Art and politics collide in Takoma Park festival

TAKOMA PARK – As thousands of Takoma Park residents gathered for the City's annual street festival Sunday afternoon, arts and politics dominated the atmosphere.

"It's pretty remarkable, we have amazing weather and with the number of people, it's terrific," said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart. "With the number of local artisans and businesses, it really shows what a great community we have."

"The event always tends to bring in a big crowd from around the area," said Maryland Del. David Moon (D-20) who represents Takoma Park and Silver Spring residents.

The Takoma Park street festival, which was held in its 36th year, took place along Carroll Avenue stretching from the D.C. border to Columbia Avenue. The festival included local painters, craft makers, activists, candidates and elected officials.

Local painters in attendance displayed their work to interested onlookers.

Michael Shibley, 71, a retired architect now specializing in painting urban scenes, said his work reflects his prior experience.

"Most artists fear trying to draw buildings, they get slightly panicked when they try to draw something that has vanishing lines like perspective, that's never a problem for me because I learned how to do that in school," he said.

Shibley, a Takoma Park resident, said he bases many of his scenes on photographs he takes prior to developing a painting.

Dion Pollard, 48, a painter from Upper Marlboro, displayed work with spiritual themes, some portraying famous figures such as former president Barack Obama and the late boxer Muhammad Ali.

"A lot of my work is based on spirituality strength, I try to put a lot of hope in my pieces," Pollard said. "We live in a world where there are a lot of issues, I try not to paint that in my artwork, it's just connection, love, and positivity," he added.

Torie Partridge, 32, works as an artist aiming to draw all of the neighborhoods in D.C. Her work consists of geometric map drawings depicting particular street layouts in unique color palettes. She explained that when she surveys an area prior to producing a drawing, definitions on the boundaries of certain neighborhoods tend to vary.

"Neighborhoods, especially in DC, tend to get very wiggly in terms of where they start and stop," Partridge said."For each neighborhood, I pick a color palette that really represents that neighborhood well," she added.

Environmental activists distributed pamphlets and collected signatures for a variety of causes.

Ted Conwell, 61, from Takoma Park, runs Climate First, a nonprofit aimed at pressuring large financial institutions to divest from activities that harm the environment.

"We don't do the political work so much, we go after corporations and try to get them to think climate first," Conwell said.

Conwell's latest efforts involve pressuring Wells Fargo officials to end their company’s loans to the companies constructing the Key Stone Access Pipeline.

The Department of Justice is currently investigating Wells Fargo on allegations that the company used customer information to open millions of false bank accounts without the customers’ knowledge.

Steve Rosen, 56, was collecting signatures on behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to petition the state of Maryland to increase the share of power state government officials seek from renewable energy sources.

Rosen, a Gaithersburg resident, said Maryland's energy sources consist of coal, a substance known to cause numerous collateral environmental and health effects.

"Coal plants tend to be sited in poorer neighborhoods where that can't fight," he said. "Maryland has some of the worst smog in the country."

Political candidates talked about their campaigns and stances to passersby.

Cindy Dyballa, 63, an environmental consultant, is one of three candidates running for City Council in Takoma Park's competitive Ward 2 race.

"I'm very big about process, I'm very interested in bringing everybody to the table to make decisions," said Dyballa. "I think Takoma Park needs to continue to bring people together in a way that is very special now because of what's going on in our country."

Dyballa's competitors include Ashleigh Nugent, 32, and Joe Edgell, 50. All three are running to replace Councilmember Tim Male who is not seeking reelection.

Nugent, 32, a local attorney, said her priorities included addressing the development occurring throughout the City.

"I want to make sure going forward we do these things socially, fiscally, and environmentally responsibly and that we bring along all voices with us," she said.

Edgell, a federal employee, explained one of his campaign priorities included improving the City's transportation options.

"We're a very care focused community and I think we need to shift the balance a little bit to make it more walkable and bikeable," he said.

Moon, who is running for reelection, explained the political energy of the 2018 cycle is more expedited when compared to 2014.

"The state and county elections have gotten off to an early start, at this point in the 2014 cycle, you had a handful of candidates and this time its dozens."

Takoma Park's longtime food co-op, the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-Op, was represented by two of its board members.

"The Co-Op serves the community by supporting local families and farms," said Robert Anderson, 70, from Takoma Park who serves as the vice president of the Co-Op board.

Fred Feinstein, 70, also from Takoma Park was representing the Co-Op at the festival as well.

Anderson added that the co-op, by purchasing from local suppliers, is contributing to the local economy and the proximity allows the board members to visit and see products as farmers grow them.


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