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A French Affair

Ariana Austin strikes out on her own with a culture-focused boutique agency.

Ariana Austin

You might not know Ariana Austin, but, chances are, you know Nuit Blanche DC, the all-night extravaganza of art, music and fashion that marked its third iteration this fall. The 29-year-old Washington native has curated and organized the project from its inception—an experience she’s using as a springboard for her own events outpost, French Thomas Group, which launches this month with the aim of advising, producing and marketing local art and culture experiences.

“The firm is named for French Thomas, my great uncle, a legendarily good-looking dandy,” Austin says. Her first client is the Middleburg Film Festival, an inaugural affair spearheaded by Sundance Film Festival board member Sheila Johnson that runs Oct. 24-27.

Though Austin grew up in a culturally rich environment—her father is a sociologist and her mother heads the Humanities Council of Washington DC—it was living in Paris during her early 20s that solidified her passion for the arts. “I want to find ways to get people involved in art and make it part of everyday life,” she says. When she’s not focused on events, Austin blogs on culture for The Huffington Post and beefs up her collection of short stories—enhanced by a master’s degree in arts, education and creative writing from Harvard. Local creatives Jati Lindsay and Brooke Kao get her heart pounding.

“DC has that wonderful cosmopolitan feel of a small European city—there’s enormous intellectual and creative capital,” Austin says, smitten with the cultural climate of her hometown. “French Thomas’ pursuit is to tell fresh narratives about people and places.”

Austin’s Hots
Meridian Ball, Trillectro, the DC Digital Museum, Wednesday nights, Kir Royale, black skinny jeans, conversations with DC cab drivers

Austin’s Nots
Vanity charity projects, Red Line track work, group conformity, overpriced condos, fashion rules, logos, the prosperity gospel, Sex and the City movies