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Adams Morgan’s famous rainbow-hued candle mural, which has greeted patrons of the Potter’s House since 2010, was finally extinguished with beige paint yesterday afternoon.
The Potter’s House, a progressive bookstore, coffee shop, and nondenominational spiritual space, will reopen under the new management of the Eighth Day Faith Community this fall after closing late last year. After undergoing an “extensive discernment process” about the mural, the new board of directors decided to remove the mural in order to welcome more people.
“One concern that came up repeatedly was how the interpretation of the mural as ‘religious’ might discourage people from checking us out—people who would otherwise really enjoy what we have to offer,” wrote Tim Kumfer, one of the new Potter’s House leaders, in an email to the Adams Morgan community listserv in August.
Artist Karla “Karlisima” Rodas-Israel, who painted the mural with help from a 2009 grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, petitioned to save the mural.
She intended for the mural, titled “The Light of the World,” to represent the Potter’s House’s history of providing a “safe haven” for the homeless and hungry, especially through discussion groups and free coffee. “There is nothing remotely religious in the candle in the current mural. A candle is a universal symbol of light. It is a symbol for all cultures, all religions, and yet it can be very secular as well,” she wrote in her online petition.
Karlisima collected 500 signatures on a paper petition and 17,451 signatures on an online petition from people in Adams Morgan and worldwide, and spent hours on the street, talking with community members about saving it. She also received a letter of support from Lionell Thomas, executive director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
“I guess all of these signs of support and appreciation were not enough to save it,” Karlisima wrote in an email to her supporters on Tuesday. “The mural served a good purpose, which was to bring joy to people and they told me that the mural touched the hearts of people, so in that regard, I am glad and I am content that my purpose as an artist was fulfilled.”
Karlisima tells Arts Desk that she didn’t know of the final decision to paint over the mural until one of her friends was walking by Potter’s House and saw it happening yesterday afternoon. “[The new Potter’s House management] did it without any regard to us or any courtesy or consideration or grace,” she says. “I wish they had considered and counted the community’s feedback. That’s what I was requesting. It’s not about me, it’s not my mural anymore, it belonged to the community.”
UPDATE: This post has been updated to include commentary from Karlisima about yesterday’s paint-over.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery