Touring the art outside the museums

Jennifer King, Host Committee Member

If you want to see some of DC’s best art, plan a walking tour and look at the buildings. “Outdoor murals are perhaps the first “social media . . .  [and] . . . Washington’s outdoor murals offer a unique window into neighborhood and city history and life.” ( accessed May 3, 2018). The contemporary mural movement began in DC in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the painting of murals was used to beautify the city’s buildings and commemorate historic events and important local citizens. Today, DC is home to close to 200 outdoor murals.


Building Together, 1747 Columbia Road, NW, Artist(s): Aniekan Udofia 2010

Many of DC’s murals have been endangered by weather or lost due to the demolition of buildings. DC Murals is a project committed to documenting these murals before they disappear entirely. For more than 20 years Dr. Perry Frank has lead tours, held public programs and exhibitions and maintained a website to promote the exploration and conservation of this public art. The project’s website includes the history and location of an extensive list of murals. Remember this site because it will be useful when you are planning your walking tour!

Another project committed to creating and promoting murals, MuralsDC, is sponsored by the DC Department of Public Works and the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities. Their goal is to hire artists, primarily local, to provide permanent graffiti abatement to DC properties. Since 2007, MuralsDC has commissioned murals in every ward of the District. The website for the project includes wonderful images of these murals and a map feature to locate the murals and help plan your tour.


Every Day I See Something New 1742 Kalorama Road, NW Artists: Cita Sadeli CHELOVE: 2011

Ready to plan a tour? Use the websites for Murals DC or DCMurals to identify specific murals or neighborhoods you want to visit. In addition, the following sites offer suggestions and advice useful for planning a walking tour.

“How to do a Walking Tour of Washington, D.C. Murals”

Curbed DC has mapped 61 murals in Northwest Washington

Hundreds of outdoor artworks and street murals

DCMurals map locator

If the DC summer feels too hot and sticky for an outdoor tour here is another idea. Take a tour inside the Department of the Interior building. The Stewart Lee Udall Building includes more than 50 murals documenting the historic work of the Department of the Interior from dam construction to Westward expansion. Tours are scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays (registration required). For groups over eight, custom tours can be scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. At 1849 C Street, NW the building is a 15 minute walk from the Foggy Bottom Metro.

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