Atlanta-based artist Alex Brewer is known for using bright colors and shapes in his murals. Brewer painted the former church, located at 700 Delaware Ave. SW, over a two-week time. (Photo: Steffanie Giesler)
Alex Brewer, left, and Stuart Golley, right, covered the brick church with brightly colored paint the first week of painting. The second week Brewer will be adding pictures to the mural to the historic building located at 700 Delaware Ave. SW. (Photo: Steffanie Giesler)

A wrought-iron fence spray-painted neon pink is not something one would expect to see in an old southwest D.C. neighborhood.  At 700 Delaware Ave. SW the fence is the last thing that stands out against an old church that has been completely transformed into a mural.  Formerly a place of worship, the historic building is now an eclectic blend of vibrant colors and whimsical designs.

Atlanta-based artist Alex “Hense” Brewer was commissioned to create a work of art out of this run-down, empty building.  “The bigger picture of all of this is for this neighborhood to become a hub for art in D.C. and to show people you can take something and re-purpose it in a positive way,” he said.

The enormous mural is only the first step in a transition to making southwest D.C. a destination for art.  Recently, the vacant building across the street from the church was purchased by an investor who plans to turn it into an art museum.  This gradual evolution should evoke a sense of community for its residents.  “Having so many different things going on really brings everyone together,” said Arruda.

Neighborhood residents Hiep Nguyen and Pierce Bardin live in an apartment that overlooks the brightly colored building.  “We’ve been watching the progress from our balcony and we’re excited to see what comes of it all,” said Nguyen.  “Everyone around here seems really interested in it,” she said.

The church, built in the early 1900s, previously housed the congregation of the Friendship Baptist Church, and was designated as a D.C. historic site in 2004.  This preservation protects the building from being torn down or drastically altered.

Hense hopes that his work will be viewed not only as a mural but also as a sculpture.  “I want it to be very impactful, bold and viewed from afar,” he said.  With the size of the building and use of bold colors, it’s hard not to see the building from both near and far.

By Catherine Hamm

Steve Tanner, owner of the vacant Friendship Baptist Church. He says he is pleased to arrange HENSE’s art as a contribution to the Southwest neighborhood. (Photo: Perry Klein)

5 thoughts on “From Vacant to Vibrant, An Old Church is Transformed”

  1. Really curious about this project. Who commissioned the artist? Does the building owner have a vision for the building, or is this the artistic installation the solution? Surprised that preservation protects the building from being torn down or drastically altered, but that covering its facade entirely in paint was permitted.

  2. Buildings serve several needs of society – primarily as shelter from weather and as general living space, to provide privacy, to store belongings and to comfortably live and work. A building as a shelter represents a physical division of the human habitat (a place of comfort and safety) and the outside (a place that at times may be harsh and harmful).”

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