FRI 7-9pm | SAT 12-5pm | SUN 3-5pm, or by appointment
3110 Mt Pleasant St NW, Wash, DC 20010

Escape

Discovering Shared Space in Rock Creek Park

Large Format Film Photographs By T.J. Kirkpatrick

Apr 28, 2024 - Jun 12, 2024
Free
Lost Origins Outside
3243 Mt Pleasant St NW (Between Sambar Market and Elle), Washington, DC 20010
On view 24 Hours
Opening Reception Sunday Apr 28th 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Exhibit Description

As COVID destabilized society and few public spaces remained open during lockdowns, parks became a shared refuge. The enduring shock of isolation and social-distancing drove people outside in search of connection, meaning, and fresh air. Rock Creek Park was a popular sanctuary for D.C. residents including photographer T.J. Kirkpatrick, who could walk into the park from his home in Mt. Pleasant. After living in the District for ten years, this was the first time he had sought such solace in this green space or spent so much time photographing it. He could linger, now that there was nowhere else to be.

His camera of choice—an old, accordion-like large format film camera perched on a heavy tripod—was intentionally slow and gave an excuse to spend time in conversation with strangers. T.J. hauled this kit all across the park’s varied terrain and found that the drumbeat of loss and instability of pandemic life fell away on these days in the park. It was replaced with a presence that tapped into the elemental wisdom of the towering chestnut oak or American beech trees, some old enough to have witnessed the nation’s founding. Nature provided what the city’s modern infrastructure couldn’t.

This exhibit is supported with funding through the New America Us@250 fellowship, which seeks to commemorate our nation’s founding by celebrating its progress, spotlight areas that hinder us from becoming a more perfect union, and spark conversations about the future of America. As part of the inaugural class of fellows, T.J.’s project considers the park space as a component of the nation’s civic infrastructure—those gathering places that simultaneously belong to none and all of us. These shared spaces provide opportunities to reckon with the lived experiences of others, and are a key element in achieving the aspiration of an inclusive democracy. They also play a role in the effort to combat what Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calls an “epidemic of isolation and loneliness” that’s only worsened since the pandemic: these are places where neighbors and strangers alike find the space to meet and talk, or sit and listen, or simply share in each other’s presence in the context of the larger world.

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