BY NADIA BARNETT — At the July 18 groundbreaking of the new Art Works and Pizzeria Paradiso, the excitement surrounding the upcoming art center and pizzeria was everywhere. The once-Marché Florist building, a landmark for many in the community, will be transformed into a place where art and art education, along with pizza, can join the community.
Saturday’s event began around back — behind the greenhouse — where people signed in and received Art Works lime green hard hats. While the rain moved most festivities indoors, it did not dampen the people’s elation about the upcoming arts center.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, III said, “The work you are doing here, the vision you have for this place is going to inspire people you have not yet seen or have not yet been born.”
“The community has been waiting for this moment for a couple years now,” said Hyattsville City Council Vice President Bart Lawrence (Ward 1). “Art Works alone is an incredible resource locally — they’re in the schools, they are working with kids all over the county but then how that couples with a fantastic restaurant it’s all part of redevelopment of this whole area. It’s very exciting.”
“They are going to take this beautiful landmarked building that is part of the city, and has been and people drive by and know on-site, and make it into something new and fresh,” says Councilmember Kevin Ward (Ward 1).
Art Works Founder and Executive Director Barbara Johnson, Pizzeria Paradiso Owner Ruth Gresser, City of Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, Prince George’s County Councilmember Deni Taveras (District 2), and County Executive Rushern Baker, III all spoke during a short press conference held in the entryway of the building looking out onto a busy Route 1.
“I look forward to sharing art, pizza and beer with you all next year,” Gresser said to an audience of residents, soon-to-be neighbors, as well as city, county and state officials.
“The project will be funded in part by a $250,000 state bond, a $126,000 grant through the city of Hyattsville Commercial Facade Improvement Program and a $50,000 Community Impact Grant from Prince George’s County,” the Washington Business Journal reported. Although the building is expected to be fairly open, there will be a wall going up that separates Pizzeria Paradiso from Art Works because of the alcohol that will served at Pizzeria Paradiso, said Phil Hutinet of East City Art Media.
“I envision for this location a community gathering place, a great arts center and a phenomenal Pizzeria Paradiso, where our community can gather, create, eat, drink socialize, get to know one another, create even stronger bonds, and just enjoy themselves,” said Johnson.
For many, Art Works is a staple in bringing the Hyattsville community together. Out of the city councilmembers present, a number said they have personal experiences with the organization.
Ward said his youngest son “participates in a number of Art Works activities all the time.”
Kids programs like Toddler Time — one of the earliest programs, according to Johnson — are expected to continue at the new location. Additionally, there will be after school programs, school hour-in programs and camps, such as day camps, spring break camps, summer camps, winter camps. Plus, the accessible studio program that helps people that have different types of needs be able to still do art, said teaching artist Amy Hughes Braden.
“One of the important things to us is our kids are occupied and creative and instead of having them home alone or home doing things that aren’t the most beneficial for them, if we provide them with creative opportunities they will flourish to their full extent,” Johnson said.
But the nonprofit organization will also feature a ceramics program for kids and one for adults, and other classes that will come up for adults and members of the family.
Hollingsworth said, “ [It will be] a place where you’ll be able to see the art visibly and prominently on Route 1. It’s a commercial hub for the Gateway Arts District. One of the criticisms have always been that we haven’t had visible art…and this along with the addition of Pyramid Atlantic next year will both satisfy that goal of ours.”
Art Works Now and Pizzeria Paradiso located on 4800 Rhode Island Avenue is scheduled to open in 2016.