With more than 60 museums and art galleries, many historic houses, cultural centers and ethnic restaurants, Washington D.C. is one of the most exciting and beautiful cities in the world. But those who operate historical and cultural sites in Washington D.C. say a lot of visitors never discover this city's hidden treasures.
To introduce visitors to a new way to enjoy the city and attract more tourists to the nation's capital, a first of its kind tourism campaign will begin starting September 15 and ending November 30. The African-American heritage is the focus of this initiative, which is known as the "Blues and Dreams" campaign.
Predating Harlem as a Mecca for African American culture and the largest urban African-American community, Washington D.C.'s U Street taught and inspired Duke Ellington, its most famous son. The campaign programs will feature tours of Washington D.C. neighborhoods that are now lined with historic jazz clubs.
Bill Hanbury, president of Washington, D.C.'s Convention and Tourism Corp. (WCTC) says tour stops include The African American Civil War memorial, the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage and the newly renovated Lincoln Theatre.
"Lincoln theatre is a historic place here in Washington D.C. and U Street which used to be known as 'Black Broadway.' And U Street has revised itself. If you look around today on the sidewalks, U Street really has some extraordinary assets going forth.," he said. "And the city made a big commitment to revive this neighborhood. So, Washington D.C. does not have to fabricate its African American history. We, as a city, have a deep and rich heritage of African American history in the art and culture arena."
Mr. Hanbury says hotels will be offering discount packages complete with tickets to cultural and artistic events. He believes that the National Gallery exhibit of the preeminent 20th-century African American Artist Romare Bearden is the highlight of these programs.
"This is a multi-dimensional exhibit that has sculpture, oil painting and water colors," said Bill Hanbury. "Artist Romare Bearden was a man of extraordinary talent and this is really one of the first times ever where you get to see a complete compendium of his work in one place, which is really quite a great opportunity for us."
Another significant feature of this campaign is an African American quilt exhibition at the Textile Museum. Most of the quilts in the exhibition were made since 1970s, although several of the quilts date to the early 20th century.
Timed to coincide with this campaign, several concert venues will offer programs, including separate performances by Wynton Marsalis, Sweet Honey in the Rock and the Herbie Hancock Quartet.
Mr. Hanbeury says as museums and galleries explore African-American heritage, the District's restaurants will present African American traditional dishes and soul food favorites.
"We are hoping that this has a multi-million dollar impact on the economy," he explained. "The travel and tourism economy in Washington D.C. is actually the most important and the largest part of the economy. This will hopefully pump up the numbers. We needed to do something, since in the post 9/11 world, I think Washington D.C., like many other cities around America and many other cities around the world, has suffered the down turn in the tourism economy and this is an opportunity to improve these numbers."
Kathryn Smith is the executive director of Cultural Tourism D.C. (CTDC). She says that her organization has worked closely with Washington, D.C. Convention and Tourism Corporation (WCTC) for more than one year to design this campaign.
"WCTC is a marketing organization, and my organization Culture and Tourism D.C. (CTDC) is an organization of organizations," she said. "So, we have theatres, art galleries, museums, and neighborhood organizations. So we are putting together the cultural content around the theme, then work with our partner WCTC, which brings along restaurants, and hotels. This is the first time that Washington D.C. has ever pulled together something like this. And I think that is historic."
As the Blues and Dreams Campaign tributes Washington D.C.'s rich African-American heritage, Ms. Smith hopes that similar campaigns will follow.
"We have a cultural steering, and that committee is looking years ahead now to 2004, 2005, to say what is it that we have special that we can build a themed experience around," said Kathryn Smith.
Two weeks after the fortieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the Blues and Dreams campaign will take place in September and continues through end of November.