Muralist prepares to start Tenleytown art project

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The mural at 4425 Wisconsin Ave. NW in Tenleytown will feature the neighborhood's history.
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A new mural is coming to Tenleytown as early as this month, dressing up the Han Cleaners building with a depiction of the neighborhood’s rich history.

The project at 4425 Wisconsin Ave. NW comes from a $36,760 grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Local couple Stephen Voss and Charlene Kannankeril successfully requested the city grant and commissioned mural artist Jarrett Ferrier to paint the building’s south wall. Work can begin as soon as permits from the city are approved.

The project’s origins date back to April 2016, according to Voss. “We had seen some murals go up in D.C. We’d always known D.C. as a city full of murals,” he said.

After he and his wife found out about the individual grant opportunities from the commission, they asked Ferrier to create the piece. Ferrier’s D.C. work is also featured at Rocklands Barbeque, Jetties, Children’s National Medical Center and various other prominent sites around the city. “I was humbled and honored that I was asked,” Ferrier, a Glover Park resident, told The Current.

After securing a mural artist, Voss and Kannankeril began community outreach.

“We talked to a ton of different people and set up an online survey about what people would like to see in their neighborhood,” Voss said. “We’re in Tenleytown and our overall sense was that this should showcase the history.”

The Han Cleaners building at Wisconsin Avenue and Grant Road NW is slated to receive a mural depicting Tenleytown’s history. (Brian Kapur/The Current/August 2017)

Tenleytown was an existing community prior to the District’s creation, making it one of D.C.’s oldest historic neighborhoods, second only to Georgetown. The mural will be called “Celebrating Tenleytown’s History: Past and Present.”

Mural designs went through several phases, and each time the project team requested community feedback. Prominent features on the mural will include Civil War stronghold Fort Reno and a Union soldier; Reno City as a community for freed slaves; and the historic fire station with a sign that reads “Welcome to Tenleytown.”

Ferrier will also paint a silhouette of a band in homage of the 40-plus years of free concerts at Fort Reno, along with the D.C. flag, the Fort Reno water tower, the Tenleytown streetcar that made the neighborhood more accessible to downtown D.C., a segment of the Metrorail system map and the D.C. public schools in the area.

One of the most recent additions to the mural’s design is Ferrier’s idea to highlight the businesses that have inhabited 4425 Wisconsin Ave. NW, the oldest commercial building in Tenleytown.

“I thought it would be cool to incorporate all of the different names,” Ferrier said. “It’s a dry cleaner now. It was a bar. At one point it was once a drugstore.”

During the installation process, Voss is hoping to bring in students from local D.C. schools to talk to Ferrier about art and the history of the city. He then plans to unveil the mural on Sept. 30 and will invite residents, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh to a ceremony at the site. He and Ferrier hope the mural can enhance the landscape and educate the community about Tenleytown’s history.  

“Rather than just a wall that’s painted brown, we’ll put something there that can hopefully be appreciated and serve as a learning tool,” Ferrier said. “When it comes right down to it, it’s trying to educate people through something that’s attractive.”

This post has been updated to correct the last name of Charlene Kannankeril.