‘They’re not necessarily welcoming’ | Artist challenges hypermasculinity in black barbershops with exhibit in Anacostia #ForTheCulture — Michael Quander

WUSA9, 05.15.2019

WASHINGTON — Inside of a big, blue shipping container on Mississippi Avenue in Southeast D.C., you’ll find a fully-functioning barbershop adorned with rhinestones, silk flowers, and paintings to make you think.

“I think barbershops have historically been places in which a lot of people would come together to start to rally and figure out how do we move forward,” Devan Shimoyama, an artist and college professor, said. “I wanted to hearken back to some of that but in a revamped, new, exciting way.”

Shimoyama designed the immersive art installation with Kelly Gorsuch, owner of Barber of Hell’s Bottom, and Caleb Woodard, designer/furniture maker.

The exhibit, which is titled Mighty Mighty, is a part of Cultural D.C.’s mobile art gallery and works to engage the community in conversations surrounding “hypermasculinity in barbershops and how to cultivate a safe, welcome environment for all.”

“Thinking about the barbershop as a place in which a certain type of masculinity is often performed in those spaces, I really wanted to challenge those notions,” Shimoyama told WUSA9.

Shimoyama does not believe all barbershops are always welcoming to people identifying as LGBTQ and outside of societal gender norms.

“I think they’re not necessarily welcoming.” Shimoyama said. “Walking into some of those spaces, I’ve seen some people who may have immediately registered to somebody as obviously queer in some capacity and maybe don’t feel necessarily safe.”

Shimoyama elaborated by saying the feelings of being unsafe were not always a physical threat but may be in the derogatory language used or music with homophobic lyrics played within the environment.

“I have never wanted this project to vilify or create a villain or a monster out of anybody who thinks differently,” Shimoyama said. “I really wanted to just open up the dialogue. I just want to have a conversation.”

The art installation runs between May 4 – August 24 at THEARC (1901 Mississippi Ave SE, Washington, D.C.)

Admission and haircuts are free.