D.C. salons satisfy art curiosity

According to art collector Philippa Hughes, you don’t have to move to New York or Los Angeles to make it in the arts world. Even the nation’s capital has an outlet for artistic expression, although it’s often overlooked.

“There’s a lot of potential here,” said Hughes about the District’s arts community.

To Hughes, D.C. is filled with “art people” who are curious about the arts and need outlets for finding ways to “dip their toes into the art world.” But the traditional way of exploring museums and galleries is intimidating and pushes some people away, an experience Hughes hopes to counter.

“We try to figure out ways people can get involved without traditional restrictions,” said Hughes.

Her solution was The Pink Line Project: a program that offers an “easy way for people to connect” instead of feeling intimidated. Pink Line, which is a “catalyst for the culturally curious,” creates programming and experiences to make contemporary art easily accessible to more people. Using a website with a calendar of all the “artsy things” happening in D.C. and an arts blog, the project seeks to create welcoming arts events in the city.

The organization began in Hughes’s home. She started The Pink Line Project in 2007 after she decided that her profession as a lawyer was not for her.

“When I was practicing law, I was just really bored and I just started organizing little salons in my home with really interesting people,” said Hughes.

The gatherings grew so large that Hughes could no longer accommodate the guests in her home and had to look elsewhere for a meeting place. Finding a location near her, she put on video and performance art for the hundreds of people who came.

“It was just really fun, because I saw people were interested in connecting with each other like that,” Hughes said of the larger gathering.

In 2007, another gathering drew even more people, urging Hughes to finally transform her salons into a business. The rest is history; the little salons that could became such a local phenomenon that Hughes became a leading force in the arts world of D.C.

Hughes’s success never pushed her to leave D.C. to “make it,” which many people believe is only possible outside of the District. Advising others to take advantage of everything D.C. has to offer, she also encourages arts students to stay in D.C. after graduating to “[create] a sense that people care about the arts here. I think people would stay if they felt that people cared about art here.”

The Pink Line events provide the accessibility that Hughes wants and also offers a “good way to meet new people that are interested in the same thing.”

As for the organization’s future, Hughes said, “In an ideal world, it would be in different cities.”

But Philippa isn’t making plans yet.

For Hughes, it can be difficult to balance the organization with the other projects in which she’s involved, but art comes naturally to her and it was her passion that helped her “stick with” The Pink Line Project. At the center of it all is her love of arts.

“It can’t be explained,” she said. “It’s just a core part of who I am, and I was just born with this love for [art].”

The Pink Line Project and BrightestYoungThings will present Burst! Sat. Oct. 9 to celebrate the launch of the Artisphere, a new cultural center in Alexandria, Va.

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