PHOTOS: Art Works Now, Pizzeria Paradiso celebrate grand opening

Local, county and state officials gather around Art Works Now owner Barbara Johnson and Pizzeria Paradiso owner Ruth Gresser as they cut the ribbon at the grand opening on July 15. Photo by Erika Nizborski

BY STEPHEN SPENCER — Dozens of elected officials, community leaders, staff and well-wishers turned out on a warm July morning for the grand opening of Art Works Now and Pizzeria Paradiso Hyattsville. The project has been five years in the making and was the idea of Art Works Now founder and Mount Rainier native Barbara Johnson, along with her partner and Pizzeria Paradiso owner Ruth Gresser. They completely renovated the former Marché florist building with assistance from city, county and state grants plus community fundraising. Throughout the entire process, “the common thread was people,” an emotional Barbara Johnson remarked, adding, “I thank you all from the bottom of my native Prince Georgian heart.”

Describing the dilapidated condition of the building and remembering the flower shop it used to be, Johnson said, “The reason I bought this building, the reason why I want to be in this building, is because of what this building was and can be and is now again: and that is a place of creativity, of community and of celebration.”

Hyattsville City Council Vice President Kevin Ward (Ward 1), speaking on behalf of Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, thanked Johnson for “staying home.” “Thank you for doing this in Hyattsville, thank you for staying home, thank you for staying in the county and thank you for staying in the Arts District,” Ward said.

The center will combine art and food under the same roof by offering arts education and social justice programming for all ages. While many enjoyed complimentary pizza and others toured the gallery spaces and workshops, a handful of children were eagerly exploring the outdoor space and creating art. Marking the transformation of the building, Maryland State Sen. Paul Pinsky remarked, “where for many years flowers bloomed now we have young children blossoming.”

The City of Hyattsville declared July 15 as “Art and Pizza Day” while Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III proclaimed the day to be “Paint and Pizza Day” in the county.