Photo: Courtesy of Adams Morgan Day

Festival Makers: The Creative Minds Behind DC’s Iconic Events

Festivals can often be sensory overload for attendees. With food, drinks, art and whatever else you can think of all interlinking to create a vibrant atmosphere for those who participate, it’s no doubt that putting all these moving pieces in place takes a ton of work. Who are the masterminds behind are favorite local events? We caught up with a few of the creatives behind the scenes at some of the most iconic DC festivities.

Funk Parade
David Ross, Festival Organizer
Jeffery Tribble Jr., The MusicianShip Executive Director

On Tap: Why did the MusicianShip decide to start running Funk Parade?
Jeffery Tribble Jr.:
I’ve been a volunteer for a couple years so I was already promoting it and knew how effective it was. With our organization being all about creating musical experiences to benefit young people in underserved communities, it seemed like another great way to bring exposure to our cause.
David Ross: I was legacy. I was with Funk Parade last year. I was the third person. I was the first official hire. [Founders] Justin [Rood] and Chris [Naoum] had done it so long. When they wanted to take a step back, the MusicianShip seemed like an amazing opportunity to continue the tradition.

OT: What new things did you all want to implement and what was the festival already doing well that are you looking to accentuate?
JT:
As an educational organization, our emphasis is more on education this year. We’ll have a conference and an extension on the academy of funk, and we’re also going to have a marching band exhibition. We don’t only want to entertain and have a good time; we want to educate and for people to be better than they were when they first came. There have been some talks of Funk Parade East [at entertainment and sports arena St. Elizabeths East], but it’s more likely to be a 2020 effort if it happens based on conversations we’ve had with other interested parties and sponsors.
DR: There’s some interesting activations we haven’t done before. I’m most proud in the way we’ve creatively used U Street. We’re not using the big theatre settings for our showcase. We’re using the environment. We’ve adjusted because we’re using smaller venues like SXSW.

OT: How did the collaboration beer with Aslin Beer Company come to be?
JT: We brainstormed different ideas to raise the profile of the festival and by extension, raise the profile of Aslin. Because we are attached to so many venues, it made a lot of sense to offer the Funk Parade beer in said venues, and we are also using it as a fundraiser.

OT: Is this year more about sustaining the momentum of festivals past as opposed to putting a new stamp on Funk Parade?
JT:
You hit the nail on the head. This year is about sustainability and [maintaining] what has been done historically. After we do it successfully, then we can look at how to grow it. To be honest, I don’t have substantial thoughts on what we might do differently in the future. We’re so focused on making this Funk Parade [that] given the ecosystem of the parade and all of the [participating] venues both big and small, it fosters opportunities for growth.
DR: From having worked on it last year, the MusicianShip asked the right questions immediately. Any hiccups that came along the way, we were able to adjust them. This year, what I’ve seen is stronger preparedness and because of that, you’re allowed to grow.

OT: Why do you think the Funk Parade is so impactful for the local community?
JT:
Music changes lives and is a powerful platform, drawing young people to achieve in all areas in life. Music is a way to advance conversations about social justice and any other movement across time. It also doesn’t hurt that it facilitates a good time. We bring a lot of the city’s and the nation’s best musical acts to perform on this day. When people come out and experience it, it’s always new and friendly and the spirit of it is all about unification – which we need, especially now.
DR: I think this is a festival where DC allows itself to let loose. So often as a city, our identity is tied to what happens at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. People don’t know about the rich culture we have here. People really want to celebrate the city they live in, and this is a great place to do so – maybe more than any other event we have.

The sixth annual Funk Parade takes place on Saturday, May 11. The festival is free to attend and features music from 1-7 p.m.,a parade from 5-6 p.m. and a featured showcase at 8 p.m. Various locations on U Street in NW, DC; www.funkparade.com

AFI Silver Film Festivals
Todd Hitchcock, AFI Silver Theatre Director of Programming

On Tap: How does the AFI balance so many festivals? What goes into planning each?
Todd Hitchcock: We’re mindful of what we’re going to do throughout the year. [They’re] what we call curated festivals. [Our staff] attends major festivals throughout the year beginning with Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and Toronto; at least two of us are attending and seeing as many films as we can, which is typically 50-plus. In all of these cases, you have to whittle it down and make a decision on what we’re going to include.

OT: How important is the balance of countries included to the authenticity of the festivals, particularly the Latin American Film Festival and the European Union Film Showcase?
TH:
When you embrace that identity and focus, that means that films from smaller countries are going to have an opportunity for inclusion and to get screened. It’s wonderful when you find a film from say the Baltic countries or in Eastern Europe; for instance, we’ve had a lot of success with Hungarian films. In Latin America, you could say that the region as a whole doesn’t get enough representation in the film world. We’re going to push to include Ecuador and Paraguay. We’ve had some terrific films from those countries.

OT: How do you approach the festivals in fresh ways?
TH:
I think our audience has a strong association with these festivals. If you graph it out, there’s been a growth spurt. These are new films from these countries, and in many cases, this is the only chance [the audience will] have to see them. The DC area has people from all these countries living here because of its diversity; it works out for everyone.

OT: Why do you think film is a medium that lends itself well to a festival setting?
TH:
I would say year in and year out, we find exciting films. There’s more than enough to be excited about as far as quality and exciting, innovative films. It’s an opportunity to see something that they might not otherwise see. The newness factor: that’s the huge reality of the film business. It’s exciting.

Upcoming Film Festivals at AFI Silver Theatre include the DC Caribbean FilmFest from June 6-12, the Latin American Film Festival from September 12 to October 2 and the European Union Film Showcase from December 4-22. For more information on these and other festivals screened at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, visit www.afi.com/silver. 8633 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.afi.com/silver

By the People Festival
Nicole Dowd, Program Director of the Halcyon Arts Lab

On Tap: There are a lot of moving parts with the By the People Festival. How do you select a curator and then work with them on the theme?
Nicole Dowd: We identify a curator a year in advance of the festival. We ended up with Jessica Stafford Davis [this year] because her focus hasn’t really been present in the art world over the last decade. I think that we definitely knew that we wanted to work with her in some capacity and some of the qualities other than her own amazingness are finding people with a strong vision.

OT: How far out do you plan?
ND:
We move pretty quickly. We’re quite nimble in the way we produce programs and events. In two to three months, we were pretty set on who we wanted to showcase. For myself, coming from the art and museum world, it’s a very quick timeline. Artists are very excited to be part of it and we work heavily with them to make something impactful in a relatively short amount of time.

OT: How do you balance the mediums of the work presented? 
ND:
A lot of it is dictated by the specific site. There are two roads working together. One is thinking about what would be most appropriate for the site: is it going to be performative or a painting? And then we think about who is going to look at the artwork: what’s most accessible and impactful?

OT: Tell us a little bit about this year’s new gallery feature.
ND:
People asked us last year where they could buy the art, so we’re trying to create an environment for artists who identify with the DMV to exhibit and sell their work to new [or local] collectors. That will take place at a location in Georgetown, and it’ll be open from June 8-23. It extends the festival and makes it more inclusive for some of the artists in the location.

OT: Why do you think a festival is such an effective way to deliver art, and what has the response been from attendees?
ND:
There are so many people [who view museums as] a barrier to appreciating art. So for us to meet people where they’re at – whether they’re in a public square or on the river or in their neighborhood – it’s a good way to get people engaged with art.

The 2019 By the People Festival takes place in various locations around DC from June 15-23. For information about the participating artists and locations, visit www.bythepeople.org.

Adams Morgan Day
A. Tianna Scozzaro, Festival Organizer

On Tap: When you took the reins of the festival four years ago, did you think it would be where it is now?
A. Tianna Scozzaro:
I knew that the festival and the community were too strong for it to die. I’m so proud of what’s grown out of that really desperate place. We had two years where it was on the sidewalks and it was pretty lean, but last year was our 40th anniversary and this year, we have committees ready to go for September.

OT: Why did you feel so strongly about Adams Morgan Day continuing, and what are some of your favorite aspects?
ATS:
I think it’s eclectic and diverse in a way that is [true] to its identity. It was one of the [first] few neighborhood festivals in DC. In the past few years, we’ve seen the demographics of the city change [and] a lot of other great festivals have risen up. There’s a history of Adams Morgan Day that’s really special.

OT: What is surprising to people that may not know AdMo very well? Why is it important to introduce it to people who may be less familiar?
ATS:
I think the number of locally owned businesses that have been around for decades. Some people go to Adams Morgan for dancing and a jumbo slice but may not know of the great bookstores and the most delicious churros in town. It’s important for these local businesses to have an outlet that spotlights them. The funkiness as a whole is great: there’s been graffiti arts and hula hoop contests and [other] interactive, creative opportunities for people to participate in. We always need more of those activities in DC.

OT: Where do you think it’s going in the future? How do you see the festival evolving?
ATS:
The festival started as a park potluck [and] grew to its heyday in the 80s. That’s when DC was less safe, but this provided an opportunity for people to get out, celebrate and listen to go-go music. My desire would be to see the festival become sustainable with sponsors that support the festival as an intrinsic part of the neighborhood business and community cohesion.

Adams Morgan Day takes place Sunday, September 8. 18th Street in NW, DC; www.admoday.com