August 23, 2017 at 12:40 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Murals reflect Whitman-Walker ‘culture and community’
Whitman-Walker Health murals, gay news, Washington Blade, Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center

Whitman-Walker Health Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A 30,000-square-foot series of artist-created murals covering all of the exterior walls of Whitman-Walker Health’s Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center building are intended to “articulate the culture and community” of Whitman-Walker in an artistic form.

According to Whitman-Walker spokesperson Abby Fenton, the murals also serve as a temporary pop-up art project aimed at drawing attention to a soon-to-begin redevelopment project for the Taylor building undertaken jointly by Whitman-Walker and Fivesquares Development, a local real estate development company.

Although the murals will be lost when construction and demolition for the project begins at the end of this year, Fenton said the murals will be preserved through a detailed collection of photographs.

“The project serves as an abstract reflection of the communities in which Whitman-Walker works and serves, and honors several key figures in Whitman-Walker’s history, including Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Walt Whitman, Max Robinson, and Jim Graham, former executive director of the organization who passed away in early June,” Fenton said in a statement.

“Whitman-Walker has a vibrant history within the LGBTQ communities of the Greater Washington area, especially around the 14th Street neighborhood,” she said. “Along with the painted murals, a selection of photos of community members, Whitman-Walker patients, clients and staff were incorporated into the overall design,” Fenton said.

She said Brandon Hill and Peter Chang, who are the founders of the D.C. artist collective and creative agency No Kings Collective, were the lead artists behind the design and execution of the murals. Initial painting began in May of this year, Fenton said, and the murals were completed the first week of August.

The facades of two of the three adjoining buildings that make up the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center will be preserved as historic sites, according to the development plans. A new multi-story mixed use building that will include residential and retail space along with space that Whitman-Walker will occupy will be built behind the preserved facades. Whitman-Walker officials have said the deal would generate revenue for Whitman-Walker to help it maintain its programs that serve the community, including the LGBT community.

Fenton said Fivesquares Development came up with the idea of the murals and recruited No Kings Collective to help carry out the project.

“As time went on, the No Kings team felt very compassionately about painting our entire building versus one side,” as initially planned, Fenton said. She said the project was financed in part by a $25,000 D.C. government grant, which involved other activities in addition to the murals.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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