Viewpoint: D.C. to boast its own destination arts festival, “By the People,” in June

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We live in divisive times. Which is why Halcyon, with partners from across the city, is organizing a new festival that will connect people from diverse backgrounds and promote open and civil discourse.

The “By the People” festival, which will run from June 21 to 24, will bring people together around the themes of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through free and inclusive art installations, performances, discussions and interactive activities.

Why now? Because I believe we are more alike than different, stronger together than apart, and more connected than it may seem. I believe in the power of human creativity and compassion. And I believe Washington needs its own destination festival – one that is free, open and inclusive and reinforces the country’s founding principles and longstanding commitment to civil discourse.

Why Halcyon? We see the festival as an extension of our work providing resources, information and connections to emerging creatives – socially engaged artists and social entrepreneurs working to use their vision and talent to address the world’s greatest challenges. But we cannot do this alone, which is why we have engaged with partners throughout the District and will sponsor activities in every quadrant.

“By the People” will truly be a festival that is just that, “by the people.” There are a number of ways to get involved.

Halcyon is currently soliciting digital art for our augmented reality art hunt, which will be powered by ARTECHOUSE and similar to Pokemon Go. At the festival, the public will use their mobile devices to search for virtual artworks throughout the city. The deadline to submit your digital art is April 1. In addition, we also are recruiting volunteers to work at the festival. Information on the art hunt and volunteer opportunities is available at

“By the People” will begin as a festival, but I hope it will grow into a movement. In the words of Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton, “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.”

In conjunction with the festival and in celebration of the summer solstice, select Smithsonian museums will be open late on June 23.

Aspen, Colo. has its Ideas Festival, and Austin, Texas has South by Southwest. Now the District has a destination festival all its own – one that will bring people together across the cultural divide. Our city is the perfect setting: it has rich cultural offerings for both residents and visitors from around the globe, is a place where people come to say something important and be heard, and has a long tradition of art-making.

If you share my commitment to civility, empathy and connection, I hope you’ll get involved.   

Kate Goodall is co-founder and chief executive officer of Halcyon, a nonprofit incubator based in Georgetown.