In a city of museums and monuments, Washington has always been sorely lacking in that most democratic of public art, the street mural. For years, the only impressive exemplar of this form has been the Marilyn Monroe portrait towering above Calvert Liquors in Woodley Park. Marilyn still looks great, especially lit up at night, and her presence may have helped inspire a graffito across the street shortly after the Clarence Thomas confirmation debacle: “Anita Hill.” Few as they are, even worse is that the typical D.C. mural is nothing more than an artsy billboard, like the infamous cows-on-bikes fresco in Adams Morgan, which advertises not one but two businesses, Ben & Jerry’s and City Bikes. But while this cartoonish, pastel abomination at least inspired a mild community resistance a few years back, not a peep has been heard against the city’s most offensive corporate-sponsored mural. At first glance, there’s nothing objectionable about the Frederick Douglass tribute on the brick side wall of the Swiss Inn on Massachusetts Avenue NW. Douglass is depicted in a nifty portrait, surrounded by scenes from the life of the great abolitionist, author, and statesman. The painting is well done and even features subtle renderings of the graying of Douglass’ famous Afro through the years. Then you notice at the bottom the hallmark of an oppressive institution that Douglass didn’t have a chance to inveigh against: the halo-glow of the Golden Arches. The inscription, “Sponsored by McDonald’s,” makes this so-called public art anything but public. It is a rank appropriation of one of the most hallowed figures in black America, as if the burger barons helped fund not only the mural but Douglass’ extraordinary life itself. Sure to come: Burger King presents “The World of Benjamin Banneker—A Fun-Meal Triptych of the District’s Unheralded Designer.” Even spray paint is better than these shameless wastes of wall space: Where are graffiti guerrillas like Robbie Canal and Disco Dan when you need them most? Maybe they’ve found sponsors for their work as well. —Eddie Dean