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| MARCH 2017 |



here are moments in life when you stumble

upon something that feels remarkable, and

your gut instinct is to hold on tight. As a writer,

it’s those moments that can lead to the most

compelling stories. On a Tuesday afternoon in late

January, about 20 minutes into a private tour of

a subterranean streetcar station reinvented as a

creative space for the DC community, I knew I’d

found a story worth telling: Dupont Underground.

I was standing with the nonprofit’s managing director, David Ross,

and boardmember Philippa Hughes of Pink Line Project, staring down

the length of a pitch-black tunnel that was suddenly illuminated by

bright, kaleidoscopic projections that seemed to pulsate to the beat

of the music filling every inch of the immense space. I was completely


Jared Bileski’s light tunnel is part of Dupont Underground’s

current exhibit,

Make It Work

, an exploration of the different paths

contemporary art can take in an industrial space. Ross curated the

exhibit, and helped spark the idea for Bileski’s installation when

experimenting with a projector in the tunnel during one of his many

late nights directly beneath Dupont Circle.

“The space is so large, you kind of have to be in it,”Ross says.“75,000

square feet is a lot. I spent a lot of time between 1 and 6 a.m. down

there trying to figure out how things worked.”

His initial involvement with the space was to record musicians

and host live performances, but he’s now pursuing a full-fledged

commitment to turning the web of underground platforms and

tunnels into a thriving cultural facility. This transformation marks

Dupont Underground’s fourth incarnation; first as a trolley station

from 1949 to 1962, then as a fallout shelter in the late 60s and finally

as a food court in the mid-90s, before being abandoned for years.

Ross says everything changed when he got his own key and could

explore after hours; that, and the constant questions from passersby

in Dupont Circle peeking down the steps, asking what the space was

and when it was opening.

But in fact, the space was open last spring for the

Re-Ball!: Raise/


exhibit, a repurposing of more than 650,000 plastic balls used in

the National Building Museum’s wildly popular


exhibit. Under

the direction of Hughes, one of our city’s biggest advocates for a

diverse, engaged arts and culture community, 1400 volunteers came

together to build

Re-Ball!: Raise/Raze


When the impactful community building experience ended, Ross

noticed a lull in activity, and felt motivated to open the space back up

to the public for tours. Different installations for

Make It Work


coming together, including iGlow, a 36-foot-long glowing tunnel

created by artist Hiroshi Jacobs that tourgoers are invited to walk

through, and delicate wire sculptures by Reed Bmore that dangle

from the ceiling of Dupont Underground and cast intricate shadows

along its walls.

Photos: Lindsay Galatro

Philippa Hughes and David Ross

By Monica Alford

Light in

the tunnel

Dupont Underground