MuralsDC and local schoolchildren unveil new piece outside Ben's Chili Bowl
As part of the Murals DC Project, artist Aniekan Udofia and apprentice artists from the DC public school system recently completed a colorful and expressive mural of Bill Cosby, President Barack Obama, Chuck Brown and Donnie Simpson. Running along Ben Ali Way alley, the mural pops with bright colors and a streamlined, contemporary aesthetic. The realistic modeling was accomplished by first painting major facial features using latex paint, and then going over the details in aerosol, resulting in the 3D airbrushed feel. Bright blue halos surround the heads of these famed African-American leaders, their large-scale visages leaping from the brick and beckoning to passers-by. Several groups of people stopped to admire the ongoing painting while I spoke with the artist, standing back to take in the mural and discuss it with their friends. My favorite interaction occurred when an African-American gentleman, probably in his late 50s or early 60s, stopped to offer his admiration. He's lived in DC for a long time yet he had never seen these figures immortalized with such large-scale, joyful representations. He told us about how important Donnie Simpson was to the DC community during his tenure of host on DC's WPGC-FM Morning Show from 1993 - 2010, seeming surprised yet pleased that Simpson would make into the mural with the other greats. Eventually, he walked towards the street, barely able to take his eyes away. As he got into his car which was temporarily parked with it's flashers on - we realized he had been driving down U street, pulling over the minute he saw the mural to come check it out close up. This is exactly what DC needs - bright and beautiful public art, celebrating both sung and unsung heros close to the hearts of native Washingtonians, encouraging community ties across history, class and race. The message rings loud and clear: DC is very capable of shaking off the stoic and neoclassical to reveal the dynamically vibrant and culturally relevant. Murals DC has enabled this successful collaboration, bringing local businesses and civic leaders together with established and aspiring artists to create new Washington, DC landmarks which can and will elevate us towards a brighter future by their commendable aesthetic impact throughout the city.
Murals DC is a partnership between the District’s Department of Public Works, the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities, and Words Beats & Life Inc. Murals DC aims to help replace illegal graffiti with artistic works, to revitalize sites within the community, and to teach young people the art of aerosol painting. Check out http://www.muralsdcproject.com/ for more information on where to see the new city-wide murals, and how to get involved.
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