mighty mighty BY DEVAN SHIMOYAMA in mobile art gallery


As the centerpiece of CulturalDC’s 20th Anniversary Season, The Barbershop Project is a multidisciplinary arts activation inspired by the performance of styling, art of hair and shop culture. The project is centered around Mighty Mighty: an immersive art installation and fully-functional, fantastical barbershop in CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery. Mighty Mighty is created by artist Devan Shimoyama, barber Kelly Gorsuch and furniture-maker Caleb Woodard.

Running May 4—August 25, 2019, the Project is hosted by Building Bridges Across the River, the Ward 8 nonprofit that manages THEARC: Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus. Throughout the summer, we’re partnering with THEARC residents, local organizations and DC artists to create fun, family-friendly programming like concerts, performances, poetry nights, artist workshops, podcasts and more.


tour the exhibit


“From my understanding of the Black barbershop, men come together to decompress and be candid with one another in a safe space. This space isn’t quite the same for LGBTQIA identifying people of color,” says artist Devan Shimoyama.

In Mighty Mighty, Shimoyama’s paintings come to life, engaging individuals in a dialogue about how to evolve from said stereotypes of such performed hypermasculinity in barbershops and how to cultivate a safe, welcome environment for all.

Devan Shimoyama is a visual artist working primarily in self-portraiture and narratives inspired from classical mythology and allegory. The work of Devan Shimoyama showcases the relationship between celebration and silence in queer culture and sexuality. Shimoyama’s compositions are often inspired by Caribbean folklore, science fiction, and the masters Caravaggio and Goya, though adding a more contemporary expression and sensuality. With the usage of various materials: splattered paint, stencils, glitter, rhinestones, and sequins, Shimoyama creates works that celebrate the Black body as both of magic and mystery. In his recent barbershop paintings, Shimoyama transforms the hyper-masculine social space into queer fantasy where feminine glamour and fashion take over, and tender depictions of boys don floral capes and glitter-encrusted hair.

Shimoyama was born in 1989 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State University in 2011 with a BFA in Drawing/Painting before obtaining his MFA at Yale University School of Art in 2014. He is represented by Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago and De Buck Gallery in New York. He is currently based in Pittsburgh, PA.


“At Barber of Hell’s Bottom we know that a haircut can be transformative for anyone, and it can be especially powerful for the LGBTQIA community. Collaborating with Devan on making his fantastical barbershop scenes tangible and interactive has been an exciting challenge. My barbers and I can’t wait to spend the summer at THEARC, cutting hair and creating a compassionate space,” says Kelly Gorsuch.

Kelly Gorsuch grew up in a hairdressing family. He has spent over two decades in all aspects of the industry, including coloring, cutting, barbering, runway, editorial, platform, teaching, managing, owning, and speaking. Kelly currently owns two luxury salons (Immortal Beloved) and four luxury men’s grooming salons (Barber of Hell’s Bottom) in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA. Kelly designs and builds all of his salons and barbershops. Those environments are steeped in what Kelly calls an Americanized version of Wabi Sabi that lends a natural and mysterious feel to the spaces.


“I see this as an opportunity to reveal what seems to escape many - that beauty and expression is above gender or race. It is a reminder to see the beauty in others and ourselves; our lives are far too fleeting to waste them on living up to the expectations of others,” says Caleb Woodard.

Caleb Woodard (b. 1979) is a second-generation woodworker and designer. With his aesthetics rooted in sculpture he founded his original furniture studio in 2005 in Washington, DC. In 2013 the studio was relocated to the solitude of his hometown outside of Nashville, TN where he executes his designs with his small team. His exploratory work ranges from sculptural lighting to intricately engraved and textured wall panels to chimerical furnishings. 


“Our partnership with CulturalDC is a match made in heaven. THEARC is the largest social service, multi-sector, nonprofit collaboration in the country. This unique position provides an oasis of opportunity for engagement unparralled anywhere else in the city.  Our collaboration with CulturalDC will provide an experience East of the River residents will be talking about for generations,” says Rahsaan Bernard, President of Building Bridges Across the River.

Building Bridges Across the River improves the quality of life for children and adults who reside east of the Anacostia River by providing leadership, management and financial oversight of the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC), 11th Street Bridge Park, THEARC Farm, THEARC Theater & Skyland Workforce Center. Through these projects, BBAR uses a multi-sector approach to address significant social, health, environmental & economic disparities that exist in DC. 


Barber hours subject to change. Please call 202.315.1306 for more information.

L to R: Kelly Gorsuch, Caleb Woodard and Devan Shimoyama in Shimoyama’s PGH studio.

L to R: Kelly Gorsuch, Caleb Woodard and Devan Shimoyama in Shimoyama’s PGH studio.

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where is thearc?

Southern Avenue Metro (Green Line); W1, W2, W3 Bus; Parking Onsite


major support

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André Wells

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todd & laura galaida

Olwen & don pongrace

Host Committee

Michael Abrams, Dale Mott, Molly Rolandi, Avery Ash, Tanja Castro, Julie Chase, Adrienne Childs, Paul Clary, Vicki Davis, Lesley Duncan, Michelle Green, Sam Lederer, J. Brooks Martin and Jaime Chase, Gerald Musarra, Jessica Nigro, Sara O’Keefe, Maurice Perry

cultural partners