Mural at Hopkins Apartments Reflects Urban Farm and Community

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Artists Dietrich Williams and Mark Garrett with the Hopkins Urban Garden Mural. Photo: Ayanah George Photography

As summer began to recede, a new mural came to life at Hopkins Apartments. Created by the residents with the help of two local artists, the new mural reflects a recently developed onsite urban farm.

Located between two apartment buildings at 1000 K Street SE, Hopkins’ urban farm is one of six “Bridge Park Plots” initiated by THEARC’s 11th Street Bridge Park organization.  Destinee Johnson, Program Associate at the 11th Street Bridge Park, sought to “activate around the farm” to ensure residents felt ownership of the newly developed plots.  To this end, at the request of the Hopkins residents, Johnson sent out a call for artists to create a new mural to give the plots a sense of place. Through a competitive panel selection, artists Mark Garrett and Dietrich Williams were selected.

Urban Farming
Like the other five Bridge Park Plots that dot DC’s eastern neighborhoods, the Hopkins farm is part of THEARC’s 11th Street Bridge Equitable Development Plan.  The urban farming initiative began in 2016 in response to over 1000 meetings with area residents who expressed a desire to experience urban agriculture. Each urban farm, including Hopkins’, includes a strong community engagement component to connect residents to the new plots.

As Johnson explains, “We had [Hopkins] community members be part of the process.  In meetings, the idea of having urban agriculture spaces kept coming up.” Officially called Hopkins Garden & Orchard, the urban farm was established spring of 2018 and comprises 40 garden plots and 20 fruit trees.

Hopkins serves its residents first and foremost as a place to call home while the urban farm provides residents with a shared amenity.  Johnson added, “One of the biggest things was to work with residents to make sure they felt they had ownership of the farm space.”  In meetings with the farm manager, Johnson discussed various ideas on how to reinforce that sense of ownership and the idea of creating a mural came up.  Johnson said that, “We then spoke with stakeholders like the resident council, asking them ‘how do you want to engage with your surroundings?’ The mural was also seen by the council as a way to beautify the space.”

Community Engagement through
Shared Visual Language
Johnson circulated a request for proposals which yielded several artist applicants.  Out of the pool of artists, the selection committee, which included Hopkins residents, chose Mark Garrett and Dietrich Williams both of whom are DC-native, locally based artists.

Preparing the wall. Photo: Ayaneh George Photography

Garrett and Williams had submitted a joint proposal. This was neither their first collaboration nor their first community mural as the duo had just finished a similar project. Both artists saw the Hopkins mural as an opportunity for them to continue working together as artists.

The artists presented their initial design to the Hopkins community which allowed residents to make changes.  “Some of the things they wanted to see were literally added to the design” says Williams.

Garrett and Williams wanted to create a piece of art that reflected and highlighted the garden.  As Williams describes it, “We wanted to create some activity around the mural, to look at the piece and spend some time in the garden.  I wanted them [the residents] to a have greater appreciation for their residence and make them proud of where they reside.”

The project took several weeks to complete and was finished on September 18.  The mural itself was a three-part process in which Hopkins residents were invited to participate.  First, residents helped with the carpentry and created the panels upon which the mural would be painted. Next, residents painted the mural which was broken down into different sections. Lastly, the mural was mounted along a fence.

The artwork consists of large depictions of plants from the urban farm which frame the words “Hopkins Gardens” in the center.  The words appear in the foreground in bold letters and seemingly rest atop an image of the Hopkins apartment complex.

Artists Garrett and Williams’ creative mark on Capitol Hill has just begun.  They plan to work on many more projects together including a mural of late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. The duo hopes to start the mural no later than spring 2021. When completed, Lewis’ likeness will adorn the side of a commercial building at 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, overlooking the gas station, greeting passers-by heading southbound towards the John Philip Sousa Bridge.

To learn about the Bridge Park Plots visit bbardc.org/farm-garden

Phil Hutinet is the publisher of East City Art, DC’s alternative art source. For more information visit www.eastcityart.com.