Interview with John Chambers, Founder and Executive Gardener of BloomBars by 365 Things to Do in DC
BloomBars is a non-profit community arts space that redefines the concept of a bar, nurturing artists through live music, visual arts, dance, live performances, spoken word, youth programs, and more. BloomBars is open to all ages, and does not serve alcohol.
Q: Please share with us your inspiration for founding BloomBars.
A: BloomBars was founded on a belief that art and artists have the power to transform communities and alter the way individuals think, feel, and experience the world.
The inspiration happened in the years leading up to the last presidential election. There was a sense that something radically different was needed to unite and inspire a diverse and demographically shifting Washington, D.C., my hometown for the last 18 years, as well as in communities across the globe.
Rather than trying to “sell” BloomBars, we did no marketing, and instead, let people discover our wide open doors. We invite our friends, neighbors, and fans to engage in the community and be pushed outside the comfortable boxes, cliques, and identities we too often get stuck in.
It’s a place for creative expression, honest conversation, personal health and wellness, and entertainment in a rich cultural environment. It’s been a slow growth, but our patience is paying off as we move closer to sustainability. Every day, we hear stories from people who have had some moving experiences as a result of being apart of our community.
And we’ve had a front row seat watching our Artist in Bloom Resident Fellows bloom beyond imagination.
Q: We’ve heard terrific things about Bloom Screen Indie Film Night, can you tell us more about it?
A: We’re very excited about Bloom Screen Indie Film Night. It represents the significant efforts of a team of curators led by Artist in Bloom film resident, Julie Espinosa.
Every Tuesday from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, we screen local, independent, foreign and documentary films. The screening is followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, subject matter expert, or a person connected with the film.
We’re also excited about a new collaboration with POV, the award-winning independent nonfiction film series on PBS.
Q: BloomBars is a non-profit and does not charge its patrons, how do you manage to continually deliver such great events?
A: Good question. It is certainly a challenge, but we believe that cultural shifts in behavior can happen over time if we effectively communicate our value, and help folks understand that a donation is an investment in their growth, and the community’s growth—like our tag,”You Bloom. We Bloom.”
You wouldn’t ask a bartender for a free drink. Of course, we’re not a bar that serves alcohol—but we still say “value what is served, or serve something you value.” That being said, we’re learning, evolving, and excited to develop new partnerships with organizations in the DC community to promote grassroots arts.
Q: What type of role will BloomBars play in this year’s, Columbia Heights Day on Aug. 28th?
A: We have a full day (and night) of programming in store for Columbia Heights Day from 9am until 6:30am the next morning!
We’ll have classes in belly dancing, yoga, samba, and capoeira; Storytime for BabyBloomers; The Garden: Open Mic; a Cuban Salsa Party; live music by Amber Dutton and Gregg Hammond; and Sunrise Cinema- movies from 2:30pm to 6:30am to give people a place to rest and relax rather than potentially drink and drive.
From 1pm to 5pm, the Columbia Heights Media Project will also be interviewing community members as part of its effort to both inspire interaction among residents and tell important stories that might otherwise be left untold.
Q: We’ve seen your videos on BloomTV and some of us get The WeeklyBloom,how can our readers get on your mailing list?
A: You can keep updated and follow our stories by visiting our Facebook page, where you can Like BloomBars and sign-up for The WeeklyBloom, our newsletter. You can watch BloomTV on YouTube and talk to us directly on Twitter
Q: If any of our readers are interested in volunteering for Bloombars who should they contact?
A: BloomBars is run by volunteers and wecould always use more help! Contact our volunteer coordinator, Nilanga Jayasinghe, at nilanga (at) bloombars (d0t) com.
Q: What is your favorite Thing to do in DC?
A: My favorite thing to do in DC is witness and participate in the creation of art of all types: dance, music, visual art, film. And if we could put an addendum to that question, “secret favorite thing to do in DC,” that would be watching planes take-off and land while sitting on the old bridge next to the Key Bridge in Georgetown. By far the best sunset watching!