New Mural Welcomes Visitors to Historic Anacostia

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Anacostia Mural Green Mural Tim Conlon Billy Colber on East City Art

Side view of the Anacostia Gateway Mural

The Anacostia Gateway Mural signals the beginning of critical mass in the redevelopment of Historic Anacostia. Located on the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE,  a new mural serves as the gateway to Historic Anacostia, depicting the history of the area and combining the unique stories of the diverse individuals within this vibrant East of the River community. DC Youth from DC Commission for the Arts and Humanity’s (DCCAH) Summer Youth Employment Program Media Arts Camp collaborated over a six-week period under the direction of two local artists, Tim Conlon and Billy Colbert, to create a mural concept. All materials from the project consist of reclaimed wood, recycled aluminum and organic moss, making it the first “Green” public art project in Washington, DC. The goal of the project was to create a community public art piece as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program. Youth worked in graphic design and digital rendering to plan the project and were exposed to screen printing and woodworking to implement the finished product.

Anacostia Mural Green Mural Tim Conlon Billy Colber on East City Art

Good Hope Road view of the mural. Note the hundreds of pieces of recylced wood put toghether to form the whole.

DCCAH and Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) held several community stakeholder roundtable discussions with residents and community leaders to discuss installing the temporary mural to remove the blight associated with the location while DHCD works to identify a redevelopment plan for the property. This initiative between these two government entities represents an innovative approach to using  art as builder of  community.

Anacostia Mural Green Mural Tim Conlon Billy Colber on East City Art

Artists Billy Colbert (left) and Tim Conlon (right) at the ribbon cutting ceremony held November 16, 2010. Photo courtesy of the DC Arts and Humanities Commission

During summer 2010, 100 youth from across DC worked with media arts organizations throughout the city in order to develop their skills in video, photography, radio, graphic design, and online media to aid local businesses in Anacostia. Youth produced short films, television commercials, a website, social media campaign, radio commercials, special events and fliers as part of the inaugural Media Arts Camp Program. This mural project is the product of local youth artists’ drive to create an artistic work based in the Anacostia community.

Anacostia Mural Green Mural Tim Conlon Billy Colber on East City Art

The gatway mural as seen from the corner of MLK Avenue and Good Hope Road SE.

East City Art caught up with artists Tim Conlon and Billy Colbert for their take on what went into creating this ground breaking piece of public art.  As with any public project in the District of Columbia, the Ward 8 Mural came with its series of time-consuming planning phases including community input addressed neighbor’s concerns over the course of several ANC meetings.  The original design went through several iterations before becoming a three dimensional mural spanning the corner of Historic Anacostia’s main intersection.  The original design called for a mural facing Good Hope Road SE but Colbert suggested wrapping it around the corner down Martin Luther King Avenue SE.  “To be creative is to be challenged. Art is problem solving” admitted Colbert.  Ultimately after settling on a community approved design the mural took on a sculptural quality.  Conlon described the task of painstakingly adding each piece of reused wood as a never-ending giant Jigsaw puzzle that tested the patience of all those involved in the building process.

Ultimately, the result is overwhelmingly positive.  In the end, Ward 8 has a publicly commissioned piece created through public participation, local youth programs and the vision of two of the areas leading local artists.  However, don’t wait to see this piece.  While it will welcome visitors crossing the Anacostia into Ward 8, the mural is slated as a temporary piece of work beautifying land that belongs to the DC Housing authority.  In two to three years, expect the vacant lot it hides to be filled in and the mural to be a memory of what is hopefully the beginning of a positive future for a culturally rich neighborhood filled with potential.

Editorial Team
Authored by: Editorial Team

Post provided by the East City Art Editorial Team.

There are 7 comments for this article
  1. AnacostiaYogi at 1:39 am

    Great use of collaborative, ecological and youthful creative energy. Hopefully this will be the first of many mural projects around Anacostia. Thanks for the story!


  2. corina at 11:10 pm

    We love seeing this mural every time we cross the bridge – what an interesting backstory. Thanks for posting it.

    I love that it’s the first Green art project in DC!

  3. free at 1:30 pm

    It’s nice. It’s interesting looking-especially compared to what was there. But it had nothing to do with the community. Let’s be honest. There was no community input. It was the usual. Outsiders, whites, and token black artist and inner city youth.
    I’m fine with taking vacant spots and making something good out of it. But don’t pretend this is about the residents. It’s about gentrification and the usual pretentions of helping the community by getiing some black kids to take pictures or put paint on a wall. In 10 years, these same kids (and the “community” will be moved out.
    Please don’t insult me by calling me ignorant or a conspiracy theorist, or somehow backward. I’m just calling for honesty.
    Going thru the motions of art-community projects to benefit diversity….blah…blah…is the way gentrifiers get the ball rolling. And everybody knows that more whites (as non-profiteers, artists, etc) benefited from this project than blacks in the community.
    JUST TAKE ANACOSTIA. JUST WALK IN(AS WHITES) A PUT UP YOU ARTWORK AND “GREEN” CRAP. And man up- so to speak- at the response. Don’t play this “we’re here for the community”game. It’s so old and tired.

  4. free at 1:45 pm

    Let me add, that I want change East of the River and agree that quite a few of its lifetime or generational residents are the cause of the areas (post civil rights) downturn.
    But as a regular black person, I’m just sick of being forced out by ghetto blacks (whose invite crime,bring drugs, and vandalize/litter neighborhoods into “hoods”)
    OR artsy,bourgeois-liberal whites (who price people out, bring not so liberal whites in, then start neighborhood associations and rules that crush vibrancy)

    • Not Free at 12:42 am

      People in Seattle are spoiled. This is a dope mural. Appreciate what you have. I’m stuck in the rust belt. It’s easy to knock something, rather than build something yourself.

      • Editorial Team
        Editorial Team Author at 4:06 pm

        Not Free, FYI, this mural WAS in DC, not Seattle. Unfortunately it was torn down without the consent of the artists. The site is now awaiting another public art piece.

  5. Nancy S. Aldridge at 1:02 am

    Hi. I am a white person who lives in a predominantly black neighborhood in Maryland. Yes, I’m an artsy type of person who would truly love to just make the neighborhood more pleasing to the eye. I respect that this is YOUR neighborhood, and I would even be interested and able to go around and talk to the people in the neighborhood to find out what they might like to see painted on the walls in their immediate environment.
    Don’t worry, I won’t invite my other white friends who aren’t so liberally minded as me, and please don’t write me off just ’cause I am white, I just want to create some art and have some fun.
    Nancy Aldridge

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