The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others have led to an outpouring of grief and demonstrations against systemic racism across the United States. Some individuals have channeled their emotions into art, creating works that the National Building Museum, in Washington, D.C., has made the topic of its upcoming exhibition Murals That Matter: Activism Through Public Art. Opening to the public on Friday, the exhibit features 24 murals inspired by the social justice protests and aims to spark reflection on "the impact that art can have on the built environment as well as the nation’s urgent need for dialogue and reflection," according to an NBM press release.
The Washington–based education nonprofit P.A.I.N.T.S and the DowntownDC Business Improvement District created 18 of the 24 works in the wake of this summer's civil unrest. Looking to transform the boarded-up storefronts in Washington's Gallery Place, the two organizations painted dozens of murals on the plywood boards, transforming the area into an open-air museum.
The remaining six murals, which the NBM commissioned for the exhibition, will be painted live on Aug. 28 and Aug. 29, when the exhibition is opened to the public. These murals, dubbed "The Big Six" and intended to commemorate the legacy and life of late Rep. John Lewis, will honor their namesake—the six leading organizers of the 1963 March on Washington: John Lewis, Whitney M. Young Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins.
Visitors can view the making of these murals this Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., during which they can also register to vote or volunteer at a polling place, and eat “Good Trouble”–themed cuisine from local vendors. The NBM does ask that all visitors comply with both the D.C. government and CDC guidelines regarding masks and social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Murals That Matter: Activism Through Public Art opens to the public on Friday, Aug. 28.