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.
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
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.
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.
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
Duke Ellington Residence, 1805 13th Street NW
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.
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.
Alma Thomas Residence, 1530 15th Street NW