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DC Mural, "From a Model to a Rainbow"

DC Art Walk

A Self-Guided Tour

Going for a walk has grown popular since we began self-isolating in mid-March. Now, as the summer heat gives way to cooler autumn days, walking once again affords us a great opportunity to learn something new about our neighborhoods—or visit new ones. 

Significant art historical sites abound in neighborhoods throughout the District. There are many places to see works of art outdoors—and not only at the Gallery’s reopened Sculpture Garden. 

Sam Gilliam’s mosaic mural From a Model to a Rainbow, funded by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ active public art program, graces the Takoma Metro station at 327 Cedar Street NW. The darkened underside of Metro tracks might seem an unusual spot for a monumental mural by a renowned artist, but Gilliam embraced the location. “I wanted to make a work that is part of its environment yet changes that environment. A work filled with color and light,” he remarked. This mural really catches the eye, bringing vibrant color and life to a stark, gray wall, transforming the space along Cedar Street, underneath the rattling train tracks.

Sam Gilliam, From a Model to a Rainbow. Photo by art around is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

The mural recalls Gilliam’s earlier drape paintings, such as Relative (1963) in the Gallery’s collection. I admire how Gilliam transformed one of his signature techniques—areas of color that appear folded, bunched, and gathered like drapery—then flattened the form to fit within the two-dimensional bounds of a wall mural.

DC’s neighborhoods are sometimes described as homogenous, without the character of cities like New York and San Francisco. But there is so much to uncover and learn here! Check out these programs hosted by Ray Barker, archivist of special collections at the DC Public Library, and visit the many murals sponsored by the Murals DC project.

And use these points of interest to curate your own art walks. You will see that our city has much to offer beyond the monuments and museums. Happy exploring!

Frederick Douglass Residence

1411 W Street SE

Lois Mailou Jones Residence

1220 Quincy Street NE

Bearing Witness by Martin Puryear

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Langston Hughes Residence

1749 S Street NW

Washington Workshop Center for the Arts (Walsh-McLean House)

2020 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Scurlock Studio

900 U Street NW

Scurlock Residence

1202 T Street NW

Evans-Tibbs Residence

1910 Vermont Avenue NW

Duke Ellington Residence

1805 13th Street NW

Howard University Art Gallery

2455 6th Street NW

Barnett Aden Gallery

127 Randolph Place NW

Alma Thomas Residence

1530 15th Street NW


Frederick Douglass Residence, 1411 W Street SE

In this lecture, Sarah Cash, associate curator, department of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art, and Ka’mal McClarin, museum curator, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Collection, National Park Service, discuss Frederick Douglass and the arts in Washington.


Lois Mailou Jones Residence, 1220 Quincy Street NE

Lois Mailou Jones hosted the “Little Paris Group” artists’ collective here, which included Jacob Lawrence and Alma Thomas. In addition to being a highly accomplished artist, Jones was a professor in the fine arts department at Howard University. Her students included David Driskell (who is being honored in this year’s John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art), Elizabeth Catlett, and Sylvia Snowden.


Bearing Witness by Martin Puryear, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Martin Puryear grew up in the District’s Southwest neighborhood and studied painting at Catholic University.

Dupont Circle

Langston Hughes Residence, 1749 S Street NW

Langston Hughes, a leader of the Harlem Renaissance and one of the great American writers of the 20th century, published his first book of poems while living in DC.

Gordon Parks, Langston Hughes, Chicago, December 1941, gelatin silver print, Avalon Fund, 2019.17.1

Washington Workshop Center for the Arts (Walsh-McLean House), 2020 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Founded by artist Leon Berkowitz and his wife Ida, the center was on the fourth floor of the Walsh-McLean House (now the Indonesian Embassy).

Greater U Street

Scurlock Studio, 900 U Street NW

Scurlock Residence, 1202 T Street NW

Addison Scurlock opened his studio in 1911 in the heart of DC’s Black theater district. He became the preeminent photographer of African Americans in the nation’s capital.

Evans-Tibbs Residence, 1910 Vermont Avenue NW

Works in the Gallery’s collection from the Evans-Tibbs Collection were a gift of Thurlow Evans Tibbs Jr.

Evans-Tibbs House, Front Entrance, ID: 3663, Source: DC Preservation League Photo Repository, Creator: NPS HABS Survey

Duke Ellington Residence, 1805 13th Street NW

Duke Ellington, a DC native, was writing original music in his early teens. He credits listening to music at Frank Holliday’s Pool Hall with sparking his interest in the piano.

Pleasant Plains

Howard University Art Gallery, 2455 6th Street NW

James Amos Porter was director of the Howard University Art Gallery from 1953 to 1970 and professor of fine arts at Howard University.

LeDroit Park

Barnett Aden Gallery, 127 Randolph Place NW

DC native Elizabeth Catlett’s The Negro Woman series, later titled The Black Woman in America, was exhibited at the Barnett Aden Gallery in 1947. Sherri Williams discusses this series in her recent blog post.

Logan Circle

Alma Thomas Residence, 1530 15th Street NW

These photographs capture Alma Thomas’s garden, a constant source of inspiration for her paintings, such as Pansies in Washington (1969).