When I first started planning my trip to Washington DC, one of the many things I had on my Must-Do list was urban art hunting and I must say that DC did not disappoint in that department.
The quality of street art you encounter once you venture outside of the downtown area, where everything is so pristine and well preserved is amazing. I was in awe of the level of artistry, the colors and the stories behind most of these murals. I try not to ever use the word regret for I’m a firm believer in the theory that everything happens for a reason. But if there is one thing I wish I’d spent more time doing while in the US Nation’s capital is Chasing Murals.
Living Timeline: Paul Robeson by Cory Stowers, Andy Katz, and Nessar Jahanbin
Paul Robeson was a singer and an actor who became involved with the civil rights movement. U-street is home to many murals, street art and graffiti including this homage to the great Paul Robeson. Robeson’s quote, “I make no distinction between my work as an artist and my life as a human being” is prominently displayed between portraits of the different stages of his life.
Homage to Marylin Monroe by John Bailey
Right on the intersection between Connecticut Ave and Calvert street and just a few meters from the Woodley Park Metro station is a beautiful mural of the beautiful and beloved Marylin Monroe. I almost missed it since it is on top of a Chipotle Restaurant and quite hidden if you are not standing in the right spot.
Gagged Washington by Aniekan Oudofia and Liz Brown
Probably one of the most commercially and known political murals in DC is that of a gagged George Washington located on U street NW. I searched for this mural during the day without luck until the taxi I was in one faithful evening drove right passed it. I almost caused an accident when I yelled for the taxi to stop immediately, jumped out of the cab like a crazy person and attempted to get a decent shot of this magnificent piece. I apologize for the bad quality. This deserves a do-over, which I intend to do one day.
The Alchemy of Ben Ali by Eric B and the Ben’s Chili Bowl Mural by Aniekan Oudofia
Another one of my finds that night was the Alchemy of Ben Ali mural located next door to the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl Restaurant, named after its founder Ben Ali. Apparently Ben’s Chili Bowl is a must-try for anyone visiting DC and I had all intentions to, I swear but I very much doubt I was going to get a vegetarian version of the famous dish.
On the side wall of Ben’s Chili Bowl is a famous or rather infamous mural of the different DC legends that have visited this restaurant. I call it infamous because next to musician and godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown, Radio host Donnie Simpson and president Obama there is the face of now disgraced comedian and actor Bill Cosby. There is quite a controversy about Bill being part of this mural as you can imagine and his face was even at one point replaced with the face of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in protest. President Obama and Bill Cosby, by the way are the only celebrities allowed to eat for free at Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Un Pueblo sin Murales… by Carlos Salazar and Felipe Martinez in 1973 and restored by Juan Pineda and Horacio Quintanilla in 2005
Un Pueblo sin Morales means A people with no murals and this murals is also known as the Adams Morgan Mural for its location or the Riggs Mural.
Afro-Colombian Mural: Currulao y Desplazamiento by Joel Bergner
This public mural located on U street celebrates the Afro-Colombian culture of the district while increasing awareness about the displacement and other human rights violations related to the armed conflict in Colombia. The picture does not do it justice, neither does it show the immensity of this mural. It is huge and the story it tells, disturbing.
The Red Hair Woman of Adams Morgan by Charlie Hababananda
This mural is actually an advertisement for the restaurant called Madams Organs, a clear play on the letters spelling Adams Morgan.
Presidential Mural by Karla Cecilia Rodas Cortez
Another advertisement for a restaurant, this time for Mama Ayesha’s Restaurant. That is mama Ayesha herself there in the middle, I guess.
Untitled by James Bullough
I first learned about this mural on Instagram while doing some research for my trip to DC. I knew I had to see it for myself and I was blown away when I finally did. This is by far the most beautiful mural I have ever seen. I was, and still am in awe of the artistry of Mr. Bullough. This untitled piece is by far the highlight of my Chasing Murals expedition and I dare say that James Bullough is now one of my favorite artists. I cannot wait to see more of his work.
The murals I had the pleasure of photographing are but a fraction of the urban art pieces scattered all over DC. Some have been there for years, others not so long. Some pieces can be perceived as controversial and others are quite soothing. All have a story to tell, all are unique in their own way and all, I mean all are magnificent.
Check out the DC Murals website for more information on mural locations in the city as well as new and upcoming DC street art.
Live, Laugh and Travel often.