Creators and entrepreneurs with new and unusual ideas now have a home at Halcyon House.
Dr. Sachiko Kuno and Kate Goodall are the chairman and CEO, respectively, of Halcyon, which is headquartered at Halcyon House.
Halcyon House has been Georgetown eye candy since it was built in 1787.
But today it is beautiful from the inside out, as the home of a fresh crop of entrepreneurs and artists who combine Mark Zuckerberg genius with Bill Gates–like social-mindedness. And it’s all thanks to the vision of its cofounders, the biotech trailblazer and philanthropist Dr. Sachiko Kuno and Kate Goodall.
“Halcyon House” refers specifically to the building, which is the headquarters for the programs collectively called Halcyon. There are three main initiatives, and they are united by their commitment to out-of-the-box thinking: Halcyon Incubator, a million-dollar-a-year program that offers an 18-month fellowship focused on entrepreneurial ideas; Halcyon Stage, a performing-arts series devoted to bringing unconventional theater, music, and literature to DC; and the Arts Lab, which launches this fall to support emerging artists who will in turn mentor students in Wards 7 and 8.
“Dr. Kuno knew she didn’t want the house to become a dusty mausoleum,” says Goodall of their mission.
She and Kuno have been working together since 2012 to hatch programs that not only inspire entrepreneurship and artistry but also provide a physical haven. “Not everybody can live with their parents [when they’re developing their idea] or have something to fall back on if they go bankrupt,” adds Goodall.
Halcyon Incubator gives housing, resources, and a $10,000 stipend to entrepreneurs from all walks of life, so long as their ideas have “social impact,” which is Goodall’s mantra.
One of the current entrepreneurs in the Incubator program is Chibueze Ihenacho, an engineer whose ARMR Systems is developing hemorrhage-control products for injuries on battlefields, where medical support may not be available.
For Ihenacho, a first-generation Nigerian-American, making the right connections, especially in military and biotechnology sectors, is key, and it’s where Goodall sees Washington as being a prime asset.
“The intellectual capacity here is unrivaled,” she says. “There are experts [in DC] representing every field, who are more than willing to serve as a mentor for one of the ventures.”
The Halcyon Incubator fellows live in the house for five months, with an additional 13 months in post-residence, and their success is tracked after they leave, although Halcyon and its founders have no equity in their ventures.
Halcyon Stage has brought thrilling acts to DC, including the contemporary ballet ensemble BalletX (above) and the genre-defying cabaret and drag artist Joey Arias, who performed his famed Billie Holiday tribute.
Goodall and her team are currently reviewing applications for the next group of fellows with social ventures. She’s expecting about 250 for eight slots.
Halcyon has set the bar just as high for the arts. Once the Arts Lab is up and running, it will be something like the arts equivalent of the Incubator initiative, giving artists the resources to explore socially minded work.
In the meantime, Kuno and Goodall were able to nab former Washington Ballet impresario Septime Webre to act as the artistic director of Halcyon Stage, which launched in January as a way to present the kind of unconventional, envelope-pushing performances that provide a necessary counterweight to the traditional fare one can find at the Kennedy Center.
find at the Kennedy Center. “People are aligning around a vision for a stronger arts city, and at Halcyon we know that it’s possible,” says Goodall.
“When I encounter skeptics, I always suggest that they examine the corollaries in the culinary world, and the fact that DC wasn’t really on the map a decade ago,” she adds. “But a few dedicated, visionary chefs and entrepreneurs earned us important recognition. The same thing can happen here for the arts, which we would argue is all about the social impact.”
Recent events have included the cabaret artist Joey Arias performing his acclaimed Billie Holiday tribute; a book party for the Pope of Trash, John Waters (who’s also a Baltimore native); and a performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring at Union Market’s Dock 5 warehouse (suggested attire, per the event description, was “revolutionary”).
Goodall says they have focused on creating a unique set of immersive, creative experiences, with a mind to accessibility—and, of course, innovation. Halcyon House is located at 3400 Prospect Street NW. For a schedule of Halcyon Stage events, visit halcyonhouse.org
THIS PAGE AND OPPOSITE: PHOTOGRAPHY BY BEN DROZ (KUNO AND GOODALL); THEO KOSSENAS
(IHENACHO); USER:AGNOSTICPREACHERSKID/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/PUBLIC DOMAIN (HALCYON HOUSE);
SANTIAGO FELIPE (ARIAS); ERIN BAIANO (THE LAST GLASS BY MATTHEW NEENAN)