Friday, April 1st, 2011
“People always say to me, ‘Philippa, what’s your next event?’ I appreciate that so many people see me as someone trying to push art in this city, but it can also be a little overwhelming at times. Honestly, I never knew where all of this was headed when I decided to leave the law. I just wanted to write and kind of fell into this life. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it wasn’t really planned out or anything like that.
“After all these years, I am proud of what we have accomplished with The Pink Line Project and am really excited to keep pushing the art boundaries in this city. I really feel like there is so much potential here. And honestly, while we have done a lot of cool stuff with Pink Line, I really want to do something much bigger.
“A few years ago, I had this idea: how can I bring canals to Washington, D.C.? As a child, I was always interested in The Netherlands. I had clogs and read Dutch fairy tales, and stuff like that. When I started traveling, I made sure that Amsterdam was one of my first destinations. There, I remember being captivated by the canals. You know, everyone thinks about Venice when they think of canals, but, to me, the Dutch ones are much more spectacular.
“I spent two years working on it non-stop and not really telling anyone about it. I reached out to every city agency, engineering firm, and real estate developer to figure out what was possible. I traveled to every major city with canals to meet with water engineers and gondola drivers and learned everything I could. As you can imagine, it was no easy task to have these discussions in D.C. People here looked at me like I was crazy. But for those who know me, that is actually a compliment!
“After all of this time, I am excited to report that I figured out a way to do it. Starting in June 2011, I will be working with the D.C. Department of Environment, the Office of Planning, and a private real estate developer to divert the Anacostia River through four square city blocks in SW and create temporary waterways in D.C. The canal will be in place for a month and will be called the Pink Water Line.
“The pop-up canal will feature some of the things that people expect from canals, like gondolas, but everything will have a D.C. twist. For example, Ben’s Chili Bowl has agreed to build a food boat. Think food truck for the sea. We will also be working to highlight local artists and musicians by placing them on floating barges. Some artists, like Bluebrain, are even working on producing an underwater performance. It is really incredible to see how people’s creativity grows when you take them off the land.
“Now, when people say to me, ‘Philippa, what’s your next cool event?’, expecting me to say some art party or salon, I can look at them and say, screw that, I’m building a canal.”
Philippa P.B. Hughes is the Chief Creative Contrarian of The Pink Line Project.