There are about 5,000 Virginians who can trace their ancestry back before the Jamestown colonists of 1607, meaning the remaining 7,995,000 or so residents of the commonwealth are either immigrants or descendants of them.
That point was driven home Oct. 17, as a photo exhibition – “Living Diversity” – featuring the works of the Columbia Pike Documentary Project was unveiled at a new ground-floor gallery at Arlington Mill Community Center.
“It’s been an amazing ride, and hopefully it will not end,” said Paula Endo, who in 2004 conceived the effort to document the changing face of Columbia Pike through photographs.
“It was a long time ago,” Endo recalled of the effort, which brought her together in a collaboration with her husband, Todd, and Lloyd Wolf.
The first meeting to discuss the project began at a restaurant not far from the site of the current exhibition.
“We were talking about the wonder of Arlington as represented by Columbia Pike – the excitement, the life, the diversity just sucked us all in, and we started photographing.”
The exhibition, sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Division of Arlington Economic Development, features 51 works by Endo, Wolf, Duy Tran, Xang Mimi Ho and Aleksandra Lagkueva.
(“We’re kind of a diverse group in ourselves,” Wolf noted. “We didn’t have to go looking for diversity. It’s who we were.”)
Many of the photographs also are part of the recently published book, “Living Diversity,” which chronicles the group’s efforts to capture a Columbia Pike corridor that has been filled with several generations of a variety of immigrants.
“This is the new face of America,” noted County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada.
The effort long has had the support of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, which pressed to use the community-center space (initially designed for a retail or restaurant space) to showcase the artwork.
“We have been trying for a very long time,” said Takis Karantonis, executive director of the revitalization organization. “We are very, very happy.”
All five County Board members attended the event.
“Isn’t it wonderful to see these faces and the stories that go with them?” County Board Chairman Mary Hynes said.
Also on hand was Chris Zimmerman, who “laid the foundation for this facility,” said board member John Vihstadt, who last year succeeded Zimmerman.
Tran, who began taking photos on Columbia Pike as a teen, said the photographs tell only a part of the story of the subjects who agreed to pose.
“I feel blessed to meet these people and hear their stories,” he said.
As for Columbia Pike itself? It is “a place that is not only beautiful, but filled with strength,” Ho said.
Copies of the artwork are available for purchase to support ongoing efforts of the photographers to document the corridor. For information, call the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization at (703) 892-2776.