Since the end of the 1960s, Washington, D.C., has been home to a vibrant street art scene. Today individual artists and organizations regularly cover city walls with colorful creations (one organization, MuralsDC, has produced more than 70 works just since 2007).
Most are clustered in adjoining neighborhoods and are easily accessible by public transportation. You can even do your own walking tour. Take the metro to Shaw-Howard University station and follow our suggestions below.
In the 19th century, the Shaw neighborhood was home to one of the country’s largest urban populations of African-Americans. Today, Shaw is growing at a rapid pace, but its historic charm is still evident in quiet streets lined with traditional row houses.
One of the city’s most famous murals, located on the 700 block of 7th Street NW depicts D.C. native Marvin Gaye. And be sure not to miss what’s locally known as the “Dunbar Mural,” featuring Carter Woodson and Langston Hughes, by renowned local artist G. Byron Peck (1507 9th Street NW).
Although it’s known today as a favorite bar-hopping destination for D.C.’s college crowd, this multicultural neighborhood has a strong history of social justice and political activism.
It’s visible in murals like “A People Without Murals is a Demuralized People” by Juan Pineda at 1786 Lanier Place NW, and “Building Together” by Will Carroll on the 1700 block of 1742 Columbia Road NW. “The Presidential Mural” at 1967 Calvert Street NW, outside Mama Ayesha’s Restaurant, is another can’t-miss work.
Having undergone a decades-long revitalization, Columbia Heights now exists as a major shopping district. In between window-gazing, look for a piece by renowned D.C. artist Aniekan Udofia on a bench at 14th and Girard StreetsNW (you’ll know it when you see it).
G. Byron Peck has another piece depicting the community of Columbia Heights at 2500 14th Street NW.
And for a taste of South America, check out Joel Bergner’s recreation of Rio de Janeiro at 3222 11th Street NW.
U Street Corridor
Filled with bars and restaurants, this Victorian-era neighborhood is now D.C.’s premier nightlife destination. Once called “Black Broadway,” it used to function as a cultural and business hub for the African-American community. That nickname is preserved in a mural by Cory Stowers at 1344 U Street NW.
There’s also a painting of native son and jazz great Duke Ellington, who was born only blocks away, next to local institution Ben’s Chili Bowl at 1213 U Street NW.
Finally, don’t miss the depiction of a gagged George Washington at 1502 U Street NW — a statement by Udofia and Liz Brown on the capital’s lack of representation in Congress.