WASHINGTON’S MURALS AS SPECTACLE AND STORY
The contemporary mural movement came to Washington at the very end of the 1960s and early 1970s, when artists representing diverse traditions picked up on the vibrant energy that changed the cityscapes in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Like their models in other cities, Washington’s muralists brought art out of the galleries and into the streets, delighting residents and tourists alike.
Mural programs serve the needs of city planners to promote development and provide jobs for summer youth. Socially conscious murals have been joined by abstract and decorative art, quasi-advertisements, computer-generated images, and graffiti-inspired works (now known as “street art”). Iconic images such as John Bailey’s tribute to Marilyn Monroe at Connecticut and Calvert, N.W., and Byron Peck’s Duke Ellington at 13th and U Sts., N.W., create an enduring backdrop to the daily life lived behind—or perhaps beyond—the “Federal City.”
Our website (www.dcmurals.info) showcases the works of public art that dot every quadrant of the city. For the first time, viewers will be able to easily access a representative cross-section of the widely dispersed murals, grouped into five categories: (1) Beginnings; (2) The Greats; (3) Neighborhood Anchors; (4) Mural Graveyard; (5) New. The resource includes an interactive blog that we hope will become a lively forum for community comments and dialog.
Outdoor murals are perhaps the first “social media.” Each piece tells a story through its visual message; each mural also has a story, embodied in the details surrounding its purpose, sponsorship, execution, and meaning for the community. Individually and together, Washington’s outdoor murals offer a unique window into neighborhood and city history and life. This website aspires to make this rich oeuvre virtually available and provide background information to promote understanding and interpretation.
This project is a partnership with City Arts, Inc., a nonprofit educational resource founded by muralist G. Byron Peck in 1997. The Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities provided funding. Designer Judy Smith (Soleil Associates, Inc.) and web architect Susan La Mont constructed the site, which is still under development.
Scores of people and organizations, including the muralists themselves and their sponsors, contributed time, energy, and talent over the years to make this resource possible (see Credits page). I am also indebted to all of the living artists represented here for their permission to reproduce their work. Like the murals themselves, the site will be constantly changing and evolving; it is my hope that viewers will become part of this process, contributing images, information, and ideas.
Perry Frank, President
American Dreams & Associates, Inc.