The National Building Museum, in partnership with the P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute and the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID), is pleased to present Murals That Matter: Activism Through Public Art. Located on the Museum’s west lawn (5th Street NW, between F and G streets), the exhibition features D.C. street art created earlier this summer in response to social justice protests in the nation’s capital and elsewhere. The murals speak to the impact that art can have on the built environment as well as the nation’s urgent need for dialogue and reflection.
“Protest murals reflect the intersection of art and politics, a tradition as old as prehistoric cave drawings and as current as Banksy’s graffiti,” said Brent Glass, Interim Executive Director of the Museum. “The National Building Museum welcomes our partners, the DowntownDC BID and P.A.I.N.T.S., in this timely exhibition.”
Established in 2016, the P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute is a D.C.-based STEM+Arts educational nonprofit that provides interactive and engaging programming and activities to youth in underserved communities. (The organization’s acronym stands for “Providing Artists with Inspiration in Non-Traditional Settings.”) “To paraphrase a colleague, ‘this year has presented challenges for everyone, from pandemic to protests to elections—our very own PPE,’” said John Chisholm, Executive Director. “So now to have the opportunity, as artists, to voice the emotions, feelings, and sentiments of a nation in an illustrative manner means a lot to us. I’m proudest of the fact that this opportunity has provided a platform for diverse artists to share their stories and make a call for positive, inclusive changes.”
To coincide with 2020 March on Washington events, Murals That Matter will open on Friday, August 28, 2020, at 9:00 am. The exhibition comprises both existing and newly created artwork that will be on display through late November.
Gallery Place Murals: In June 2020, amid an unprecedented global pandemic, protesters took to the streets of Washington, D.C., in response to the murder of George Floyd—and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. To capture the historic moment, the DowntownDC BID worked with the P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute to commission dozens of murals for boarded-up storefronts. The public experience of these plywood barriers, now reframed through vibrant art, shifted from “stay away” to “come look.” The Gallery Place neighborhood was transformed with artworks that expressed love, unity, and hope; that spoke to racial injustice and societal inequities; and that proclaimed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Murals That Matter displays 18 of those murals.
“The DowntownDC Business Improvement District is committed to supporting inclusive and welcoming places for all who live, work, and play in DowntownDC,” said Neil Albert, the BID’s President and Executive Director. “Our effort to create these murals offered our community, businesses, and artists needed support during a challenging and historic time. We are now thrilled to be joining the National Building Museum and the P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute to further amplify this exhibit and share this historic moment and show new audiences the meaning of ‘DowntownDC Resilient.’”
The Big Six: In a celebration of the life and legacy of the late Rep. John Lewis, a towering figure of the Civil Rights movement, six artists will create murals commemorating the members of the “Big Six” who organized the original March on Washington in 1963: John Lewis, Chairman, Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee; Whitney Young, National Director, Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, President, Negro American Labor Council; Martin Luther King Jr., President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference; James Farmer, Director, Congress of Racial Equality; and Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People These murals, painted live on August 28 and 29, will be added to the exhibition upon completion.
The public is invited to join the Museum, the P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute, and the DowntownDC BID on Friday, August 28, and Saturday, August 29, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, for two days of reflection, activism, and enjoyment for everyone. See the murals and meet their creators; watch artists at work; register to vote or volunteer at a polling place; partake in family-friendly art activities; and enjoy “Good Trouble”–themed cuisine from local vendors. We ask that all attendees comply with both D.C. Government and CDC guidelines regarding masks and social distancing. Thank you for your cooperation.
In September, the Museum will host a Murals That Matter discussion on both the Gallery Place Murals as well as the larger role and importance of art in the public realm. Panelists will include Chisholm of the P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute; Tim Wright of Attucks Adams, a D.C.-based history tour organization; and others. More information about the event will be shared once the program is finalized.
“It’s not often that the National Building Museum has the opportunity to showcase temporary pieces of the built environment, essentially in real time,” said Cathy Crane Frankel, Vice President for Exhibitions and Collections. “The emotions these murals convey, and the voices they represent, are important and necessary contributions to the nation’s ongoing conversation about equity and justice. The Museum is honored to have the opportunity to expand their impact.”
Gallery Place Murals
The Big Six