DC as Canvas: “Marvin” Mural Brings Architectural Healing

"Marvin" by Aniekan Udofia (Photo By: heydayjoe)

“Marvin” by Aniekan Udofia (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Artist Aniekan Udofia created his Marvin Gaye mural in DC, “Marvin,” in September 2013 as part of a citywide mural project sponsored by Heineken. This tribute to Marvin Gaye** graces the east wall of 711 S Street NW, just west of the Shaw–Howard University Metro station.

“Art makes a random place a landmark,” says Udofia of street art. To prove it, he’s created new landmarks all over DC.

Perhaps known best locally for his murals and large-scale paintings, Udofia gained national prominence for his photorealistic illustrations and caricatures appearing in urban publications such as Vibe, The Source and XXL.

Though he was born in DC in 1976, Udofia’s parents returned their young family to Nigeria soon after completing their education in the States. Growing up in southeast Nigeria as part of the Ibibio tribe, regarded as the most ancient of Nigeria’s ethnic groups, Udofia was heavily inspired by a local culture blended with American hip hop. He never attended art school, and he never received any formal training. A love of art, music and visual expression keeps his artwork flowing.

He most recently exhibited paintings and custom pieces for the “WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets” exhibit at DC’s Long View Gallery. To learn more about Udofia and his vivid street art, click here.

(Photo By: heydayjoe)**[Marvin Gaye was born in DC. He first grew up in a house at 1617 First Street SW and then in his teens relocated to the Deanwood neighborhood, where he attended Cardozo High School in Columbia Heights. At Cardozo, he joined his first band, D.C. Tones.]

UPDATE: As of August 20, 2014, the Marvin Gaye mural is being covered over by construction of a two-unit condo building in the adjacent lot. Artist Udofia says that a new mural is in the works. Details to come…

Cowboy Indian Alliance Rally Ends with a Bang and a Whoop

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

On Saturday, April 26, at 11 a.m., thousands gathered on the National Mall for the finale of a weeklong protest to reject construction of a transcontinental oil pipeline and protect America’s land and water.

Hosted by the Cowboy Indian Alliance – a group of ranchers, farmers and Native American tribal communities – the “Reject and Protect” protest sought to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed TransCanada pipeline would carry crude oil from the tar sands of Canada’s Alberta province to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Although there were a half dozen teepees and a smattering of Native Americans and aboriginal Canadians in the crowd, the closest thing to a cowboy appeared to be Neil Young – and he’s Canadian. Following a series of speakers, the protesters gathered behind Neil and tribal leaders and marched to the White House to present President Obama with a hand-painted teepee. Since the proposed pipeline would cross an international border, it needs Obama’s approval to move forward. Although the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline has been in limbo for five years, Obama is waiting for a recommendation from Secretary of State John Kerry before he makes his final decision.

Click on the thumbnails below to see shots from the rally and the march.

DC as Canvas: “Higher” by Gaia and Con

"Higher" by Gaia and Con graces a U Street alleyway. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

“Higher” by Gaia and Con graces a U Street alleyway. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Commissioned by DCArts in 2010, this backstreet gem appears on the east side of 1017 U Street NW in the alley between Lovely Yogurt and Corte Salon. It’s a relatively early creation by street muralist Gaia, who was still in college at the time, and Con, a graffiti artist.

Now considered a rising star in the art world, Gaia grew up in New York City and is a 2011 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, where he lives and works. His murals appear on buildings in cities across America as well as Canada, Argentina, Italy, France, the U.K., the Netherlands, South Africa and South Korea.

Earlier this month, Gaia completed work on a wall in Perth, Australia, for the independent nonprofit arts organization FORM. Titled “dementia,” the mural is a “depiction of wetlands fading into a collage of moments from the city of early modern planning to skyscraper development in the CBD.”

Among his many other murals, “Higher” is a modest piece that provides a small taste of his work – and his talent. We’ll continue to showcase this talent by featuring other neighborhood murals Gaia’s created throughout DC. Stay tuned…

The Architecture of Camouflage

What lurks behind these empty walls? (Image By: heydayjoe)

Hey, 400 block of 8th Street NW! Powell Elementary’s Drama Club called — they want their stage sets back! (Image By: heydayjoe)

If you’re a sharp-eyed passerby, or simply sighted, you may have noticed these lackluster building facades along 8th Street NW between D & E. What are they hiding?

Perhaps it’s the “Danger – High Voltage” signs hanging on the concrete doorways that give it away. Or maybe it’s the white trucks with the blue and green logo driving in and out of the buildings.

Despite some telltale signs of what hides behind these walls, we have to give props to these props. Though the design of these false fronts is far from grandiose, it does blend into the neighborhood better than, say, a concrete bunker surrounded by barbed-wire fencing, like one you might find at…

Pepco substation.

Yes, these phony facades hide a power substation of the Potomac Electric Power Company, aka Pepco, a large utility that serves Washington, DC, and the surrounding area. But why here, on a piece of prime real estate in trendy Penn Quarter? The answer: location. Substations have to be close to the neighborhoods they serve, and as the condo towers continue to rise, this substation in disguise is dishing out more power every day.

Thank you for your interest but due to security concerns we do not disseminate the type of information you have requested about our electric system. I apologize for not being able to accommodate your request.

Heyday contacted Pepco to get the scoop on this substation and others. When were the fake facades on 8th Street created? How much is the real estate they’re located on worth? How many substations are there in DC proper? The answers to these questions? We’ll never know, because Pepco wants to keep its utility under the radar. The quote to the right is the official response from Bob Hainey, Pepco’s media relations manager.

For the record, Heyday DC poses no nefarious threat; we are not that tricksy and our addiction to electricity leads us to respect Pepco’s right to substation secrecy. So Pepco, you keep hiding and we’ll keep seeking.

Pepco – giving you energy and light, while hiding in plain sight…

[UPDATE: The good people at the Washington DC History Network (@H_DC_DCHistory) pointed us to a 1997 Washington Post story with more information about the mysterious facades. The building fronts on this section of 8th Street NW are historical fragments from buildings that once stood along Pennsylvania Avenue. Starting with the building on the left (south) in the above photo, the facades are from Bassin’s, Washington’s first sidewalk cafe, originally located at 14th and Pennsylvania; Kann’s, once DC’s second largest department store, in the 700 block of Market Space (a three-bay cast-iron segment); 1201 Pennsylvania Ave., originally constructed in the 1890s and torn down in the 1960s to make way for the first modern office building on the west end of Pennsylvania Ave.; 405 7th Street NW; and 819 and 817 Market Space NW. It sure would be nice to have a commemorative plaque here that describes the origin of these building facades…]

Holding Out for Some Heroes

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

On Friday, DC’s Awesome Con, a self-described “comic-con that embraces all aspects of geekdom and pop culture,” attempted to break the Guinness World Record for most assembled costume players photographed at one time. The clarion calls went out through social media, microphones and bullhorns for all superheroes (and villains) to meet at noon at the Reflecting Pool in front of the U.S. Capitol. The goal was to beat the current world record held by China’s World Joyland, the Chinese equivalent of Disneyland, which gathered 1,530 costumed characters on April 19, 2011.

There must have been a confluence of worldwide calamities yesterday, because only 237 superheroes showed up – and most of them were under four feet tall.

Heyday DC was there on the National Mall to witness this grand fizzle of a nonhistoric non-event. Click on the photos below to see some of our favorite costumed crusaders.

 

Overheard: Spider-Man Caught in Political Web

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

 

Welcome to the second in our series of eavesdropped conversations.

[We couldn’t help but overhear your private conversation in a public place.]

 

EXT. NATIONAL MALL, NEAR REFLECTING POOL IN FRONT OF U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING – JUST AFTER NOON

Hundreds of costumed crusaders are gathered in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most assembled costume players gathered in one place. Cameramen and reporters swarm the crowd looking for the inside scoop on how it feels to pretend to be a superhero. A reporter confronts one of the more authentic-looking spider-men, among a half-dozen imposters.

FEMALE REPORTER

Spider-Man. Can I ask you a question?

SPIDER-MAN

[strikes superhero pose with hands on hips, feet in a wide stance and head held high)

Yes!

FEMALE REPORTER

What do you think of the funding being given to science programs in elementary schools?

 

T. Rex Finds New Home in DC – Rent-Free!

    DC's resident T. rex arrives at the loading dock of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the wee hours of April 15, 2014. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

DC’s resident T. rex arrives at the loading dock of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the wee hours of April 15, 2014. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

You know that colossal T. rex skeleton that towers over you as you enter the dinosaur hall in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History? It’s a fake – but not for long. This morning at 5:30 a.m., a FedEx 18-wheeler pulled into the parking lot with the real skeletal remains of a genuine T. rex.

Federal Express – When your dinosaur absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

For the first time since the dinosaur hall opened in 1911, the Museum of Natural History will have a bona fide Tyrannosaurus rex gracing its space. This 38-foot long, 7-ton T. rex is on loan to the Smithsonian Institution for 50 years, and we owe its discovery to a Montana woman out camping with her family.

The first bones of DC’s new T. rex were discovered in 1988 by Kathy Wankel, a rancher who found the dinosaur’s arm bones near the Fort Peck Reservoir in northeast Montana, on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Christened the Wankel T. rex, the dinosaur was kept by the Corps at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman for nearly 20 years until it was packed up and shipped to DC.

Shipping a T. rex isn’t as hard as it may sound. In some ways, it’s like sending a care package to college. Wrap it up, put it in a box and toss the box onto a truck. Only this care package nixed the bubble wrap in favor of custom-molded plaster cradles. And it came in 16 crates in a customized FedEx truck driven by a husband and wife team. The couple left Bozeman in a 53-foot-long semi on April 11 for the more than 2,000-mile trip – and arrived on time.

Time to unload the dinosaur (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Time to unpack the dinosaur (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Back in 1997, the Museum of Natural History was on the verge of getting a real T. rex — a dino named Sue. Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered, was to be auctioned by Sotheby’s to the highest bidder. The Smithsonian thought it belonged in its dinosaur collection. To bring Sue home to DC, the world’s most-visited natural history museum was prepared to spend $2.5 million. It wasn’t nearly enough. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago drastically outbid the Smithsonian, spending $8.3 million to bring Sue home to Chicago, where the 67-million-year-old remains the star attraction, drawing more than 6.5 million visitors.

Some assembly required -- eat your heart out, Ikea. Yes, this T. rex would eat your heart out, Ikea. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED — just like Ikea! (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Since that fated auction, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has been looking for an alternative T. rex to complete its collection – until now. To make room for the big guy, the dinosaur hall will close on April 28 for a five-year renovation. When the hall reopens in 2019, the Wankel T. rex is set to be the centerpiece of a new paleontology exhibit that will showcase the giant carnivore like never before.

Now that will be something you can sink your teeth into…

[DINOSAUR BONUS: The Ohio State University marching band does a great T. rex impression. To see the beast in action, scroll to the 1:30 mark in the video below.]

Cherry Blossom Haikus 2014

This past weekend brought to a close the three-week National Cherry Blossom Festival in DC. When the trees reached peak bloom last Thursday, we asked readers to send their best haikus about the cherry blossoms in DC. Here are our favorites.

(Illustration By: Matt Wainwright)

(Illustration By: Matt Wainwright)

 

the beaver vandals
hide in the day, but at night
they eat your blossoms

— Heydaisy from DC

Days, at last, longer.
Pink snow falls and starts dancing
along DC streets.

— Laura from Kiev, Ukraine

 

(Photo By: Heydaisy)

(Photo By: Heydaisy)

 

As blossoms emerge,
Tourists swarm the city streets.
Blooming idiots.

— Jim from Lanham, Md.

The gifts from Japan,
Cherry trees pique appetites.
Sushi, wasabi.

— Jim from Lanham, Md.

A brief Spring rises
March into April’s Pink bliss
Time to fornicate

— Badge from Taipei, Taiwan