Legal graffiti artists create murals around Washington, D.C. as past of MuralsDC

Through the MuralsDC program, legal graffiti artists have partnered with local youth groups to create vibrant, thought-provoking and contemporary works around the city.
By Ann Cameron Siegal
Friday, January 15, 2010

Art lovers, meet the city's legal graffiti initiative, a program responsible for the creation of 20 of Washington's most vibrant, thought-provoking and contemporary outdoor works.

The colors are so vivid, the shapes so interesting that it's almost beside the point that the artistry of these murals has an ulterior motive. MuralsDC began in 2007 as a publicly funded program designed to channel youthful destructive energies into positive forces throughout the District. The project is guided by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the city's public works department and Midnight Forum -- a community-based, hip-hop youth development arts program.

Artists partner with local youth groups to reflect the positive culture and history of surrounding neighborhoods. Designs, devoid of political or commercial themes, are a collaborative effort among residents, businesses and artists. Student apprentices help research the area and prepare the site. They then are coached in various painting techniques and improving upon those used by illegal graffiti artists.

Mika Altskan, 17, a student at Woodrow Wilson High School, has been working with Albus Cavus, an artist collective, since July. "I used to try to do street art, but after I had a run-in with the police I started to mainly do photography," he said. "I now take pictures for Albus Cavus, and I help paint the murals as well. Albus Cavus is a way that I can create public art but not get in trouble for it." In addition, he meets artists he has admired for years and gets invited to art events around the city.

Altskan recently joined the Young Inventors Club under the umbrella of Albus Cavus. "We are working on creating interactive LED lights to illuminate the murals," he said.

MuralsDC projects dot formerly blighted walls around the city. As you're out and about, take a moment to soak in art that not only reflects -- but also builds -- community.

Walter Pierce Park

2630 Adams Mill Rd. NW

Artist: Aniekan Udofia, partnered with Adams Morgan Youth Leadership Academy

Both sides of the long, low wall have been adorned with lively scenes signifying movement in the park and beyond. Birds soaring from a globe represent people fleeing their native lands in search of better lives, says artist Aniekan Udofia, a native Washingtonian. A young girl blowing bubbles as a cartoonish pup bounds happily along seems to beckon onlookers to run, jump and play.


600 Alabama Ave. SE

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