A historic, repurposed DC church revitalizes souls with arts and fresh organic veggies

In southwest Washington, DC, a revitalizing force is housed in the historic, adaptively-reused Friendship Baptist Church.

Built in 1886 by former slaves, it was almost demolished the 1950s by urban planners who perceived the area as blighted (in those days, any neighborhood with predominantly dark skin color was “blighted”). They bulldozed almost all of Southwest DC so they could build public housing projects and freeways.

Among the many heritage-related casualties were some 20 African-American churches. Friendship Baptist was spared due to the eloquence of the church’s pastor, Reverend Benjamin H. Whiting, who argued that the church was a bedrock neighborhood institution, and that they had just added an educational center.

The building’s facade showcases an eclectic use of Victorian and Romanesque architectural styles combined with Gothic Revival and Queen Anne elements.

But to perceive those features, you’ll have to see past the structure’s decidedly non-traditional paint job.

Inside, 15,000+ square feet of space is dedicated to community-based arts programming alongside notable art institutions and organizations, multiple rooms to host cultural and corporate events and activities.

The SW Arts Club is continuing its mission to be an accessible arts environment with multiple experiential opportunities to enhance local cultural palettes.

The facility was re-imagined in October 2012 by artist HENSE and later re-purposed in August 2013 as Blind Whino.

As of 2017, Blind Whino is succeeding in its goal to be a revitalization force in the neighborhood.

It’s a hidden gem of the District’s arts and cultural community, inclusively providing gallery space for all.

It also boasts an organic urban farm that grows and serves local food markets throughout the region.

See SW Arts Club website.

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