No matter where you wander around, chances are you will pass by a handful of public art in D.C. It could be a mural in Edgewood or a sculpture on K St. that embellishes a neighborhood undergoing urban revitalization.
Public art can be found all over Washington, D.C.’s neighborhoods and now is the perfect time to get out and explore some of our favorites.
Importance of the Washington D.C. Public Art Collection
Public art is unique not only in its reflection of a community, but also in the reaction it elicits from that community. It can serve as a valuable tool for broadening the public’s view of art and, most importantly, helping create communities where people want to live.
Art in D.C.
Of course, Washington, D.C. is no stranger to the arts. From the Kennedy Center to the Phillips Collection, and of course, all of the art museums in the Smithsonian family, including the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Art filled with older and more contemporary art, it’s hard not to bump into something.
But public art is more accessible, creating art space for those who normally wouldn’t visit a museum or have the time. It greets them on their walk to work, commute to school and weekends running errands.
From Dupont Circle to the National Mall, we are digging into the D.C. works of art you don’t want to miss.
- Address: 701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Epoch, a 25-foot tall abstract sculpture is located downtown outside of Zaytinya Restaurant. It was created by artist Albert Paley in 2004, and filled with bright multi-colored shapes which rise up into the sky.
If you look closely you will find a poem accompanying the work by Washington, D.C. Poet Laureate Delores Kendrick.
- Address: Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Independence Ave SW &, 7th St SW, Washington, DC 20560
Sterling Ruby’s bronze Double Candle, rising more than 24-feet into the sky, joined the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden collection (part of the Hirshhorn Museum) in 2018.
You can find this piece of art by the garden’s reflecting pool. It’s meant to evoke national memory and unity…which we could all use right about now!
- Address: 2300 6th Street NW DC, Washington, DC 20059 (Howard University campus)
Family Circle, a sculpture by Herbert House is located on the campus of Howard University. You can see four fun figures of a male, female and two children dancing in a circle.
The dancing figures are on top of a red circular tilted platform.
Unfortunately, this public art project was vandalized in 2017, when two of the figures were torn off the platform, but the piece has since been fixed and is back on display.
- Address: Petworth Metro Station, 3700 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010 (Georgia Avenue side)
Installed at the Petworth Metro station in November 2007, New Leaf is representative of artist Lisa Scheer’s primarily large-scale abstract sculptures constructed out of metal and fabricated sheet metal.
- Address: Ellington Plaza, 708 T St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Florida Avenue & T Street)
Encore, a 20-foot stainless steel statue honoring Duke Ellington, was created by sculptor and D.C. native, Zachary Oxman. It was designed so that Duke sits upon a monumental treble clef inspired by his own handwritten musical scores, while playing a piano whose keys swirl upward.
The Shaw area of the District was chosen as the site of the statue because Ellington spent his childhood and early years of his career in the Shaw neighborhood, including many performances at the Howard Theatre.
- Address: City Vista Condominium, 475 K St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Lift Off is a public artwork by artist David Black, located in the Mount Vernon Triangle. It’s a yellow, canopy like, abstract sculpture that sits on the corner of the CityVista building.
Each crossbeam features a small floodlight on the end, which illuminates the scallop like, origami inspired parts. A small seat is at the central base for visitors to relax and interact with the piece.
The work was inspired by children flying kites at the Smithsonian Kite Festival.
- Address: Watha T. Daniel Shaw Library Mural, 1630 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
The incorporation of Vivace, with Jazz as the central theme, is an idyllic representation of Shaw’s rich cultural heritage and spirit of creativity. The Watha T. Daniel Library is an extraordinary landmark for Shaw, and was the perfect spot for this DC art to call home.
Even more appropriate is the choice of artist Craig Kraft who has lived in the Shaw neighborhood for decades and has witnessed its revitalization and prosperity.
Check out the 51st State Murals in D.C. too!
- Address: James Monroe Park, 20th Street and 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
Washington, DC-based artist Duilio Passariello incorporated water, color and optical effects to create a dynamic visual experience at James Monroe Park.
Tricorne, a triangular prism structure created from hand woven stainless steel mesh trickles with water during the warm months and is transformed into a luminous screen at night through colorful LED lighting all year long.
The work pays homage to the park’s namesake James Monroe, who was the last president to wear the three-cornered tricorne hat.
Sheltering Light and Color
- Address: East Capitol Urban Farm, 5929 East Capitol St NE, Washington, DC 20019
Sheltering Light and Color is a whimsical art piece by Koryn Rolstad consisting of 26 powder coated structural aluminum and laser cut acrylic shade tree forms, designating the entry to a large community garden project in the East Capital neighborhood.
Kids love the pops of color and massive structures, so make sure you add this to your list of things to do in DC!
- Address: Buzzard Point Substation,1620 2nd St SW, Washington, DC 20024
Located on the southeast corner of the PEPCO Waterfront Substation, the Flash Point sculpture illuminates the importance of the building that is its backdrop.
Designed and fabricated by David and Eli Hess, Flash Point pays homage to Nikola Tesla and his experiments with high voltage electricity. LED light fixtures in the balls and towers make the sculpture flash at night, simulating electricity. This sculpture adds a spark to the neighborhood that’s home to the DC United Soccer team.
Conducting The Creative Path
- Address: Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, 3500 R St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Hanging on a corner of the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts, Conducting The Creative Path is one of the few pieces of public art found in Georgetown.
The piece was finished in 2018 by Martha Jackson Jarvis, an artist known for her mixed-media installations that explore aspects of African, African American and Native American spirituality, ecological concerns and the role of women in preserving indigenous cultures.
Her works often focus on the history and culture of African Americans in the southern United States.
Note: there are several pieces of public art on the campus, so make sure to check out them all.