News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: ReadysetDC

Curious about Washington’s art scene? ReadysetDC bloggers give us the skinny on everything from hot local artists to don’t-miss bands.

Left to right: ReadysetDC's Tracy Clayton, Justin Young, Jordan Culberson, and Allicia Tek. Photograph by Chris Leaman

The arts-and-culture blog ReadysetDC was launched last year as an outgrowth of Justin Young’s design company, Readyset Creative Studio. A Prince George’s County native who now lives in Logan Circle, Young noticed what he calls an “urban renaissance” happening in DC. He started the blog to document it in everything from art to transit to planning to architecture.

When the blog started, Justin wrote all the posts, and his wife, Rachel DiLima, shot the photos. Now it’s a team effort: The site is manned by four editors—one also shoots pictures—five contributing writers, two photographers, and a video producer. “We’re always growing,” says Young.

We wrangled four of the creative forces behind ReadysetDC for our arts-and-culture-focused interview: Young, photo editor Tracy Clayton, culture editor Jordan Culberson, and contributing editor Allicia Tek. Read on for their answers about such topics as best up-and-coming artist, where to see street art, and their art-related New Year’s resolutions.

Five words to describe your aesthetic:
Justin: “Open. Clean. Minimalist. Classic. Grayscale (with shots of color).”
Tracy: “Chill. Comfortable. Preppy. Approachable. Miami. Yes Miami, my hometown.”
Jordan: “Tell me what aesthetic means.”
Allicia: “How about four? Casual-meets-comfort cool.”

Five words to describe the creative scene in Washington:
Justin: “Fresh. Young. Hungry. Underexposed. Talented.”
Tracy: “Collaborative. Diverse. Emerging. Smart. Undefined.”
Jordan: “Vibrant. Beta. Open canvas. Revolutionary.”
Allicia: “Ready. Set. Go. Create, DC!”

Favorite up-and-coming artist:
Justin: “I really like Kelly Towles’s aesthetic. He does street art, but he incorporates cool concepts, like turning a log into a totem pole or turning old TVs on the street into faces.”
Tracy:W. Ellington Felton. He’s a triple threat: actor, hip-hop artist, and DJ.”
Jordan: “Is Billy Colbert up-and-coming, or has he already arrived?”
Allicia:Matthew Hemerlein, whom we featured on ReadysetDC.”

Favorite local band or musician:
Justin: “Right now my favorite band is Tennis System. I love their sound, and the energy at their shows is amazing. We used their song 'Skys' for our manifesto video. And they’re based in Columbia Heights, my first neighborhood.”
Tracy:Wale, but I guess he can no longer be considered up-and-coming. Finally, DC has a certified emcee on the national stage.”
Jordan: “One of my favorite groups is quite appropriately Thievery Corporation. Favorite up-and-comer would be Tennis System.”
Allicia: “While I don’t have a favorite local band, one music genre that has a unique flare to DC is go-go music. If you live here, you have to check out performances by Backyard Band or Rare Essence.”

Best place to hear live music:
Justin: “For smaller, intimate shows, I’m always at Velvet Lounge. There or DC9. Or Rock & Roll Hotel. Or . . .”
Tracy: “I’d say the bucket drummers outside of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro, but I think residents complained and they no longer play. So, Meridian Hill Park during the drum circle on Sundays. Can you tell I love percussion? Must be the band geek in me.”
Jordan: “Black Cat.”
Allicia: “Hands down, 9:30 Club. The sound system is amazing, and the view from every angle is fantastic.”

Best neighborhood to see street art:
Justin: “U Street. From graffiti to stencils to wheat pastes, U Street has it all. I’m a little sad to see the Obama piece by Marvin disappear where the future 14th Street Bakery & Wine Bar will be.”
Tracy: “Hands down, 14th Street. The 51st State, Decoy, and Diabetik have turned 14th Street into an evolving urban gallery.”
Jordan: “Hands down, U Street.”
Allicia: “I love about walking along U Street and Logan Circle to see the stencils on mailboxes or wheat-paste posters and images displayed in alleys, like one behind Irvine Contemporary. My favorite street art are the ‘DC 51’ statehood stencils placed by an unidentified artist.”

Most fashionable Washington neighborhood:
Justin: “Again, I have to say U Street. It’s all about the diversity. Guys and girls have great personal style—smart, tailored suits and evening dresses to the latest street wear (and everything in between).”
Tracy: “Check out the Yard—the main quad at Howard University—especially during homecoming. Talk about fashion.”
Jordan: “Dupont Circle to Logan Circle and up to U Street.”
Allicia: “The cliché thing to say a few years ago would be Georgetown, but style in the city has changed. It’s a tossup between U Street, Logan Circle, Adams Morgan, and H Street. I think the most fashionable place I’ve been was Masa 14 during Fashion Washington’s one-year anniversary event and the Sartorialist Scott Schuman’s book signing.”

Pick one: Corcoran or Phillips Collection?
Justin: “The Corcoran. That may be because it’s also one of the best art schools.”
Tracy: “I’m a Corcoran guy, but only because they tend to have more photography-related exhibits.”
Jordan: “Hmm, that’s tricky. The Corcoran puts on a good party, but I enjoy the Phillips’s exhibits more.”
“The Corcoran.”

National Gallery of Art: West Building or East Building?
Justin: “I draw inspiration from both. When I was in college, I would’ve said the East Building right away, but I have much more appreciation for the classical collection now.”
Tracy: “East Building. I love the architecture and openness. East side!”
Jordan: “East. I’m a sucker for modern art.”
Allicia: “West.”

Where you go for artistic inspiration:
Justin: “When I need inspiration, I go for a longer-than-usual walk. The architecture and people I see on the street wake me up.”
Tracy: “The street. I love roaming neighborhoods with my camera looking for good subjects.”
Jordan: “Anywhere in the city. Washington is so eclectic and diverse that I draw inspiration from the differences in life all across this city.”
Allicia: “My inspiration comes from daily interactions with people I know and strangers I see on the street. I enjoy people-watching around Metro stations, particularly Dupont Circle. It’s a melting pot of DC’s diverse community.”

Favorite piece of art you own:
Justin: “I wish I owned more art, but the best things in life are free. Peter Chang of No Kings art collective showcased a number of wooden squares with images of various locals at our For the Love of DC event last month. Afterward, he gave me a portrait he took of me at the DC Tweed Ride in November.”
Tracy: “Two wooden hand-carved sculptures of caribou from the Philippines.”
Jordan: “A funky painting I acquired in Alabama by a folk artist named Elayne Goodman.”
Allicia: “I’m a huge fan of Monet’s work. I have a replica poster of one of his paintings framed.”

Your art-related New Year’s resolution:
Justin: “To start drawing and painting again. I was very proud of my work when I was in art school, but since graduation I’ve been focusing on graphic design and ReadysetDC.”
Tracy: “Get outside my photographic comfort zone and try new things. We’ll see how that goes.”
Jordan: “To become a photographer.”
Allicia: “One exhibit that I have yet to visit is Terra Cotta Warriors at National Geographic, which closes in March. I have plenty of time to make a visit.”

Favorite local blog besides your own:
Justin: “I love the President Wears Prada. It has great photos and posts on fashion, architecture, and lifestyle.”
Tracy: “I can’t pick just one. How about I give you a blog and a Web site? I really love what Philippa P.B. Hughes is doing with the Pink Line Project. I consider her site the go-to for DC arts. In regard to photography, Heather Goss, founder of Ten Miles Square, uses her blog to promote local businesses that support affordable photography as works of fine art.”
Jordan: “Photographer Nicole Aguirre’s Good Nicole and Betsy Lowther’s Fashion Is Spinach for her great quirky style.”
Allicia: “I’m a huge fan of Josh Yospyn’s work. His street-style photography and portrait shots are amazing.”

Next week, blogger Kevin Ewoldt from Hogs Haven does a postmortem interview on the Washington Redskins’ less-than-impressive 2009 season. Jim Zorn’s replacement? Top draft pick for next year? Check back Wednesday for his answers.

Mango & Tomato
Curator of DC Style
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