WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pow! Wow! D.C., an art festival in Washington, D.C. brought together artists from all over the world as well as from the local area to kick off its 10-day event on May 5.
“It is supposed to be "pow," like it grabs your attention, and "wow," it amazes you,” said event coordinator Jason Bowers. “The concept is to be able to share experiences.”
Pow! Wow! started nine years ago in Hawaii by artist Jasper Wong. Kelly Towles, after painting with Wong in Pow! Wow! D.C. brought the concept to the east coast to create Pow! Wow! D.C.
Three years later, it has become an annual event that brings together artists from around the world including the United States and cities in the surrounding area for live paintings, events and art talks with the youth.
“I went to Pow! Wow! D.C. last year,” said Ahnna Smith who lives just a few blocks away from the festival. “It is great to see the new artists and the different installations they have this year.”
On opening day, there was a significant gathering of local artists painting mini-murals with a painting contest hosted by Sherwin-Williams.
One of the local artists was Dominick Rabrum from Hyattsville.
“This is my first time here,” Rabrum said. “It is a pretty big move for me, but it feels right. I’m not inside at my computer. I get some real interaction, and it is nice to be outside.”
Rabrum mainly focuses on digital art inspired by the chaos of the internet. True to his style, he was painting a mural of a man with a phone absorbing Instagram likes.
“It is good they are doing more stuff like this in the area,” he said. “They didn’t have any of this when I was a kid. I plan on doing more.”
As part of the opening day events, Bowers took visitors on the first of six walking tours of the murals in the area. The two-and-a-half hour tour covered Pow! Wow! D.C. murals that were still up from previous years as well as artwork from this year.
Birdcap, a Mississippi native, was out working on his mural. He has painted all over the world, but this was his first time at Pow! Wow! D.C.
“I started doing this in Korea, then I painted in Japan and Thailand,” he said. “I painted in London and Israel last year. I have a lot of work in Denver and Chicago. This is my first trip to Washington, D.C. We went to the gallery strip, the museums. It was insane.”
Other artists who have painted murals this year include Co-Founder of Pow! Wow! D.C. Hawaii Jeff Gress, Mari Inukai from Japan and local painting duo No Kings Collective among many others.
The walls are given to Pow! Wow! D.C. for painting by the city, Bowers said. They are usually intended to be torn down in a few years; otherwise, the art remains for as long as possible and the wall will then be buffed and prepped for the next artist.
“The main lesson I learned from doing this festival is if I go to another city how I’d love to be treated,” Towles said. “That is how I treat all of my artists. I treat them like princesses. I make sure they are happy and that they want to be here and leave here with that positive reinforcement in mind that something they just did was well worth their time.”
The rest of this years’ festival will include art shows on May 9 and 11 at the Holy Bones art studio, a contest called Secret Walls on May 10 where teams of professional artists have 90 minutes to paint a mural and the audience chooses a winner. There will be five other tours where visitors will have a chance to see the artists working and get to know them.