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Street Artists Create Huge Murals

  • Deborah Block

Street art has reached new heights in Washington, DC. The sides of an empty building have become the canvas for huge murals by street artists. Their creations will last only a few months since the building will be torn down as part of an urban renewal project. But, the artists don’t mind and are actually looking forward to the demolition, to show that street art rarely lasts.

Washington street artist Kelly Towles is putting the finishing touches on this mural. He created it with fellow muralist Jasper Wong from Hawaii. Towles says they wanted to create a fantasy that would make people smile.

“It is two characters basically playing an old child’s game of cat’s cradle, which is a game with two people doing intricate things with a string around each other’s hands. The character on the left is the dinosaur, which is from Jasper Wong, and the character on the right is just a hooded, masked figure created by myself," said Towles.

Besides spray paint, they used paint rollers to create the mural. They worked on it for three weeks, with help from other artists.

On another wall, a pair of Australians, who call themselves Dabs Myla, created this bat-like creature.

Towles came up with the idea of painting street art on the building. He approached Forest City real estate company, which is tearing it down as part of urban revitalization in the area. Gary McManus, Vice President for Marketing, says the company commissioned the artwork.

“We thought it was an opportunity to have a kind of fleeting art installation and it would be compelling for people to come down to see it. It didn’t have a lot of windows and it was white to begin with so it was a wonderful canvas," said McManus.

The project, known as Art Yards, began not with a mural, but with Towles pouring a cascade of colors.

“It’s an awesome experience when you actually propose something to someone, and be like ‘Hey, let me dump a bunch of paint down the side of their building,’ and they’re like “Yeah," he said.

Like Towles, Baltimore street artist Michael Kirby creates colorful fantasies - only his are on the ground.

“I want to inspire them, to educate them, to see the world in a different light maybe," said Kirby.

On the Art Yard’s parking lot, which will also be destroyed, he created a fishbowl with a castle inside.

“I wanted to create something underwater and so I came up with the idea of creating some sort of fantastical fish bowl and instead of goldfish, I had sea monsters," he said.

Kirby is known for his 3D artwork.

“The whole idea is to stretch the whole image, so the horns are stretched really, really long. The face is more elongated. All the vertical lines in the piece are extended, so that from this point of view it all comes together and forms one picture," he said.

Towles has asked that his mural be torn down first when the demolition begins.

“I love that it’s going to be destroyed. That’s street art and graffiti in itself. One minute it’s there and the next moment it’s not," he said.

Towles says he's looking forward to watching his mural come down with a bang.