Sounds of the City | The Washington Center

Sounds of the City

Echo: Intersection Mixtape is more or less a community art project that I just so happen to be living in the crux of.


The project, orchestrated by the Van Alen Institute, is a collection of ambient sounds, interviews and stories from the residents of the neighborhood that I have lived in this semester. The artists remixed and remastered the sounds to create a mixtape. On Saturday, they hosted a listening party to reveal the collaborative masterpiece.


It was evident from the jump that this area is one that is in transition. Pricey, luxury high rises neighbor a dilapidated liquor store, while children play on the stoop of a multigenerational row house one block away.


"I live on Bladensburg Rd. NE. This area was a drug-infested area and in the last five years, it's been flipped over... The trials, the struggles, and the tribulation in this area were survival. You had to survive. The streets swallowed every child up that was involved or came in this area. Your thing [was to] try to get out - which was hard at that time."

Up until the late 90's, this neighborhood was a place that no one wanted to be in, and is now it is predicted to be one of the most popular, revenue-generating sectors of the city by 2018.

This story is one that I have heard more than once since moving here in August. In fact, my Uber driver a few weeks ago who has lived in the Shaw neighborhood for over 30 years couldn't have said it better himself:


"This land's turnover moved a lot of people out who were bonded with this area. The change that has come...automatically pushed the poor people out because they couldn't afford the rent. Now, it seems as though it's every man for himself."


At the end of the listening party, you were asked to create a sign that embodies your feelings about the neighborhood.



This semester, I am living in NoMa but in my sign, I referred to it as NoMad (No relation to the area North of Madison Ave. in Manhattan). Being in my transient college years, I'm unfortunately only here for a short time so I thought it to be appropriate.

However, this neighborhood was never meant to be a transient place. With families that have resided here for generations in the same home, attending the same schools and playing at the same playgrounds and parks, it almost seems flippant for its new residents to think of it as anything less than a home.

All of the new development have helped turn a community stifled by crime into an incubator for a soon-to-be booming economy, but I can't help but wonder if there is a way to preserve its history and its highlights while developing into something more refined.

I think that's what this project strived to accomplish. They presented this paradigm shift, not as a transition from old to new, but an intersection of the two. I'm sure that this is effort is one that will be appreciated by both the current and future tenants of this eclectic neighborhood portion of the D.C. metro area.

Listen to the full mixtape here.


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