“What is this, a tea party?”
This was one of the many questions Chere Krakovsky heard as she sat at a cozy kitchen table in the middle of a sidewalk on Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C., between 13th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

Why would a table, topped with a homey yellow tablecloth with a spread of sugar cookies, a large embellished shellfish, a mini statue of a bird and tea with all its extras, be placed in the middle of a sidewalk?

“I’m a performance artist,” Krakovsky said.  “I set up a kitchen table with snacks in different communities.”

While expanding preconceived ideas of artistic expression, Krakovsky uses the table as a way to be present within an area and to interact with the people who walk by.

“The table is a wonderful symbol for a community. Ideas can be exchanged and people can sit and rest,” Krakovsky said.

At least 30 people in the community stopped to have tea with Krakovsky. Many were skeptical, especially when she told them the tea and snacks were absolutely free.  “Nothing is free,” some would tell her. But she would explain that she wanted people to sit and talk with her. She even raced to bus drivers and truckers so they could have some of her tea as they waited at red lights.

Krakovsky was given permission from the creative director of the Honfleur Gallery, an art gallery that showcases experimental and traditional art pieces, to set up her table near the gallery. What brought Krakovsky, a 58-year-old from New York City all the way to Good Hope Road, was an initiative known as 5X5 - a project in partnership with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities alongside the National Cherry Blossom Festival.  

The purpose of the project is to create and display art in unexpected places. While working for another project sponsored by Habitat for Artists off Southern Avenue, Krakovsky got the idea to set up her table at another location in Anacostia.

One of her most memorable moments at the table was when a woman sat down and shared her story about her family and community. The conversation stuck with Krakovsky.

“When I’m at this table, I’m present,” Krakovsky said. “Artwork teaches me so much.”

Krakovsky‘s art was only a temporary exhibition. She was only present for one day, but feels she had a positive experience with the community.

“Everyone is so lovely [and] appreciative,” Krakovsky said. “I’m sad to go.”

This story is part of a partnership between The Washington Post and students from American University. To read more stories from this collaboration, click here.