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The Carter Barron Amphitheater: Community Efforts to Reopen the DC Landmark

November 7, 2022

Green 2.0 Team

Carter Barron Amphitheater, 2016. Photo Credit: NPS

The Carter Barron Amphitheater: Community Efforts to Reopen the DC Landmark

By Tony Richardson, Senior Manager of JEDI Initiatives, Rock Creek Conservancy 

The Carter Barron Amphitheater is a cultural landmark in Rock Creek Park that has lain dormant due to deferred maintenance. After overwhelming interest from residents, the National Park Service (NPS) has committed to working towards reopening the amphitheater. In this piece, Rock Creek Conservancy’s (RCC) Tony Richardson discusses how the organization has launched the Carter Barron Alliance, a network of community groups working to support the revitalization of the venue.

It’s a cool, summer evening in the Nation’s capital. The sky is lit with the last remnants of the sunset, and the stars are starting to twinkle. The trees act as a natural acoustic buffer ensuring that each person is enveloped in sound. The mood is festive, and everyone is swaying and singing the lyrics to their favorite song. Earth, Wind, and Fire are wrapping up their set! Tomorrow night, folks will be “Bustin’ Loose” with Chuck Brown, the Godfather of “Go-Go,” the original sound of DC soul. Believe it or not, this was the heyday of the Carter Barron Amphitheater. It was the place to go for incredible shows in D.C. Everyone, from local artists to global talents, has graced its stage.

First opened in 1950 as part of the 150th celebration of D.C. as our nation’s capital, the Carter Barron was one of the few racially integrated facilities in the area. Later, through its accessible and diverse programming, the amphitheater offered a place where individuals of all backgrounds could come together around a shared appreciation of art, music, and nature. Since its inception, the amphitheater has embodied the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion, providing a forum for community members to gather.

The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1991. Photo Credit: NPS.

Unfortunately, the amphitheater closed in 2017 after an inspection found that the stage’s substructure was not strong enough to handle the weight of performances. Major renovations are needed to bring the amenities up to 21st century standards. There is a lot to be done to bring back the former years of glory to the amphitheater, but NPS and RCC are committed to working with the community to make it happen.

The Carter Barron Alliance is a network of arts, parks, historic preservation, philanthropic, and community groups that are all working together to help reopen the amphitheater. The purpose of the alliance is to ensure that the amphitheater can be fully revitalized to reopen in 2026 and continue its tradition of providing affordable performances, community events, and educational programming.

The Carter Barron Amphitheater was closed for repairs, but on Sunday July 14, guests had the opportunity to get inside the gates of this historic DC landmark for a one-afternoon only special event. Photo Credit: Rock Creek Conservancy | Katy Cain.

The alliance was formed in August 2022 by RCC, the official philanthropic partner of Rock Creek Park (NPS). RCC will serve as the backbone of the alliance, managing events, hosting coalition meetings, and serving as a clearinghouse for informationThe staff will coordinate information, glean feedback from the various communities, and maintain a drumbeat of support. 

With this significant landmark now closed for five years, we do not want to delay this crucial project any longer. We must reopen the Carter Barron Amphitheater to serve our communities and provide connections to outdoor recreation, art appreciation, and ultimately protect this culturally significant resource.

On November 30th, RCC will be hosting a panel discussion moderated by Tony Richardson exploring the history and significance of the Carter Barron Amphitheater. National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)’s Alan Spears and community leader Donna Potts will discuss their perspectives, and NPS staff will share their vision for the future of the amphitheater. Register HERE.

To learn more about the Rock Creek Conservancy,, and follow us on Twitter at @LoveRockCreek. To learn more about the ongoing efforts to reopen the Carter Barron Amphitheater and join the Carter Barron Alliance, visit