“The Potter’s House Mural: Public Art at Risk of being destroyed!”

1658 Columbia Road, NW

From a press release:

“By Karlísima Rodas-Israel and Marcela Guio-Camargo

The Potter’s House, 1658 Columbia Road NW, in the heart of Adams Morgan, believed to be the first coffee house in Washington, D.C., has been a landmark for over 5 decades. The mission of the Potter’s House is to be the church in the market place. It is not only a coffee house or a bookstore. To understand The Potter’s House, you have to know that it is first and foremost a church and a spiritual gathering place where people of all races and social backgrounds find refuge, comfort and hope.

In 2009 The Potter’s House Mural entitled “The Light of the World” was painted by local artist Karla-“Karlisima” Rodas-Israel. She is an award-winning Salvadorian-born artist who has lived and worked in the Adams Morgan community for more than 22 years. She was featured in an article by the Washington Times “Driven By Work” as one of the most outstanding and talented local muralists. In addition, her drive and perseverance, has brought her international recognition with art exhibitions in London and Berlin in 2005 and 2006. In 2008 she painted the “Mama Ayesha’s Presidential Mural” with 11 USA Presidents including President Obama. This mural has been featured in Wikipedia, Fox News, CNN and PBS-WETA, MTV, and in US History texbooks in Norway.

“The Light of the World” was funded by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. It is painted outdoors right above the entrance of the Potter’s House at the second level, and it depicts a purple candle with colorful and bright rays of light. Meetings were held with community members to approve the mural’s image and design, which were approved not only by the community, but also by the Adams Morgan ANC and the Board of Directors of the Potter’s House.

To get the design approved and to paint the mural took about nine months to complete. She had to hire five assistants to achieve the task. Now everybody takes pictures of the mural and she gets compliments. People from the community told Karlisima that the mural is cheerful and that it brightens up the street with its attractive colors.

The Potter’s House has recently changed ownership, and it is going through major renovations. It now belongs to the Eighth Day Community Church. They chose a Project Team to make decisions about the future of the Potter’s House, and they decided that they will not keep the mural when they do the renovations. Their intention is to paint over it to give the New Potter’s House a more conservative “corporate, clean look.”

The community really loves the mural and feels that it is already a “landmark” in our Adams Morgan multicultural neighborhood. This mural does not conflict with the overall structural design of the New Potter’s House. They should not paint over this beautiful mural, which is a piece of art. You don’t paint over a piece of art! …especially since it gives enjoyment to the people.

The mural has been paid with community tax payers’ dollars, and, therefore, it belongs to the community. The people have already expressed their opinion, which is that they do not want to see the mural get destroyed. “The Light of the World,” is a mural that has indeed become a beacon of Hope and Light to the people of our community.”

45 Comment

  • LOL “It belongs to the community”

  • sounds like you all should have worked to designated it a “landmark” when you had the opportunity, before the sale, rather than just considering it a “landmark” yourselves.

  • clevelanddave

    Dude, the mural in the front of the building is only five years old. BTW, I am absolutely sure that there were coffee houses in Washington prior to 1964… indeed coffee houses were common around Georgetown in the 18th century. Perhaps it could be covered and the cover could be refashioned/painted over?

  • I can sympathize with their distress at losing the mural. But once you’ve sold the building, you don’t really get a say in how it’s decorated.

  • the nature of street art and murals is that they are temporary. sad day for them

  • That’s impressive that she painted “Mama Ayesha’s Presidential Mural” with 11 USA Presidents, most of whom were raised from the dead to assist.

  • Sorry but the mural belongs to the new building owners now, not the community. And not all us of will miss it. Murals are painted over time and time again in DC and all cities.

    Take a few good pictures and maybe you can convince the new owners to put up a plaque by the door or even sell copies….

    Let it go.

  • I don’t know why anyone ever would want to cover up a mural. It’s art for art’s sake…

  • I like some of Karlisima’s other murals, but this one — with the ultra-bright colors and with its location on the FRONT of a building — has always struck me as garish and out of place. I won’t be sorry to see it go.

    • And as ClevelandDave noted, this mural hasn’t been there very long — five years.

    • justinbc

      Thank you. I’m not a fan either. If you want something to last, paint it on the front of your own house. What other people do with their property isn’t really up to you to decide, no matter what “the community” thinks (assuming in this sense that community is the selective base that just happens to agree with your opinion on a matter).

    • I agree, it’s a pretty mural, but it would’ve been more at home in the far less conservative Adams Morgan of 15 or 20 years ago. The demographics were very different back then. The neighborhood was made up of people who were more artistic and tolerant of a vibrant, daring piece of artwork like this.

  • I love that mural and will be sad to see it go. But before reading this, I had always assumed that this place was a book store.

    • I went there for coffee a couple of times after an AA meeting before I discovered it was more fun to find one or two others to go to a bar.

  • It’s not my favorite mural either, but if the choices are between it and a “conservative, corporate, clean look”, I vote mural. The latter sounds awful.

  • “The mural has been paid with community tax payers’ dollars”
    Tax dollars were used to paint a mural on a church/bookstore….Not exactly where I want my tax dollars being spent.

    • +1.
      Usually the idea with murals is to take a spot that’s frequently graffiti’d and put up a mural in the hope of discouraging future graffiti, and I can see some benefit in tax dollars being spent for that. But the front of the Potter’s House was NOT a graffiti target, unlike other areas in Adams Morgan that I can think of (e.g., roofs adjacent to the McDonald’s roof).

    • +1. Amen. Mistake #1 was using public funds for this.

    • I disagree. Murals add character and beauty – which benefits businesses and residents. Ever heard of the broken window theory?

      • Clearly many people disagree, as it was approved by the Local ANC. Still not where I want my tax dollars being spent. Public Art should be in public places. Not on the front of private buildings.

      • You have an odd interpretation of broken windows theory if you think murals have anything to do with it…

  • Goodbye and good riddance. It’s not a very attractive mural.

  • I’ll take corporate over the biblical quote at the bottom of the mural any day. Go proselytize somewhere else. On another note, any updates on when the new place might be opening!?

    • What biblical quote? The mural is titled “The Light of the World” and it’s on the facade of a bookshop. More likely a reference to the power of knowledge in books, dontcha think?

  • Featured in US history textbooks in Norway? I’m sure Norwegian tourists on a pilgrimage to see US history might be disappointed… the rest of us, not so much.
    If Eighth Day Community Church, the new owners, want to attract new members, they are correct in bringing a new look to the building.

  • This is sad. I like the mural. But even if the mural ” belongs to the community” the building belongs to someone else — and the owners of the building get to paint as they see fit. I think the suggestion to take a lot of pictures is a good one.

  • Speaking of murals in AdMo, what is ever going to become of the one that used to be Toulouse Lautrec’s? That one is a major icon for the whole neighborhood, but the restaurant closed around 15 years ago or more. Sad to see it boarded it. ALthough I did notice people seem to be living in it, and one of the windows has been bricked in.

  • It’s a shame they want to paint over it… It’s beautiful and adds a lot of character to the block.

  • Apparently they are completely revamping the exterior and adding outdoor seating and lighting, all coordinated with a new protective cover awning. The interior is being modernized as well, with seating near the front windows. Here’s a link for some renderings. http://www.pottershousedc.org/check-out-these-images-of-our-new-space/

  • How did DC Arts Commission money end up paying for a religious mural? Hatd to believe that happened without someone stopping it (Church v State, etc.). It is true that the mrual has not been there long. .

  • I’m in the “don’t like it” camp. And in the “why did public money go to do a mural for a church”

    If Latrec or Madam get painted over, i would be upset – those are awesome. This one.. never liked it. The presidents are pretty cool though.. and I like Mama Ayesha’s food.

  • Not a fan. As a work of art, it always struck me as a bit amateurish. I understand that the mural has sentimental value to the artist that painted it, but it belongs to the new owners now. They can do with it what they want.

    • Popville, can you clarify the ownership relation? I believe the “new” church owner has always affiliated with The Potter’s House. They run Christ House across the street. This relationship might not be as new and page-turning as the article implies.

  • I’ll be way more upset if anyone tries to paint over the Elizabeth Taylor mural at Dacha Beer Garden than this. Or the Marilyn Monroe in Woodley Park. This, not so much.

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