Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Unbuilt DC: Public Murals Dot DC's Underdeveloped Landscape

Map of BicycleSpace & MuralsDC bike tour
While DC is rife with cranes and construction projects, for some sites the time has not yet come - at least not for condos. In a whirlwind, art-chasing bike journey that led through the northwest DC neighborhoods of Shaw, Columbia Heights, Kalorama, and the U Street Corridor, MuralsDC hosted a mural bike tour this weekend chasing down 18 of the city's (officially sanctioned) murals.  

MuralsDC and bike purveyor BicycleSpace, located on 7th Street NW between the Shaw and Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhoods, organized the mural tour.  The (official) murals are publicly-funded through the MuralsDC program, an organization established in 2007 with the goal of deterring graffiti on historically "frequently-tagged" walls.

Eric B. Ricks (right) in front of his mural at 8th and S Streets NW
Through the program, building owners can apply for their building to be considered for a mural.  The city - through the DC Department of Public Works (DPW) and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and the Humanities (DCCAH) - works in collaboration with the group Words Beats & Life Inc to settle on the artists and designs.  In DC, at least 35 murals have been painted through the MuralsDC program and seven more are being created this summer.  Four of those, according to MuralsDC tour guides, were due to be completed yesterday.

Albus Cavus's "Blended", 2030 8th St NW
During a stop at one of the newest MuralsDC works - due for completion this summer - mural artist Eric B. Ricks, whose art appears at S and 8th Streets NW,  said his hummingbird piece reflects the ideas of work and productivity, and is also a symbol that could be a harbinger of joy for the neighborhood.  "The humming bird is one of the hardest-working animals," Eric B. told us.  "As a totem animal, it always carries joy and brings joy wherever he goes."

From Albus Cavus's "Blended"
Other graffiti art groups create non-publicly funded murals, such as the D.C. collaborative public art and art education group Albus Cavus.  One of the group's murals - "Blended" - appears at 2030 8th St. NW, a building due for demolition in October.  Albus Cavus artists painted the building's walls during an art performance party and fundraising event - organized by Albus Cavus and AIGA Washington - at the site in June.  The event raised money to support Albus Cavus's programming. JBG Companies donated the site for the event.  The building is also currently home to the pop-up gallery The Randall Scott Projects.

MuralsDC mural at Walter Pierce Park
The MuralsDC program also aims to engage youth in the neighborhoods where the murals are painted; one mural was painted by an artist who worked with neighborhood children, giving paint to passersby for contribution.

A public art mapping platform by the ArtAround project has created an open-source inventory of DC public art, including murals.  Users can search by type of art, funding source, and location.

"Every Day I See Something New," by Cita Sadeli, Champlain Street NW

"Let's Meet at the Corner", artist Alicia Cosnahan, 13th St. and Park Rd. NW

"My DC" - Corner of 14th and Randolph Streets NW


Anonymous said...

Great article. Nice to know that there is an effort to keep public art alive amidst all of the condo development DC is experiencing

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