The Issue: First picnic tables, now a spray-painted mural of a giant dog and children blowin’ bubbles is causin’ a ruckus in Walter Pierce Park. Not so much the mural, per se, but the process it took to get there. Ward 1 residents were given a 10-day notice, posted on a neighborhood Listserv, that a mural would be painted along both sides of a wall in Walter Pierce Park last October. Don’t know what a Listserv is? Too bad.
As discussions took place between Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham‘s office, which commissioned the artwork through his MuralsDC initiative, and the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW), residents and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) were seemingly left out of the decision process. “It was only after the site was selected and announced that the ANC met with members of MuralsDC,” says local ANC commissioner Bryan Weaver (who, perhaps not incidentally, is opposing Graham in the upcoming council election). Only after that process were residents informed, says Weaver.
The Clock Was Tickin’: “Weather was an issue,” says DPW spokesperson Nancee Lyons. Instead of starting in the summer, the program didn’t get rollin’ until last fall, so certain aspects were rushed in order for the art to be completed by winter, Lyons says. “Should there have been some signage posted at the park? Probably,” says Mindy Moretti, the local ANC commissioner and president on the board of Friends of Walter Pierce Park. But MuralsDC was heading the project, so that would’ve been their responsibility, Moretti says. “The process was obviously flawed…but this project was dealing with a short budget and timeline, and a push was made to make the project happen,” Weaver says. In the month between the Listserv announcement, and the start of the artwork, residents were mum with their opinions, he adds.
Sketches of the mural were presented at a local ANC meeting, counters Dominic Painter, executive director of the Midnight Forum, a managing agent for MuralsDC. “No one had concerns, so we went with the positive feedback. It’s a ridiculous notion to think we’re going to reach every single person that lives in the neighborhood,” he says.
Adds Graham, writing on the Listserv, “I have every reason to believe that the process was followed in this case.”
What’s in a Listserv?: A single message on an email discussion group is appalling, says resident Gretchen Cook. “It assumes everyone worth consulting has a computer, knows about the Listserv and has the time to check it regularly,” she says. There should have been a sign at the park and an open forum, she adds. Says neighbor Glenn Hennessey, “I consider the park a place to escape the city, not a place to be reminded of it….any type of artwork is wrong.” Hennessy adds that the Listserv failed to mention exactly which wall the mural would be painted upon.
What’s Next: There are no plans to do away with the mural. Instead, local artist and mural creator Aniekan Udofia is currently working on renewing one of the other three murals in the park that is deteriorating.
Photo by Glenn Hennessey.