On behalf of the Bowser Administration, the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (CAH) celebrated the 2019 MuralsDC season on August 27 in honor of a mural featuring DC jazz legend Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill. The 70-foot mural, the city’s tallest, towers over the 14th & U street corridor and is located on the north wall of the “Elysium 14” apartment complex at 1925 14th Street, NW.
“MuralsDC gives DPW the opportunity to not only restore and maintain the beauty of the nation’s capital, but also to pay tribute to DC values and cherished legends like Buck Hill,” said Geldart, who at the event read Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proclamation declaring August 27 as Buck Hill Day. He presented the proclamation to Hill’s daughter Robin, one of several members of Hill’s family in attendance.
WPFW radio jazz host Rusty Hassan opened the program, where over 50 jazz lovers and community members listened to a jazz quartet featuring Donald Tillery, one of the original members of “Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers.”
The Buck Hill mural was painted by Arizona muralist Joe Pagac. “I was looking for someone who really embodied the spirit of the neighborhood’s rich history and when I found Buck Hill I really fell in love with his story,” said Pagac, who was guided by DC historian Dr. Maurice Jackson on DC’s jazz history. “This is the tallest mural I’ve ever done. It was a real challenge to work that far off the ground, but it was completely worth it to see what we had created at the end.”
A special swing stage scaffold had to be built to allow the artist to reach the full length of the wall. Snell Properties, which owns the building and donated the wall, provided the funding for the scaffolding.
“Elysium Fourteen faces one of the most important intersections in the District for black history and jazz,” said Peter Colarulli, vice president of development for Snell Properties. “As the new owner of this property, we wanted to find a way to give back to the community and celebrate an artist who was hugely influential in the District’s jazz scene and respected nationally.”
Pagac participated in MuralsDC for the third consecutive year, having painted Ketchum Elementary School in Anacostia in 2017 and a second-story mural facing DC’s famous Marilyn Monroe mural at Connecticut and Calvert Streets, NW in 2018. All three murals required him to be elevated for long periods of time.
Six artists have MuralsDC projects in Wards 1, 2, 4 5 and 7. Kaliq Crosby and Eric B. Ricks recently completed murals at 3400 13th Street, NW and 5600 East Capitol Street, NE respectively. Aniekan Udofia, who famously painted the Ben’s Chili Bowl mural in 2017, is currently working on a mural at 1232 9th Street, NW. Cita Sadeli and Federico Frum will begin work on their murals at 1401 Kennedy Street, NW and 1827 West Virginia Avenue, NE.
MuralsDC is funded by DPW, working in cooperation with the CAH. It is one of several tools the agency uses to help beautify District corridors and celebrate the art of graffiti. Since 2007, the program has installed more than 80 murals in every ward, on building walls donated by commercial property owners and District government.