New Murals in Washington, D.C.

Mural by Meaghan Toohey © Meaghan Toohey, Photo: Mike Maguire
Colorful and highly political — this is how street art in the District’s diverse neighborhoods is setting itself apart today. These new murals are bright, loud, and visualize the current socio-political atmosphere in Washington and the United States as a whole. These works address recent political protests, depicting those whose voices have been silenced for far too long and their struggle for social justice. In this way, the city’s walls grant viewers a glimpse beneath the surface of the U.S.’s polarized capital.
 

 

We Are Anacostia

  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle
  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle
  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle
  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle
  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle
  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle
  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle
  • “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle © Luis Peralta Del Valle, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “We Are Anacostia” by Luis Peralta Del Valle

“We Are Anacostia” is the title of a new, 200-foot-long mural located in the D.C. neighborhood of the same name. The artwork’s title stands prominently in white text and all caps against a sky blue background. It almost seems like an exclamation that needs to be heard: “Here we are — the people of Anacostia! Look at us!” People of different ages appear among the eye-catching words. The artist Luis Peralta Del Valle, who was inspired by Anacostia’s community, portrays residents along a timeline. Children hold pieces of technology alongside historical figures. The artwork also shows a young couple bearing an explicit message: “Don’t mute us. Housing for us matters,” reads the poster in front of them. “We Are Anacostia” also features prominent D.C. citizens like Marion Barry and Frederick Douglass who shaped Anacostia’s history. The piece takes its viewers on a journey back in time, demonstrating that the community has long called attention to critical issues about social justice and affordable housing — and they are still waiting for a solution.
 

 

Lifting as We Climb

“Lifting as We climb” by Cita Sadeli, aka Miss Chelove “Lifting as We climb” by Cita Sadeli, aka Miss Chelove | © Cita Sadeli aka Miss Chelove, Photo: Mike Maguire

The new street art in D.C.’s Ward 8, on the other hand, is dedicated to a completely different topic. The mural celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with an installation of three paintings created by three women of color. The artists used purple and gold, the colors of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, for the piece. But this scene depicts more than meets the eye — it acknowledges that the 19th Amendment allowed white women to vote beginning in 1920, but Black women continued to face obstacles for years to come. Although women of color were part of the movement, many only received the right to vote in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. According to The Washington Post, people of color still experience difficulties voting today due to hindrances like long lines and wait times at polling stations. 
 

CROWN Act

  • “CROWN Act” by Candice Taylor © Candice Taylor, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “CROWN Act” by Candice Taylor
  • “CROWN Act” by Candice Taylor 2 © Candice Taylor, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “CROWN Act” by Candice Taylor
Ever heard of the CROWN Act? The law was created in 2019 to end hair discrimination in the United States in the workplace and public schools. While it seems unbelievable that a law like this needs to exist at all, it has met resistance and only passed in 13 states thus far. Under the CROWN Act, the law guarantees the protection of different hair textures and styles, including braids, curls, twists, and knots. This is exactly what the mural “CROWN Act” by Candice Taylor is all about. The artwork is located at Busboys and Poets in Anacostia, a company built largely by Black women who also make up a considerable portion of the business’s workforce. The portrait clearly illustrates that these hairstyles do not hinder professional performance. Nonetheless, Black bodies and hairstyles have experienced highly problematic discrimination in many institutions across the United States, both historically and in the present day.
 

 

Go-Go City

“Go-Go City” by Kaliq Crosby © Kaliq Crosby, Photo: Mike Maguire One of the most colorful pieces of street art in the city resides in the Shaw neighborhood, where a battle over music and culture once brewed. It pays homage to the Junk Yard Band, the Soul Searchers, and other legendary groups that helped create go-go music and the culture that goes along with it. Artist Kaliq Crosby sprayed this creation on the wall of an expensive mixed-use building located across the street from a shop known for blasting go-go music. The mural is the response to an alleged noise complaint from a resident. This conflict triggered a whole social movement. On several evenings, residents gathered to protest and dance — to go-go music, of course. According to the organizers, a petition to bring the music back received more than 80,000 signatures from 94 countries and all 50 states. Many saw the complaint as a result of newcomers crowding out native Washingtonians and suppressing the local culture.
 

 

D.C. Walls Festival 

  • A.L. Grime, aka Ally Grimm Photo: Mike Maguire
    A.L. Grime, aka Ally Grimm
  • Mural by A.L. Grime, aka Ally Grimm © A.L. Grime aka Ally Grimm, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by A.L. Grime, aka Ally Grimm
  • Jeremiah Edwards Photo: Mike Maguire
    Jeremiah Edwards
  • “Doodle Grid” by Jeremiah Edwards © Jeremiah Edwards, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “Doodle Grid” by Jeremiah Edwards
  • “Doodle Grid” by Jeremiah Edwards © Jeremiah Edwards, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “Doodle Grid” by Jeremiah Edwards
  • “Doodle Grid” by Jeremiah Edwards © Jeremiah Edwards, Photo: Mike Maguire
    “Doodle Grid” by Jeremiah Edwards
  • Mural by Kimchi Juice, aka Julia Chon © Kimchi Juice, aka Julia Chon, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Kimchi Juice, aka Julia Chon
  • Mural by Clarence James © Clarence James, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Clarence James
  • Mural by Clarence James © Clarence James, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Clarence James
  • Mural by Baghead, aka Joshua Hall © Baghead, aka Joshua Hall, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Baghead, aka Joshua Hall
  • Meaghan Toohey Photo: Mike Maguire
    Meaghan Toohey
  • Mural by Meaghan Toohey © Meaghan Toohey, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Meaghan Toohey
  • Sarah Jamison Photo: Mike Maguire
    Sarah Jamison
  • Mural by Sarah Jamison © Sarah Jamison, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Sarah Jamison
  • Mural by LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez © LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez
  • Mural by LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez © LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez
  • Mural by LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez © LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by LeDania, aka Diana Ordóñez
  • Mural by HOXXOH, aka Douglas Hoekzema © HOXXOH, aka Douglas Hoekzema, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by HOXXOH, aka Douglas Hoekzema
  • Mural by Red Swan, aka Hanna Moran and Lindy Swan © Red Swan, aka Hanna Moran and Lindy Swan, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Red Swan, aka Hanna Moran and Lindy Swan
  • Mural by Red Swan, aka Hanna Moran and Lindy Swan © Red Swan, aka Hanna Moran and Lindy Swan, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Red Swan, aka Hanna Moran and Lindy Swan
  • Mural by Blake Jones © Blake Jones, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Blake Jones
  • Jack Soren Photo: Mike Maguire
    Jack Soren
  • Mural by Jack Soren © Jack Soren, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Jack Soren
  • Mural by Jack Soren © Jack Soren, Photo: Mike Maguire
    Mural by Jack Soren

The street art festival D.C. Walls, which took place for the sixth time in September 2021, attracts local, national, and international artists to the U.S. capital to celebrate an array of new and diverse outdoor murals. One highlight of the 2021 festival was Venezuelan-American artist Ally Grimm’s work. Grimm, known as A.L. Grime in the street art community, hails from Denver and explores the rise of the digital age through the lens of human experience in her art. She cites electronic music as a major source of artistic inspiration. She translates the energy and movement of a crowded dance floor into flowing lines and patterns in her lively murals.

Author

Marie Hanrath lives and works in Cologne, where she is a journalist for WDR, a German public-broadcasting institution. In 2021, she completed an internship at the Goethe-Institut Washington.

Translation: Savannah Beck