Carla Perlo is twirling a ribbon and dancing around a formerly vacant alley off 8th and Kearny Streets NE. Right off the sidewalk, one of those flailing inflatable tube men flaps over itself in the wind. A steady stream of local officials, artists, and community residents are filing into the alley and a ground level dance studio in the Brookland Artspace Lofts, to celebrate the groundbreaking of what will officially be known as the 8th Street Arts Park.
The studio, and the future park, are managed by Dance Place, the long-running dance studio and school that operates across the alley from the Arts Loft at 3225 8th St. NE. For more than 30 years, the Brookland dance studio has offered classes for all styles and ages, as well as a popular camp every summer. Perlo, Dance Place’s founding director, and her colleagues hope that the park will be a natural extension of their organization’s artistic and community programming.
On Thursday, the Dance Place team, which includes a large group of volunteers, friends, and artists, used the groundbreaking as the first symbolic step to transform the slab of asphalt next to their studios into a vibrant public space. According to a press release, the park will include “colorful surfacing, a convertible outdoor stage, and five public arts commissions by local artists," a turtle-shaped sprinkler for campers and neighborhood kids to play in, as well as a bike rack and bicycle repair station.
Even on a blustery, grey day, the mood at the groundbreaking last Thursday was joyous and exciting, and rightfully so: for Perlo and Dance Place, the park is a result of decades of creative thinking and community involvement.
“This is a very special moment for us and for me personally,” Perlo said at the beginning of the groundbreaking ceremony. “This is the final piece of the puzzle, a long time in the making.” During her remarks, Perlo gave a concise and impassioned account of Dance Place’s history in the neighborhood, where they’ve operated since moving from Adams Morgan in 1986. “For 35 years we’ve been helping artists and young people reach their full potential,” she said.
Read the full article here.