By The People festival returns with floating art, museums ’til midnight

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D.C.’s international arts and dialogue festival is back, and this year’s schedule of free programming is bigger than ever. Here’s what you can expect from the 2019 By the People festival.

As the temperatures in D.C. continue to rise, so do the number of boats on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. But this summer, one barge will stand out from the rest.

From June 15 to 23, Washingtonians can catch a floating art installation traveling through D.C.’s waterways as it stops for pop-up performances along the Georgetown Waterfront, Capitol Riverfront and Anacostia Park. It’s one of many exhibitions planned for this year’s By the People festival, a free D.C.-based international arts and dialogue event organized by the nonprofit Halcyon and curated by Jessica Stafford Davis.

“I think that we can use the festival and the art that’s involved to remind everyone that there’s a lot more that unites us than divides us,” said Halcyon co-founder and CEO Kate Goodall, who launched By the People in 2018 as a way to highlight D.C’s thriving creative scene.

Similar to last year’s festival, which attracted 26,000 attendees, this year’s schedule includes a “Solstice Saturday” partnership with the Smithsonian, where most museums will stay open until midnight and host free parties, programs and performances throughout the day and night.

Experience a dance party at the Arts and Industries Building, or kid-friendly science activities at the Smithsonian Environmental Resource Center. The Freer and Sackler Galleries will run meditation and mindful movement workshops, and the Natural History Museum will hold a lecture on the history and special effects of dinosaurs in popular film.

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Art installations are planned for Union Market, Halcyon and the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building (the festival’s hub and home to artist talks). By the People will also set up an all-local art fair in the former Jonathan Adler store on Wisconsin Avenue NW, plus host a series of panel discussions at Eaton DC on topics ranging from the future to food, to the future of transportation.

“[The festival] really had to connect to civil life, so it can’t just be pretty art,” Goodall said. “It has to be meaningful and something that connects people and creates conversations.”

Overwhelmed by all the programming in all four quadrants of the city? By the People will run a free shuttle between all the main exhibit sites on the weekends.

“Not only are we bringing the art outside where people can encounter it in their everyday life — which I just love because it can be quite surprising that way — but we are also making sure transportation is not an issue,” Goodall said.

Visit the festival’s website for more information on event details, dates and times. All By The People programs are free, but some require advance registration.

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