the rapid transformations of U Street and Columbia Heights in the last decade is at work in Petworth. And no matter what your thoughts on gentrification, you only need step off the metro to see that the change has already begun
So for Petworth residents, the question is not if, or when, but how. How can a community retain its identity while facing an onslaught of new residents, new businesses, and new growth? How can a neighborhood deal with redevelopment without losing cohesion? For urban renewal to be fully positive, it has to be inclusive. It has to acknowledge and involve existing communities while it ushers in amenities and activities that serve old and new residents alike. The Petworth Jazz Project, a free summer jazz concert series is attempting to do exactly that.
I was first introduced to the Petworth Jazz Project at their fundraiser held at Chez Billy, a bar that is fast becoming a de rigueur destination for the urbane and itself an example of the revitalization of a once-blighted block. Inside, Petworth Jazz Project producer and neighborhood resident Thomas Pipkin had arranged a silent auction to raise funds for the upcoming season. A crowd of music enthusiasts, young artists, families with children, neighbors and supporters milled the room, listening to music from DJ Rich “The Unknown” Patterson, bidding on local art, music lessons and services, and enjoying the specialty cocktail that Chez Billy had developed specifically for the event. It was clear that the Petworth Jazz Project has a diverse base of support, and is a cause that both old and new community members feel passionate can rally around.
As Pipkin describes it, the Petworth Jazz Project began as a way to develop a lawn space once primarily known for illicit activity into a site that encourages community involvement and interconnection. It activates the neighborhood by providing a service everyone can enjoy: great jazz, outdoors, at sunset, for free. Now in its second season, the Petworth Jazz Project is still committed to bringing local and national jazz talent to perform for Petworth residents and visitors. On the last Saturday of every month through September, they plan to host a concert, sourcing performers through legendary local jazz outlet “Bohemian Caverns,” and providing blankets for more than 400 people that come every month to picnic, enjoy the outdoors, and listen to music.
For a community in the midst of transformation, the Petworth Jazz Project revitalizes an underused space and provides an enriching way for old and new residents to bond over a shared love for music, their neighborhood, and life in the District. As both an indicator of change and a unifying force, the Petworth Jazz Project is helping to usher in a more harmonious future for the neighborhood.
The Petworth Jazz Project has scheduled performances on June 30th, July 28th, August 25th, and September 29th. They take place on the lawn at the Petworth Recreation Center on 8th and Taylor St NW.
For more information, visit Petworthjazzproject.com
Images Courtsey of the Petworth Jazz Project
Short URL: http://bit.ly/K8zCch