The Mural Project Aims to Beautify DC Streets

Four artists will paint murals on buildings throughout the District to “make the cityscape more imaginative.”

By: Kastalia Medrano

The new Blind Whino SW Arts Club, vacant for 20 years, used to be a church. Now it’s a mural—three stories’ worth of pastel colors, a sort of life-size, abstract princess castle. It stands out.

Blind Whino is a community-minded nonprofit with the fairly straightforward agenda of putting more art into the world. Some months back, Heineken caught on to the church’s repurposing and saw a very colorful wagon to hitch itself to, which is how the Mural Project came to DC. Four renowned graffiti artists—two local, two imported—were approached by Heineken reps and asked to create a mural inspired by the Heineken Open Your World campaign. The Mural Project has already launched in Miami, and after DC, Heineken has set its sights on Atlanta.

The Heineken Mural Project kickoff party last Friday was an introduction to muralists Aniekan (DC), Rubin (Brooklyn), Brendan Tierney (Virginia), and Ever (Argentina). For the next week, each will work around the clock on his respective canvas, one of four building facades in four locations around the city, the only objective being to make the cityscape more imaginative. Each mural will feature a (not-too-prominent) Heineken logo as well as QR codes passersby can scan for more information about the project and the artists. All the artists have a working idea of what they’ll be putting on their respective murals, and Heineken executives have more or less given the four a free rein in terms of content (“Just, like, no kids or anything,” a Heineken rep tells me). The four muralists were tapped largely because of their talent and established followings, but also because they represent four discrete styles—Heineken wanted each interpretation of Open Your World to be distinct.

At the party, the inside of the church was filled with the artists’ previous work, both in frames and on the actual walls. Brendan Tierney, a Virginia tattoo artist whose graffiti often includes words fashioned into the shapes of subway cars, was the only one of the featured artists working on the blank wooden wall who invited partygoers to contribute with one of the spray-paint cans littering the ground. Tierney dominated the left side of the wall with a multilayered caricature of what I thought for a while was Obama; when I caught him as he stepped back for a cigarette break, however, he said it is simply a face.

As we watched, a woman in an orange miniskirt with a large bow on the back approached the face and, teetering on Lucite wedges, proceeded to overwrite much of the nose and cheekbones with a string of initials. Tierney and I shared a laugh and hazarded guesses as to how long his mural will escape embellishment. By contract, the work must stay up for at least six months—what could it conceivably look like by that point? Would it even be recognizable as his? Or is that part of the appeal, the transition of an individual work to a collective one?

“No idea,” Tierney said with a shrug. “It’s never the same. I’m just going to let it organically evolve into what it wants to be.”

See the artists in action at pop-up viewing parties at all four sites Wednesday, September 11, and Thursday, September 12. For more information, visit the Mural Project’s website.

Mural 1, by Aniekan, is at 713 S St., NW.
Mural 2, by Rubin, is at 819 Sixth St., NE.
Mural 3, by Brendan Tierney, is at 1110 Congress St., NE.
Mural 4, by Ever, is at 301 I St., NW.