DC as Canvas: Bohemian Caverns Mural – Miles Misses Shirley

Bohemian caverns mural

What’s left of the Bohemian Caverns mural by Alonso Tamayo (Photo By: heydayjoe)

The Bohemian Caverns mural is half the mural it used to be. Created by artist Alonso Tamayo in 2000, the original artwork spanned the entire north side of the famous restaurant and jazz nightclub at 2001 11th Street NW and featured both Miles Davis and Shirley Horn. If Miles’ portrait could speak, he would probably encourage you to look a little deeper, to see beyond what’s in front of you and find what’s not there (i.e., Shirley).

Bohemian Caverns mural 2007

The Bohemian Caverns mural as it appeared in 2007 (Photo By: Holley St. Germain)

Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.” – Miles Davis

During Prohibition, the Bohemian Caverns (aka Club Caverns, then Crystal Caverns) was the swingingest jazz joint in DC, operating out of the basement of what was then the Davis Drugstore at the corner of 11th & U Street. Guests of all colors gathered for brined pork chops, liquor served in teacups and jazz jams that blew their socks off. Everyone who was anyone played the Caverns – not only Miles and Shirley, but also Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Pearl Bailey, Ramsey Lewis, Bill Evans, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus and John Coltrane.

When Bohemian Taverns commissioned Alonso Tamayo to create the outdoor mural, he was in his final year at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. Soon after, he moved to New York to earn an MFA in Digital Communication and Media/Multimedia from Pratt Institute, followed by motion graphic and web design work for MTV Networks, CSTV/CBS and Armani Exchange.

Bohemian Caverns mural Miles Davis

Miles Davis detail, Bohemian Caverns mural (Photo By: heydayjoe)

After returning to his native Bolivia, Tamayo earlier this year founded Abstrakt Studios in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where he spends his time as Creative Director of multimedia projects. You can see Tamayo painting his last known mural at the beginning of this BBC video. The mural was created in August 2013 at the recently whitewashed graffiti landmark 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens.

Like his 5Pointz mural, the Bohemian Caverns painting has also suffered. In 2009, half of the piece was lost to weathering and wall repair. Workers repaired the west end of the wall and painted over Shirley Horn’s face with a layer of gray. The owners have said they plan to restore the Caverns mural, but as of July 2014, Miles stands alone.

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…