Dupont Underground has undergone a change at the top just as it develops its first installation. After more than a year managing the nonprofit, which aims to bring art and events to the abandoned streetcar tunnels underneath Dupont Circle, Braulio Agnese is no longer with the group. Philippa Hughes, the head of Pink Line Project, will take over some of his duties, including communications and producing events.
Dupont Underground has had a fraught history. In 2014, the organization, led by architect Julian Hunt, was able to secure a 66-month lease from the District to reactivate the 75,000,000 square foot subterranean space, which was once a mid-20th century streetcar station and, in the 1990s, a failed food court. Since then, it has been working hard to raise funds for construction and to bring the long abandoned tunnels up to code. So far, Dupont Underground has raised only raised a portion of the estimated 4 million dollars it needs for the work.
In January, Dupont Underground announced its first ambitious project, Re-Ball!, an open design competition to determine the site-specific installation, which is due to open in April. Over the summer, the organization reached an agreement with the National Building Museum to transport all 650,000 balls from the museum’s “The Beach” to the underground lair. The Phillips Collection is also partnering with Dupont Underground on the project, and submissions close on February 4.
Hughes has actually been on Dupont Underground’s volunteer board since September 2015. She told Washingtonian in a phone conversation that she’s simply taking over a number of duties that Agnese held, including providing her expertise organizing big events (something she previously said she no longer wanted to do). That includes Re-Ball!, which Hughes hopes will lead to an increase in fundraising. Says Hughes, “Our main focus is getting Re-Ball! launched and using that as a launch pad for everyone to see what the space is capable of.” She also said that despite the departure of the managing director, there will be no change in vision or direction for Dupont Underground.
Reached via email, Agnese says his reason for departure was simply that it was time.“The position of managing director of the Dupont Underground was an unsalaried, 60+ hour per week, full-time job. Regretfully, after 13 months, it was time to move on,” he writes.
Correction: This post originally said that Hughes was taking over Agnese’s duties; she is in fact taking over his communications and event-production duties. It also called her the former head of the Pink Line Project; she’s still running that organization.