The 2-mile stretch in Prince George’s County known as the Gateway Arts District has swelled into a sprawling artist enclave. Twenty years ago, if you had said such a thing was possible in this part of Maryland, nobody would have believed you.
“Before, many would have called it a blighted area,” says artist Alan Binstock, who was active in the early planning committees for Gateway. “There used to only be a handful of [artist] studios there, but it has grown many times over.
"Now, the Gateway — which spans Mount Rainier, Brentwood, North Brentwood and Hyattsville — boasts enough independent galleries, offbeat vintage shops and restaurants to rival its D.C. brethren. If you haven’t visited this quirky neighborhood, the Gateway’s annual Open Studio Tour (Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., free) is the time to do so. Now in its 15th year, the festival features 45 participating venues, with many hosting art shows (including one at Binstock’s Mount Rainier studio), theatrical performances and other special events. Here are four unique points of interest.
Pyramid Atlantic Art Center
4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville
There’s a lot of history within Pyramid Atlantic’s walls. The space was previously a church, a bowling alley and a silent movie theater before Pyramid moved there in 2016 from Silver Spring. “Pyramid Atlantic is all about quirky history,” executive director Kate Taylor Davis says. “Hyattsville has a counterculture tradition that is really appealing to what Pyramid does.” There are 24 artists-in-residence who mostly specialize in contemporary printmaking, papermaking and bookbinding. Much of their work is displayed in Pyramid’s second-floor gallery, which hosts rotating exhibitions throughout the year. At Saturday’s event, the public will get a chance to meet Pyramid’s artists and peek inside their studios, as well as check out the annual members’ exhibition in the gallery.
Joe’s Movement Emporium
3309 Bunker Hill Road, Mount Rainer
Joe’s Movement Emporium, which opened in 1995, is one of the oldest institutions within the Gateway. The nonprofit space hosts adult and youth courses mostly centered on dance and yoga. If neither of those interest you, you can also catch avant-garde theater featuring local actors and dance companies. On Saturday, Silk Road Dance Company will perform a mix of Persian, Indian and Turkic dances during “The Golden Road to Samarkand” (2 & 8 p.m., $28). Those who come to the early show can grab lunch at the buffet starting at noon, which is $45 per person and includes admission to the 2 p.m. performance.
Brentwood Arts Exchange
3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood
For a small gallery, Brentwood Arts Exchange has a lot to see. The space typically hosts multiple exhibitions at one time, displaying contemporary art of all mediums from regional artists. Visitors on Saturday can view two exhibitions: “(In)Justice Systems,” which takes a deep dive into mass incarceration through the work of several artists, and “Roman Holiday,” featuring illustrations from D.C. artist Jennifer R.A. Campbell that explore the absurdity of human existence. Afterward, visitors can head to the gallery’s fine craft store, where handmade items from local makers are sold.
Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center
4519 Rhode Island Ave., North Brentwood
As you walk up to Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center, don’t be fooled. The exterior of the building is unassuming, but inside is a treasure trove of history: old photographs from the civil rights era, contemporary work from local artists and more pieces that connect the dots of the county’s multifaceted African American history. One of the museum’s permanent exhibitions, “Footsteps From North Brentwood,” documents the development of the county’s oldest incorporated black townships. Plus, the museum has a slew of special programming that includes live music, poetry readings and art talks. To coincide with the Open Studio Tour on Saturday, the museum will host Illumination Day (11 a.m.-4 p.m., free), featuring a scavenger hunt, a live art-making lab, a vendor village, a “paint and sip” with live music, art talks and the interactive pop-up exhibit “Black Broadway on U: Echoes of an Era.”