New Public Art Sources Local Talent, Draws Inspiration from Legendary Shaw Residents

By Phil Hutinet on June 16, 2015
Unveiling pre-party on P Street NW between 7th and 8th Street.  Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Unveiling party on P Street NW between 7th and 8th Streets. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

On Thursday, June 11, Roadside Development, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) and Shaw Main Streets unveiled Zachary Oxman’s Symphony in DC Major, a block-long public art piece located on the 800 block of P Street NW. Attended by over 300 people, the block-party style event featured live music and speeches from the developer, heads of city agencies and the artist.

Developer Richard Lake. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Developer Richard Lake. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

DC-based Roadside sought to rebuild the long abandoned O Street Market using a local architectural firm and to include public artwork as part of the new development. For the latter, Roadside turned to Shaw’s Long View Gallery to find a local artist capable of producing a major public commission. The result—the original O Street Market now houses a giant Grocery store in the old market building and Zachary Oxman’s piece adorns the backside of the development’s new construction. “Our goal was to commission a unique work of art that would honor, inspire and connect our community and its impressive historical roots,” said Richard Lake, Founding Partner of Roadside.

Artist Zachary Oxman. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Artist Zachary Oxman. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

In order to realize Symphony in DC Major, Shaw Main Streets’ Executive Director Alexander Padro applied for and successfully received a DCCAH Building Communities Grant for $100k which Roadside matched one-to-one with an additional $100K. Said Lisa Richards Toney, Acting Director of the DCCAH, “We have a developer who understands the arts. This is what our office dreams of!”

The unveiling of Alma Thomas. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
The unveiling of Alma Thomas. Images by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

Artist Zachary Oxman, a multigenerational DC-native, created a sculptural work which extends 125 feet along P Street NW and 16 feet above the sidewalk. Symphony in DC Major pays homage, from left to right, to three Shaw neighborhood legends—musician Edward “Duke” Ellington, abolitionist Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and Washington Color School artist Alma Thomas.

Ward 6 councilmember Charles Allen summarized the result of the collaboration deftly when he stated “We have a local architect, a local developer and a local artist yielding world-class results.”

Images of each famous Shaw resident follows:

Duke Ellington. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Duke Ellington. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Colonel Shaw. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Colonel Shaw. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Alma Thomas. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Alma Thomas. Image by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.