Our nation’s capital is often in the spotlight for its politics, media frenzies and iconic figures. Now the art scene has its moment to shine bright as we look back at some of the cultural gems and discoveries of 2011.

Situated on the outskirts of D.C., the Artisphere –which opened in October of 2010– grew throughout 2011 into an exciting venue that features a variety of cultural activities, ranging from literary arts, music, theater, dance and film to fun activities for the entire family. The National Chamber Ensemble is the resident classical music ensemble led by artistic director Leonid Sushansky.

(Photo Credit: Patrick McCoy)

The Heritage Signature Chorale is one of D. C.’s “best kept secrets.”  Founded by Stanley Thurston, the volunteer chorus presents a variety of music for the African-American choral tradition, as well as the European concert works of composers such as Verdi, Mozart, Bach and Schubert. Whether they are performing at The Kennedy Center or a local church, this talented group of singers delights audiences whenever they perform.

Victor Simonson

Victor Simonson quietly landed back on the D. C. music scene last summer. The multifaceted singer, music director, pianist and organist is no stranger to the area. He and his sister, soprano Pamela Simonson, are the co-founders of the Coalition for African-Americans in the Performing Arts. Victor Simonson returns to the area after touring nationally with Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple” and recording his first CD project, Victory.

(Photo Credit: julianwachner.com)

Julian Wachner

Conductor Julian Wachner entered his fourth season as music director of The Washington Chorus.  As a brilliant composer, conductor and organist, the maestro maintains a rigorous schedule which includes serving as Director of Music and Arts at Trinity Church-Wall Street in New York City and Associate Professor of Music at McGill University in Canada. Wachner recently led the The Washington Chorus in the Kennedy Center premiere of his large scale work, “Come, My Dark Eyed One.”

BloomBars has made its mark on the arts scene as a cultural melting pot with an eclectic mix of interests. Founded by John Chambers, its driving force rests on the idea that artists have the ability to transform people and the world. All people, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender or sexual orientation, are welcome to express their creative genius through the numerous performance platforms, from the open-mic cabarets to a variety of other public seminars.

Love from the Sound Stage

Howard University alum Dennis Williams is at the helm of Love from the Sound Stage, a fresh production company with an urban twist. His original stage play, “I Just Want 2 Sing,” was recently presented to rave reviews. 2011 saw the presentation of the first LSS Awards, which honored WKYS radio personality Jeannie Jones.

Delonte Briggs

Delonte Briggs is blazing a successful path on the independent music scene. A graduate of Virginia State University, Briggs is the founder of Mr. Briggs Management, a new firm that has committed itself to introducing new musicians onto the urban music scene. Briggs has nurtured a number of promising new artists, including singer Tamika Jones.

Patrick D. McCoy lives in Washington, D. C. where he is active as a performing arts journalist, educator, church music director and radio show host. His work can be found here.