News & Politics

Now That the Plywood Is Coming Down, What Will Happen to the Murals on DC’s Boarded-Up Buildings?

They’ll be preserved—and are already available in puzzle form.

Photograph by Evy Mages

As a sense of (relative) normalcy returns to DC, downtown storefronts are starting to take down the plywood that has covered their windows—in some cases, since the spring. In the meantime, local artists had worked to de-uglify the surreal stretches of boarded-up facades by painting racial-justice-themed murals on the wood panels.

What will happen to those paintings? Since many of the works were created in partnership with arts-education non-profit P.A.I.N.T.S. Institute DC, that organization is now trying to preserve as many of the colorful panels as possible.

A spokesperson for the organization says it is working to save over 100 boards from the buildings around Black Lives Matter Plaza and across the city. Some will remain in the possession of storeowners. The Smithsonian is interested in a few of the more notable or representative pieces. And the rest will likely be displayed in a gallery space, either virtual or public. The Oxford Properties Group has offered 20,000 square feet of space in a Gallery Place building for the initiative. But P.A.I.N.T.S will have a better idea of where the art will land in mid-February.

For now, the best way to take in some of the murals is through a jigsaw puzzle P.A.I.N.T.S. has created with the National Building Museum and the Downtown DC BID. The 500-piece puzzle depicts a collage of 18 of the murals created on DC’s boarded-up storefronts. Proceeds from the puzzle benefit both the arts organization and the National Building Museum.

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Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.