U Street is paying homage to american actor, singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson with “Living Timeline,” a new mural currently in the works on the 1300 blocks of U Street NW.
ART B.L.O.C is an art collective founded by Cory Stowers. As reported by the Washington Post, the collective received a $50,000 city grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to paint the tribute on the side of the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute at 1351 U Street NW. The work looks almost complete.
Currently, two large portraits of Robeson occupy the two opposite ends of the dark grey wall. Between them, a series of seven round vignettes depicting Robeson at various stages of his life are scattered throughout the wall.
Above the vignettes, passers-by can read a quote widely attributed to Robeson: “I make no distinction between my work as an artist and my life as a human being.” According to drawings and plans for the mural, the vignettes still need to be linked by a timeline, with important dates in the life of Robeson.
An interactive component of the mural will allow Washingtonians to scan a photo of the mural into an app on their phone to gain access to stories of the different stages of Robeson’s life included in the timeline.
My favorite is the last one, which depicts him in front of the Eiffel Tower, a reference to the trip he took to France to attend the Soviet Union-sponsored Paris Peace Conference.
This will be the second tribute to Paul Robeson in the city. “(Here I Stand) In the Spirit of Paul Robeson,” a public artwork by artist Allen Uzikee Nelson, can currently be seen at the intersection of Kansas Avenue and Georgia Avenue NW, in Petworth.
Laetitia Brock grew up in Paris and landed in D.C. to get her masters at George Washington University. During the day, she works for a trade association near Thomas Circle, but in the evening and on the weekends, she loves discovering new street art around town and exploring the district’s bustling restaurant scene. In addition to contributing to Borderstan, she writes about her favorite DC spots for the travel website Spotted by Locals, and on her own blog, FrenchTwistDC.
Follow her on twitter at @laetitiabrock.