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    Mural Fever: Public Art in the D.C. Area 

Guardians of the Neighborhood

"Guardians of the Neighborhood, painted by James Colwell in 1992 in Benjamin Yeo Morrison Park, celebrates the diversity and spirit of Takoma Park, Md.

Dancing lady in Takoma Park mural

Despite liking the vibrant colors, city officials initially had a problem with one piece of the mural (right), which depicts an African-American woman with exaggerated breasts, the artist says. But after a discussion with town leaders, he says he convinced them it was an integral part of the design.

Colwell says the mural's name comes from the network of  residents who watch over the community and each other. "It's a nice notion that people of different backgrounds can get along together," he says.

As for the colors: "I like bright colors, and the skin tones of black people complement the skin tones of white people," he says. 

Barbara Lynch, a 28-year-old herbologist and Takoma Park resident, says she enjoys looking at the mural during her walks through the park. "I love the colors," says Lynch, above. "They are so vibrant, it always makes me feel good when I see it."

The mural is one of many in the Washington region that have been eagerly adopted by communities in an effort to help beautify urban landscape.

Joel Gallihue, a senior planner for Takoma Park, says murals are typically paid for with government funding, grants from nonprofit organizations and donations from private sectors. "When I look at plans, I try to encourage public art when the opportunity comes along," he says.


Photos and Text by Tynisa E. Trapps
Published Monday, May 14, 2001

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Copyright 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism

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