| PUBLIC ART |
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.
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.
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.
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.