The Dunes


Editorial Review

Even in their spare time, Washingtonians have a tendency toward overachieving and multi-tasking. Exhibit A: Ora Nwabueze, the lawyer whose side project, the Dunes, showcases art, music and more.

Since opening in May 2011, the airy third-story space, which touts massive windows overlooking the bright lights of 14th Street in Columbia Heights, has hosted a slew of events, from an interactive storytelling night to a Discovery Channel-themed photo exhibition to a panel discussion with local art fixtures. What makes these gatherings unique is where the proceeds have gone — Horton’s Kids, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and local artsy literary magazine the Folly.

“The Dunes is all about giving back to the community, so roughly half of our events are nonprofit fundraisers,” says managing director Deidree Bennett.

And maybe that explains, in part, why the events have been so well attended.

“There are so many driven people in D.C. who are trying to make the world better,” Bennett says. “And so we seek to do it in every spare moment we have.”

Of course, for all the good they do, the soirees are still meant to be nights to kick back and an opportunity to get a bit of culture while taking advantage of the gallery’s liquor license.

“We want everything all in one place when it comes to entertainment,” Bennett says of Washingtonians. “We don’t want to just see music. We want to have our cocktail at the same time, and we want to talk to our friends and catch up. We’re very efficient.”

The Dunes has played host to a number of collectives, from the storytellers of SpeakeasyDC to local fashion designers and boutique owners, and the crowd has fluctuated accordingly. The only major commonality Bennett has noticed, aside from a preponderance of young professionals, is an appetite for novel experiences.

“Not everyone’s a hipster; not everyone’s a lawyer,” she says. “There are a lot of different cultures coming through, people from all walks of life, but what everyone has in common is just this passion to experience the world and suck up every minute of life.”

-- Stephanie Merry (Nov. 17, 2011)