Working in a new city is exciting. There are restaurants to try, neighborhoods to explore and street art to discover! The endless possibilities and newness around every corner is thrilling to me and I’ve said yes to every opportunity to wander through DC and soak it all up!
One of the things I’ve been very interested in, and its a shock to no one, is the street art of Washington DC. There are so many stunning murals, pockets of graffiti and stickers spread throughout the city by famous artists and up and coming artists. I’ve been building a Google Map of all the major murals I wanted to see with my own eyes knowing that where there is art, there is more art. Finding a single mural is great, but the chances of more spray paint covered walls around it is pretty high!
Saturday I spent the afternoon with my co-worker and friend Kerry exploring NoMa (named for its location North of Massachusetts Ave). We planned to grab lunch at Union Market (a food hall with individuals stalls that hold a wide range of vendors including noodles, Mediterranean eats, Korean BBQ and beyond) and wander the streets looking for murals.
The last time I had been in NoMa and specifically Union Market was in 2013. I was visiting with my boyfriend at the time because Fatty Sundays was doing a pop-up and I wanted a PB&J pretzel. Things have changed since I was last there! Gallaudet University has taken over across the street and well known shops are taking over the old market as well. I was so surprised at how much had changed in just a few short years.
When Kerry and I rounded the corner of 5th Street to look at the new shops on the West side of Union Market we were surprised to be able to physically see the line of gentrification of that area. Politics and Prose was a major standout while the rest of the shops seemed to be under construction, however, there was a distinct line where the smaller farmer market style shops stopped and the upscale stores and revitalization began. While I don’t disagree that this area should have those amenities- I’ve never seen such an intense change happening before my eyes.
I thought about this a lot while soaking in all the street art around us. The juxtaposition of dilapidated buildings with their gray and brown tones and street art filled with bright colors is so appealing to me. There is already an immense beauty in those old buildings with broken windows, intricate metal work and aging brick walls, so to add color in such a unique and thoughtful way creates the perfect storm of perfection.
When those buildings are torn down for grocery stores and shops the history is lost as well as the art. I didn’t expect the day to take such a heavy turn, we were just searching for street art after all, but it made me appreciate what we found that much more because who knows if it’ll be there when I return. In it’s place may be a huge building wide mural by a famous street artist which I’m ok with, but I love the small little guys too.
We went in search of the famous heart wall at Union Market by Mr.Brainwash, the hot pink Zebra wall and a George Washington mural by MADSTEEZ. While we never found the GW piece, we found so many other amazing murals including one I had on my radar, but couldn’t find the address for!
Kerry and I had a fantastic afternoon wandering a new to me part of Washington DC, talking about the history of the area, what street art means to each of us and how it makes us feel. After such a great couple of hours with her I was left feeling rejuvenated. In a world where negativity seems to be lurking around every corner, it was exactly what I needed.