Udofia stood in a cherry picker, which is a metal bin attached to a motorized arm that could lift him up and down so he could reach his art, four stories high. He had sketched, or drawn, on the wall earlier, and now he was filling in his creation with bright colors.
“All I want people to do is stop and look at it,” said Mutafa, gazing at the picture of a very strong, confident woman in a colorful dress of purple, green and blue, holding an oversize orange pencil with two hands. “Wake up out of your slumber and look at it,” he said of the wall. “It’s less about what you think. It’s more that you think.”
Mutafa and Udofia are part of MuralsDC, an organization started in 2007 that is dedicated to what is called public art — that’s art outside on walls or in parks that everyone can look at as they walk by. MuralsDC replaces illegal graffiti, which is done without the permission of neighbors and building owners, with legal art that is created with approval.
There are 43 murals like Udofia’s in the city because of MuralsDC, and Udofia’s newest work, which took him about a week to complete, is the organization’s first of six murals that are scheduled to be painted in the next month. (Udofia is well known for his mural on the wall of the Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant in Northwest. The painting includes a picture of President Obama.) This week, artists Daniel Roncesvalles and Justin Poppe will start a new mural at 2921 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast. Another mural by artist Cecilia Lueza will take shape soon at Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School at 1375 Missouri Avenue in Northwest.
“I like to finish the work, step back and see people’s reaction,” Udofia, 37, said while taking a break from his work at 312 Florida Avenue Northwest. His newest mural is part of a series, or group of paintings with a common theme, called “Reloaded.”
“It’s supposed to inspire creativity,” Udofia said, looking at the woman on the wall. “Her pencil is her weapon of choice.” According to Udofia, she is meant to inspire people to be as confident as she is in finding their own creative voices.
The bright colors Udofia chose for her dress and background are to draw in people walking by and get them thinking. “A group of people [could] come and see this mural and like it for 50 different reasons,” he said.
Someone may like the way she holds her head high. Someone may like the half-circles behind her that look like butterfly wings. Someone else may like the large pencil because it symbolizes the power of words.