D.C. MAY BE KNOWN for its massive museums, but its smaller art venues are nothing to sneeze at. Hillyer is impressive in scope if not real estate — it takes on everything from visual art exhibitions to poetry to hip-hop jam sessions. But the venue’s secret to success, says gallery coordinator Graham Boyle, is looking out for the little guy. “I think it’s because we’re a non-profit; that allows us to take some risks that commercial galleries won’t. We’re really about showing under-represented or emerging artists.”

You Should Know: Hillyer has a party featuring an exhibition opening, live music and free food the first Friday of every month.

» Hillery Art Space, 9 Hillyer Court NW; 202-338-0690.

» Explore a full list of the year’s winners at the Best of 2009 index.

Photo courtesy International Arts & Artists