Famed Los Angeles-based French street artist Mr. Brainwash recently painted an awesome mural on the wall of Union Market (read more about it here) and was quoted saying that he’d be back in the District because “Washington, D.C. needs it,” having so many “blank walls that could have messages for people to see life more beautifully.” Well, right now, a couple of blank walls in NoMa are getting some graffiti love as part of Pow! Wow! DC, a week long art festival. Most of the murals are still works in progress at this time, and Thursday night, I joined a (rather large) group of street art loving peeps for a walking tour of the neighbourhood led by local artist Kelly Towles who’s been spearheading Pow! Wow! here in the District.
There are 17 artists currently working on 7 walls, many collaboratively. From the Lobby Project at 1200 first street NE we walked over to what looked like a shack on M to hear about how Pow! Wow! came to the city. and to see the first piece, painted by Pow Wow Worldwide director Jeff Gress and appropriately themed for the city.
This DC themed mural is the work of Jeff Gress from Hawaii
From there, it wasn’t far until the next wall, the Crucible Wall by Cory Oberndorfer (a.ka. Sweet Uncle Cory) at 16 M Street NE. Why the Crucible you ask? Well, that was the name of the alternate lifestyles/BDSM Private Club that used to be in that building… The club closed down recently (though it’s searching for a new home apparently) and the whole thing will be torn down soon so I wouldn’t wait too long to go check out Cory’s mural if I were you.
Kelly Towles explains the history behind the Crucible Wall in NoMa
Just around the corner from the Crucible Wall at 42 Patterson Street NE is a large, colourful wall that was practically done by the time we saw it. Dave Persue (pictured below telling us about the piece) collaborated with Yok & Sheryo on this homage to Washington, complete with historical figures like president Lincoln and a tribute to standout D.C. graffiti artist Cool “Disco” Dan (Dan Hogg).
My absolute favourite wall was the absolutely trippy work done to the old Ibiza nightclub by Douglas Hoekzema aka HOXXOH. I cannot wait to see the final wall! It’s right on First Street (1222 First Street NE) and I’m petty sure that very soon it’s going to pop up ALL over my instagram feed. Check it out:
Douglas Hoekzema aka HOXXOH is a Miami based artist known for his striking murals that seem to mix art and science
The next wall was just as striking but for completely different reason. It’s the tallest of all the murals that have come up as part of Pow! Wow! DC and uses a captivating bright pink-purple hue that’s impossible to miss. Drew Merritt and camera shy London based artist INSA teamed up for this beautiful large scale portrait.
#IfIWasYourGirlfriend collaborative wall by Drew Merritt + INSA at 41 New York Ave NE
The next two walls were a little further away, closer to the tunnel you go under to get to Union Market. There’s a companion piece to the No Kings Collective mural at the Colonel apartments in Shaw, made with old go-go posters, coming up at the new Elevation @ Washington Gateway building. And then there’s a bunch of different pieces coming up on a section of the 900-foot Metro Branch Trail wall. Local artists Decoydc, Matt Corrado, OneEightyOne (pictured hard at work below) and Jacob Eveland were hard at work on different sections of the wall when we walked by. I’ll definitely go back and take more pictures of all the different parts once they are completed!
Finally, there were a couple of smaller scale pieces that weren’t included on the walk. Puerto Rican artist Vero Rivera is working on a cool illustration behind the 52 O Street Studios. There’s also a Yoda themed garage door mural by Wooden Wave that I didn’t get to see (yet!) We did make one last stop to see two final pieces a little tucked away from the other ones, on walls above a parking lot at 1215 3rd Street NE.
I love a girl who can rock a wall, and Hong Kong based Caranotoes is doing just that!
Caranotoes from Hong Kong talking about her mural at 3rd street NE
Right next to her wall, DC-Based Artist Naturel is working on perhaps one of the most political piece of the lot. Artists participating in Pow! Wow! DC were specifically asked to refrain from controversial topics since there was quite a bureaucratic process involved in getting authorization from the city to use the walls, etc. He’s currently working on his interpretation of the upcoming Harriet Tubman $20 bill, which is more of a political statement than a political controversy.
Are you as excited as I am about all these new murals in NoMa? Washington hasn’t had a large scale murals festival, yet, and I loved that Pow! Wow! DC brought in some international muralists from all over the world, while still showcasing some of the best local street artists from around the DMV. As I mentioned, most of the pieces I saw on Thursday, May 26, were still work in progress and if you want to check out the final works, there will be one more artist-led organized happy hour and walk on June 2nd. You can also do your own walk by using the Pow! Wow! DC map on NoMa Bid’s website. I know I will as soon as I’m back from Los Angeles in a few weeks!