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New murals sprout across DC

DC is awash in murals. Four new murals recently went up as part of an arts festival sponsored by Heineken. Ward 7 residents banded together to give a beloved restaurant a mural. And a filmmaker's making a documentary about what murals mean to DC's culture.

Design for a mural at Thai Orchid in Ward 7. Image from MuralsDC.

Located on Pennsylvania Avenue SE just east of the Anacostia River, Thai Orchid is the sole sit-down restaurant on a block with a beauty supply store, liquor store, and empty storefronts. Opened in 2010, the locally-owned spot quickly became a local gathering spot. On her blog Life in the Village, Veronica Davis raved about the food, while commenters expressed excitement that they could eat out without crossing the river.

To say "thank you," neighbors want to beautify Thai Orchid and its block with a mural.

It's a testament to a business that took a chance on Ward 7 and represents a continuing commitment to local businesses. Supporters applied for funding from MuralsDC, a partnership between the DC Department of Public Works, the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities, and nonprofit group Words Beats & Life that uses street art to enliven neighborhoods and combat graffiti.

They had commissioned an artist to create the mural, but a small group of residents put a halt to the project, arguing that District funds should be used for more worthy causes. Now, the community is raising money to move forward with the mural without public help.

But murals are still going up elsewhere in DC. Working with MuralsDC, Dutch brewing company Heineken sponsored four murals in Shaw and NoMa and installed them last month. It's part of a larger series of murals Heineken commissioned in Atlanta and Miami. The DC installation coincided with the G40 Art Summit, a street art festival sponsored by the Art Whino gallery in National Harbor.

One of the Heineken murals. Photo by Lewis Francis used with permission.

It makes sense that Heineken chose DC as a location, with its long history of murals celebrating its African American and Latino communities. Filmmaker Caitlin Carroll was so inspired by the city's mural culture that she started working on a documentary about it called Painted City.

The film features art historian Perry Frank, who documents murals both past and present, and includes stories about murals that have been lost, highlighting the art's fleeting nature. Community pride and beautification is a recurring theme in the documentary, and Carroll also highlights the work of local artists who work with residents and kids to beautify their neighborhoods.

Murals, along with public art in general, can let communities show neighborhood pride, inspire others, and provide hope. In an area struggling with unemployment, poverty, and crime, residents see art as a way to uplift and inspire.

As Carroll notes, "Every mural has a story." The stories often have an end as murals disappear due to new development or get damaged in building repairs. But even in their temporary nature, they still serve as a form of community expression.

Abigail Zenner, is a former lobbyist turned communications specialist. She specializes in taking technical urban planning jargon and turning it into readable blog posts. When she's not nerding out about urban planning, transportation, and American History, you may find her teaching a fitness class. Her blog posts represent her personal views only. 


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In other news, the DC voting rights mural of the White House in Adams Morgan has been shamefully painted over

by Dan on Nov 13, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

Serendipitously, there is a free event tonight honoring "graffiti-style" murals installed during the 2013 season at the Renaissance Dupont Circle Hotel, 1143 New Hampshire Ave., NW. 6-9 -- more info at

by Lewis Francis on Nov 13, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

Next spring I will be adding to the mural frenzy with a little one on the steps on W Pl. here in Glover Park! Hope folks will come out to see me work!

by Jarrett on Nov 14, 2013 6:56 am • linkreport

Thai Orchid is the best! Will look forward to seeing this mural on our regular carry out runs. We love having them in the community.

by Jamie on Nov 14, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

Check out City Arts at They have a new one in China Town.

by Tom Egly on Nov 14, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

The anti-mural forces in Ward 7 sound suspiciously similar to people who say there should be no new bike lanes on roads until every cyclist does not even come close to breaking any rules for at least 4 years.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Nov 17, 2013 7:21 pm • linkreport

The people of the latino blog Hola Cultura are doing an excelent job documenting history's Latino DC mural. They have a map and everything. Congratulations to all the muralist on the city capital!

by Helen Montserrat on Sep 16, 2014 7:11 pm • linkreport

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