Transfixed eyes watch over the homes, bystanders and alley cats on Florida Avenue. These are not the eyes of God; these are the eyes of women. They belong to the women in the mural who have had a profound impact on history.
Located at 73 Florida Ave. in northwest D.C., the mural produced by the artist collective Albus Cavus, features the faces of notable people like Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and women’s rights and civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell. The collective works to improve the community through its public art displaysin cities like Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Dubai, UAE.
In addition to honoring women, the mural serves as a platform for female artists to collaborate and to increase the visibility of their work.
“In public art, women are often represented as a minority,” said Peter Krsko, co-founder and director of Albus Cavus. “We wanted to create a mural that would be a collaboration of women artists.”
The mural features the work of 14 artists from The District, Maryland, New York and Brazil, from all ages and all walks of life.
The idea of the mural was conceived when the owner of the building wanted a way to detract graffiti artists from tagging the wall.
“My main motivation for the initiative was to provide a proactive response to the No. 2 political problem in the community — tagging,” said Hugh Youngblood, Advisory Neighborhood commissioner and sponsor.
Youngblood worked with Krsko throughout the month-long preparation to ensure that the community was actively involved in the planning and creative process. “We had to have a dialogue with the community about what was going to be on the wall,” said Youngblood. Youngblood held a community sketch session to guarantee that residents approved of the mural being erected.
“Most of our effort went to community outreach and we have received a huge support from the neighborhood,” Krsko said. “We had already secured necessary permits from DCRA and DDOT to setup a temporary scaffolding in the alley for the weekend.”
Although the mural was painted as an effort to detract taggers and promote women’s art, some of the artists saw it in a different way. Local artist Maggie Michael saw it as an opportunity to bring art to a community in a context that is familiar to them.
“Access, experience, observation, education, and appreciation are entangled ways of discovering art,” Michael said. “Many people in a community do not make a regular practice of going to galleries or museums, but most of us drive or walk up and down Florida Avenue in our routes around the city.”
“For me, the mural represents a collective, risky and fine energy,” she said.
Rosina Teri Memolo, a contributing artist, thought the mural represents women in their greatest forms. “The mural symbolizes the goddess in all women, from amazing poets and educators to literally the girl next door. It is a beautiful and engaging format that communicates a message of strength and history of women.”
The Florida Avenue mural is not Albus Cavus’ first recognition of women in art. Throughout its existence it has made a point to make sure that women artists are represented as much as male artists and it has participated in other mural events that paid tribute to women.
“We have very strong focus on promoting women in arts.This is a beautiful celebration of women in arts as well as in our communities,” Krsko said.