In March 2019, the DC Commission for Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) announced its funding for Charles Bergen, AIA, architect and sculptor, to complete his Callbox Project commission for the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID), in which he will restore and redesign nine of the historic police and fire callboxes in Downtown DC.
After a 22-year career as an architect, Charles Bergen switched his focus several years ago to sculpture. His public art commissions have included projects across Washington, DC, including in Barracks Row, Chinatown, Brookland. Like the Call Box Project, much of Bergen’s work is rooted in history, often revealing deep ties to the community in which it eventually resides.
In another DCCAH commission, Bergen recently restored six callboxes along DC’s Northeast Rhode Island Avenue, adding sculpted installations that illustrate the history of the neighborhood. For the DowntownDC BID, Bergen is profiling Josephine Butler, political activist; Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of The Washington Post; Julia Ward Howe, author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; Elizabeth Keckley, courturiere; Flora Molton, blues and gospel musician; Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, benefactor of the Washington City Orphan Asylum; Alice Paul, leader of the National Woman’s Party; Mary Church Terrell, civil rights activist; and Alma Thomas, artist. Bergen began last fall the work of refurbishing each callbox to celebrate one of these historic figures.
Washington is proud to be part of the growing trend to honor accomplished women in public art. New York’s Grand Central Station, for example, will soon have a statue to Elizabeth Jennings, the woman credited with integrating the New York mass transit system. DowntownDC and Bergen are thrilled to have the opportunity to pay tribute to nine of the countless women who have helped to shape the nation’s capital.
Funded by DCCAH and supported by the DowntownDC BID, the nine refurbished callboxes are located at 15th & L streets, Vermont Avenue & K Street, 14th & H streets, 13th & G streets (x2), 14th & G streets, 14th & F streets, 14th & E streets, and 14th Street & Pennsylvania Avenue. They are set to be fully completed in the Fall of 2019.
(via Charles Bergen Studios. Photo courtesy of Charles Bergen Studios.)