Explore Washington D.C.

Philippa Hughes: Founder of Pink Line Project

The art scene's glam mover and shaker talks shopping, favorite haunts and new directions.

This ex-attorney, self-described “contrarian” has made things happen here, showing up early on at open studios and gallery nights in vintage cocktail dresses, buzzing around the city on a pink (of course) Buddy motor scooter.
     Ultimately Hughes put her energy to building connections in the community. She advised new collectors (“go with your gut”), underwrote worthy art projects and bought for herself the work of established artists like Nicholas and Sheila Pye (a chromogenic print, pictured) plus riskier ones on the fringe. She served on an arts commission and a museum committee and produced events—from salons to music/art happenings, her  “DIY underground.” Now she plans to focus on a weekly newsletter, Pink Line Project, and return to an original passion, her life as a writer (reflective essays at Art is Fear).

Which D.C. zone is the most fun?

I must admit I reluctantly leave my U Street neighborhood. Everything I need is within a 10-minute walk of my condo—new restaurants, Home Rule with objects for my apartment and Ginger Root with amazing jewelry by local artists.

And shopping for clothes?

I find most of my wardrobe at boutiques like Muléh and Lettie Gooch. At Muléh I bought three Vivienne Westwood pieces, a blue fur coat and the dresses I wore to an art benefit and an embassy.


Labels like Vivienne Westwood make for adventurous shopping at Muléh. (©Pepper Watkins)
Where do you find gifts?

The best museum gift shop is at the National Building Museum. It’s filled with clever items plus an excellent collection of design and architecture books.

Beyond the urban scene?

No matter what the weather, I love taking walks through Dumbarton Oaks Gardens. Hidden away in north Georgetown, it’s less trodden than Rock Creek Park. I find a quiet spot to think or read or, if it’s chilly, walk briskly. I love the water, so on warm days I head to the boathouse under Key Bridge where people can rent paddleboards, canoes and kayaks. When I stand-up paddle on the river, I pass by turtles, beavers, deer and an occasional eagle.

What events are special?

The Cherry Blossom Festival! Every spring the city explodes with pink and white blossoms and a parade, parties and arts events. I like to rent a paddleboat at the Tidal Basin to see the blossoms from the water. Of course, the Independence Day fireworks on the National Mall are pretty spectacular. I recommend bike share rentals to get around on those busy days.

What do you tell visitors?

That art and culture fill the city’s institutions and galleries, but “cool things” are also happening out of the mainstream. I say look at even our graffiti as an art form.

NBM shop
National Building Museum gift shop rich with toys, books and souvenirs that honor design (©Kevin Allen)

My Perfect Day

Early Morning: Working Out Well
A swim in the pool at the new YMCA at 1325 W Street NW near my condo

Breakfast: Busboys & Poets
The cafe/bookstore/gathering place owned by Andy Shallal, peace activist-turned-D.C. mayoral candidate. To enjoy: two cage-free eggs, grits with extra cheese and smart conversation  

Morning: Creative Time
Recommitting myself to the risky business of writing, likely short essays that spin off my family’s history and reflect my own journey

Lunch: Ramen in Penn Quarter
At Daikaya, a steaming bowl of aromatic shio noodles on the street level, a bustling bar and izakaya dining experience up the stairs

Afternoon: Hirshhorn Museum
The Mall’s treasure house of contemporary art. As an aspiring writer, I love Barbara Kruger’s bold installation on the lower level—words! words! [See time-lapse video on the Hirshhorn's website.]

The Smithsonian’s most avant-garde showcase, the Hirshhorn (©Lee Stalsworth, Courtesy Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)
Dinner: A Bit of Spain
The new Barcelona on 14th Street, with a heated patio, where I order jamon Iberico and garlic shrimp

Evening: Curtains Up & Cocktails
The latest provocative play at Studio Theatre, often a premiere or N.Y. import, then a stop at Room 11 in Columbia Heights for cocktails, mine with the Asian hot sauce sriracha

Three stages with an array of new and provocative plays (©David Luria)