Photo: Joshua Goodrich

The Mayor’s Arts Awards Honors Local Talent

The Mayor’s Arts Awards is a ceremony to celebrate the art community in DC. It aims to honor how art makes DC come to life. This was the 34th annual award ceremony, and many passionate members of the DC art community attended.

At Dock5, staff served drinks and hors d’oeuvres while people mingled among each other. A trio played their string instruments, and when they took a pause, nearby speakers played popular songs. The clock struck seven, the doors closed, people took their seats, and the ceremony officially began.

This event is similar to the People’s Choice Awards in that residents had a chance to vote for the winner. Those impacted by the art community have the opportunity to recognize artists for their contributions to DC. People had until November 1st to register an account, start an entry and cast a vote. Categories included visual arts, performance arts, creative industries, arts education, humanities and the Larry Neal Writers’ Award (Youth and Adult).  

Multiple local stars hosted and performed during the event. Some notable local figures include Allison Seymour, Marc Clarke, Paul Wharton, Jason Cerda, Be’la Dona, and Riley Knoxx performing as Beyoncé.

Mayor Bowser stood on the stage, poised and ready to announce the winner of the Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor. She reflected on the Mayor’s Arts Awards themselves.

“Tonight, we celebrate the District’s arts and creative communities and their tremendous impact on our city. And we are very happy tonight to be celebrating arts and creatives right here in our Ward 5… Tonight we celebrate artists and makers who dedicate themselves to developing their talents and sharing their gifts with our community. Whether it is sports or the arts, we are indeed the district of champions,” Bowser said. 

The award for Distinguished Honor ultimately went to Andy Shallal, who found and owns Busboys and Poets, a self-described space to inspire social change and transform the community. Another notable winner included Xemiyulu Tapepchul. Tapepchul is a transgender woman from El Salvador and a Nawat language student. As a member of the art community, people acknowledge her as an accomplished actor, playwright, author, model, and educator. Tapepchul won the Larry Neal Writer’s Award. This award honors an individual whose work has beneficially contributed to DC.

“I want to say thank you to the art community. I want to say thank you to the trans community. I want to say thank you to all the people here tonight,” Tapechul said, and quickly added, “Language justice is important!”

The audience was also full of members of the art community. Dionne Eleby, of Step Afrika!, a professional step troupe, had a few thoughts when the Kennedy Center won the award for visionary leadership.

“Everyone knows the Kennedy Center. The winner should be an arts organization that serves the community, including theater and dance. Help them get their feet off the ground,” Eleby commented. 

While the event managed to bring people together members of the art community, many expressed wishes for more advertisement around the awards, especially with regard to how an event of this nature could give the art community more exposure. However, many attendees claimed that they enjoyed their time and would return for the next year’s award show.

Congratulations to the winners. If you want to learn about all the winners, click the following links: Andy Shallal, Vernard Gray, DC Scores, The Content Farm, Models Inc. Performing Organization, Katie Burk, Ian Callender, Herta Feely, Marc Barnes, The Kennedy Center, Marco Kay Photography, and Xemiyulu Tapepechul. For More on the 34th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards, visit and follow Mayor Bowser on social media.

Dock5: 1309 5th St. NE; 301-347-3998;