By Allie Wertz

In an attempt to limit illegal graffiti, Washington D.C. is publicizing and initiating street art programs.  Instead of trying to prohibit local artist’s expressions, the district is providing them with a legal alternative.

In the past, street artists would illegally spray paint murals on any available building wall. The city responded in an unexpected way, by providing artists with the walls. In fact the public obsession with street art is causing businesses to want street art on their walls. Now, businesses call it street art and not graffiti.

For a similar reason, The D.C. Department of Public Works is actively assisting the success of street art. In cities such as Philadelphia and New York, street art dominates the local landscape. Murals add to the diversity and culture of a city, and tell its story.


“Love” by Lisa Marie Thalhammer

Location: 926 N St Rear NW

Created as part of the DC Alley Museum Project 2017, this piece has been posted on social media by Lady Gaga, Chelsea Clinton, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

By deterring illegal graffiti, these programs prove that street art can be done while respecting both public and private property. The art of aerosol painting is becoming a respectable career. As part of an initiative, young local artists are given not only the proper location to paint, but the supplies and instruction on how to do so.

“Dragon” by WINGCHOW

Location: Metropolitan Branch Trail

The Artist WINGCHOW created this mural for Pow! Wow! DC 2018. Her artwork is featured around the world. She displays her art on the streets and in gallery shows.

Street art is no longer a mark of crime, recklessness or underprivileged neighborhoods. It is appreciated as beautiful artistic work done by paid artists. D.C.’s Watermelon House, Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Blind Whino are extremely popular street art sites. Many more are up and coming tourist hot spots.


“Heart Wall” by Mr. Brainwash

Location: 309 5th St NE

Created for International Women’s Day 2015, this is one of the district’s most famous walls. Michelle Obama spray painted one of the hearts herself.  

MuralsDC, a local campaign, was created for just that purpose. Founded in 2007, it is one of the first Washington D.C. based programs to assist street art. The initiative began by acquiring locations for murals to be painted by local artists. In just over 10 years, they have provided 50 artists with appropriate canvases. As a result, 85 diverse and intricate murals have transformed and revitalized the city.

“Every Day I See Something New” by CHELOVE.

Location: 1742 Kalorama Road, NW

A MuralsDC project in 2011, this mural has become one of the most visited in the city. It has been featured in a rap music video and the backdrop to a wedding.  

Murals DC’s main goal is in “Beautifying the city one wall at a time.”

They accept that art is an expression of emotion. street art being no exception.  A campaign from MuralsDC notes the murals are “a documentation of who we were, and who Washington was, who we are today, and where we are going towards in the future.”

Recently, the Pow! Wow! Festival came to D.C. to continue sharing the district’s story. For the last three years, the festival has added remarkable works to ordinary walls. The event, widely publicized, provides talented local and global artists with the platform to share their art and their story.

“Here Today Gone Tomorrow” by Ricardo Gonzalez

Location: 55 M St NW

Ricardo Gonzalez’s piece is from Pow! Wow! DC 2017. His livelihood revolves around beautifying city walls and spreading his message.

Widely popular, D.C. murals have begun dominating Instagram feeds everywhere. Those who used to turn their head from the “unattractive” grafiti, are now unable to look away.

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