Songbyrd is beautifying Adams Morgan one barrier at a time. Since restaurants and retail stores have begun reopening, efforts have been made to allow for expanded outdoor spaces. In Adams Morgan, this resulted in the “Streatery,” or the main drag of 18th Street NW temporarily blocked vehicular traffic to allow a safe pedestrian and outdoor dining on the street as a test in late June.
To accomplish this, the city placed large cement barriers along the street. These barriers will be a mainstay until the public health emergency is over, which as of now was extended until at least October.
Joe Lapan, co-owner and marketing director of Songbyrd Music House, wants to add a bit of flair to the barriers since they’ll be around for a while. On July 17, Songbyrd put out a call on their Instagram page for local artists to beautify the barriers with murals.
“The barriers exist, and we want to beautify them to continue to make [Songbyrd] the best environment possible,” says Lapan.
Songbyrd will be working with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to enhance the look of the city’s barriers. The Arts in the Right-of-Way program facilitates various forms of art on public amenities, such as murals on cement barriers, with some guidelines. Songbyrd will collect concepts of proposed murals from local artists and present them to DDOT for approval. Over 10 local artists have already reached out to Lapan with proposals for the barrier murals. Lapan says that the main objective of this project is not only to embellish the barriers, but to bolster local artists. [As of publishing, DDOT approved of the submitted designs and the artists have begun work on the murals.]
“We’re picking artists that have a diverse set of messaging and art style. We’re trying to support different people and get their different concepts out there. Other businesses may look to do something similar or design [murals] themselves, but our vision for the ones that relate to our space was to engage as many local artists as possible.”
Lapan and the Songbyrd team are also ensuring that the artists they choose get some sort of pay for their work.
“Even though times are hard, we respect [the artists’] time and creative capabilities,” he says. “It’s an investment of time by [the artists]. As a music venue, I would never feel right about asking for free work, so there is a modest stipend.”
Lapan hopes that work on the murals can begin by next week. Thus far, they have two confirmed artists on the project; E$ and Josue Martinez. Any artists that are not chosen for Songbyrd’s project will be pitched to neighboring businesses so that they, too, can have beautified barriers outside of their storefronts. Lapan and his team hope that their initiative will inspire the whole community to hire artists for their own barrier murals, providing a space for artists to promote their work.
“It would be great if many of [the barriers] or all of them were designed in some way. I want to promote and respect the time each artist is investing in their work.”
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