Bad News/Good News for Fans of the Duke Ellington Mural on U Street – Original Mural Could Not be Preserved but an Exact Replica is Coming in April

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12th and U Street, NW

A few weeks ago I wondered what was going on with the Duke Ellington mural that was removed from the True Reformer building at 12th and U St, NW in May 2012. We were told that restoration would take about a year. Turns out it’s a bit more complicated. A spokeswoman for D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities tells me:

“The Commission is working with local Artist Byron Peck to create a replica of his Duke Ellington mural on U Street. The Commission looked at all of the options for preservation. The structure behind the mural was eroding. The best option is a replica and Peck has agreed. The goal is to have an unveiling and installation by Duke Ellington’s birthday in April 2014.”

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Photo by flickr user @mjb

9 Comment

  • I feel like a terrible person, but I kinda sorta prefer the stuff that was underneath.

  • I absolutely love, as golden endorsement of this blog, that so many of its commenters prefer a faded Coca-Cola sign to a distinctive, region-specific mural.

    • probably because the coca cola has a distinctive faded look and super regional reminder of Gray & Gray Druggists. I think the Duke Ellington mural could be moved to another building that doesnt have something nice underneath.

      When you tear up carpet and discover great hardwood floors underneath, you don’t just put more carpet down.

    • thanks for the cynicism.

  • How about if we put a mural of Duke back up, but take bids on a new one that doesn’t precisely replicate the always-hackneyed, now-dated 80s-looking mediocrity that was the last one?

    • It’s fine if art incorporates trends from the time in which it was conceived (the 90s, btw). DC existed in the 80s in the 90s; that’s what it “looked like”, and it’s good that some people are vaguely put off by reminders of that.

      • Having lived here in the 80s and the 90s (much of it within a couple of blocks of that mural, which I disliked then, too), I’m pretty aware that DC existed then and am not at all put off. If the mural — which was painted in the 90s but still strikes me as having an 80s feel — was still up I wouldn’t advocate scraping it off. But simply reproducing mediocre art out of some vague sense of nostalgia (and few era’s in DC history are less deserving of collective nostalgia than that era) serves neither culture or history. Better instead to take a mulligan and see if we can get up something better.

  • D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities? Ugh, those folks are a complete joke. I wouldn’t be surprised if the original mural was mishandled and ruined as a result. And we taxpayers are likely on the hook for the replacement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent for the arts. When handled with competence, though.

  • Love that mural and will be psyched to see it back!

    It’s quite bizarre to me that some people would rather have an old ad for a giant multinational corporation that peddles sugar water that makes us fat over local art that celebrates a musical giant from this neighborhood.

    Screw “Coca Cola.”

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