Ayanna Smith is as proud of her Philadelphia upbringing as she is of her South East Washington D.C. neighborhood. So when the Philly native/D.C. transplant saw an opportunity to bring some culture (Porchfest DC) to her community, she quickly jumped on it.
PorchFest is a mini music festival that takes place on people’s front porches. Two women originally started the event in 2007 in Ithaca, NY, but the music festival since has spread to various cities across the country. There have been several PorchFest events throughout the DMV area, like one in Takoma Park, one in Adams Morgan, and a recent event this past April on Rhode Island Avenue. But Ayanna wanted to bring the experience to her neighborhood as well.
“I love, love, love live music and concerts. And I love to be outdoors – enjoying good food, good music and good weather. A friend of mine in New Jersey posted about a local PorchFest event so I reached out to her about planning one here. She gave me the founders’ info. I reached out to them, then embarked on finding musicians and locations (porches). I consider myself a community advocate and I thought PorchFest DC was both a great idea and a great way to build community. I also saw this as an opportunity to showcase my neighborhood, which was a bonus, and to clear up any negative stigmas associated with it.”
Ayanna originally hails from West Philadelphia, but moved to the D.C. area over 20 years ago. She said:
“I’m very passionate about where I live and improving the quality of life for my community, and I want people living East of the river to be able to enjoy the same things other people enjoy in their communities. Community advocacy is dear to me because of where I live. If I live here, I’m going to advocate for a better life for my family.”
With a background in the arts, PR and events, Ayanna says she can plan an event like this with her eyes closed. PorchFest DC came together pretty easily for her. She revealed that she sourced a lot of good musicians from Craigslist, and community listserves were very helpful to her as well. Her biggest challenge wasn’t organizing the event or even getting the word out about it, but rather, footing the bill all by herself.
“Other PorchFests had (financial) help from Main Streets programs and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). As a result, they’re able to provide honorariums to artists, pay for marketing, event insurance, staff, and other needs. I haven’t had that support from the city or any other organization.”
This led her to establish PorchFest DC as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization so she can raise funds for future events that she wants to bring to Ward 7 and 8.
Ayanna is no stranger to creative launches. She’s a serial entrepreneur who owns not one, not two, but three creative businesses! Can you say #GOALS?! Ayanna owns The Escape Lounge DC, Ask Me Tees (a T-shirt line that helps spark meaningful conversations about tough topics), and Ridlz, a web-based app for escape and problem solving games. Plus she’s busy raising two small children. I asked her how she does it all – successfully. She said it’s easy – it doesn’t feel like work to her unless it’s out of her element.
When asked about the future of PorchFest DC, Ayanna mentioned that she would like to see it grow. Her goal is to expand the event, provide support to other communities East of the river who want to do this, and help build comradery. She commented:
“It makes a difference to have these types of events in your community. It brings the community together and gives artists an opportunity to showcase and share their talent.”
The inaugural PorchFest DC will take place on Sunday, May 20, from 1-6 pm in Penn Branch. It will be the first PorchFest event held east of the river. The Penn Branch neighborhood is full of homes with big front yards and back lawns, so it’s the perfect placed to host an event of this kind. The line-up of artists includes 20 bands representing many genres of music, including jazz, reggae, hip hop, folk, and rock. There also will be three bands for kids, including Hot 7, a children’s band, G Street Band, a high school students’ jazz ensemble, and another high school band that will accompany attendees from house to house, playing like a second line.
The six homes hosting/showcasing the bands are within walking distance of one another. Attendees are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes, and lawn chairs to sit down and enjoy the performances. PorchFest DC is open to people of all ages. There will be mobile food vendors, including vegan and dessert options. Ayanna wants people to come and enjoy themselves, but be respectful of people’s homes, clean up after themselves, and don’t forget to tip the bands!
PorchFest DC – Southeast Edition
Sun, May 20, 2018
1:00 PM – 6:00 PM EDT
Carpenter Street and Texas Avenue, SE
It’s free to attend! Register here.
Rain or shine
Images c/o Ayanna Smith