By Kevin Baten
alexandrianews.org

Mural at King Street Blues (Photo: Kevin Baten)

Alexandria has many murals. Here are a few that can be found in the east end of the City.

The Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center is on Alexandria’s south side. The Miracle Field is located next to the Lee Center and is a place where children and adults of all abilities and disabilities play together. It has a very interesting meaning because this mural was created for people with disabilities and it shows the creativity and equality of everyone. The quote “Courage To Live Big” tells us that their disability can’t stop them from being creative as any normal kid or adult.

Old Town also has a very patriotic mural painted on the wall of King Street Blues representing the American culture by showing people in a painting of the American flag and the Statue of Liberty – both the flag and the statue stand for freedom and liberty. Next, one of the loading dock doors of the Torpedo Factory Art Center is painted in a very colorful and artistic way. This tells the public that the building is full of artists creating different types of art every day and that art lives here. The next mural is located at the plaza entrance of the Torpedo Factory. This mural is different from the rest because it shows a view of the Potomac River as it might appear through a real window from inside of the Torpedo Factory. This mural was painted to show summertime because you can see many people enjoying the nice weather at the river. The last mural at the Torpedo Factory is more a piece of abstract art because it has different colors and shapes.

Old Town also has a long mural located on the Mount Vernon Bike Trail adjacent to the former NRG Power Plant and gives people a view of Old Town in the past. The various scenes depict empty fields, houses and the view of Washington, DC from Alexandria. The final scene on this mural shows the Woodrow Wilson Bridge opened to allow a ship to pass underneath, stopping vehicular traffic on the bridge. There are also people fishing on the Potomac.

Further along the bike path is an older mural now nearly covered by vines. Meant to be a tribute to the “Fathers of the Country”, only Presidents George Washington and John Adams are visible. Coming up to Montgomery Street you can see a painting of the logo of Hank's Pasta Bar. This is painted with a black background and at the center it has a red circle with a fork with pasta saying that the restaurant sells Italian food.           

Greenstreet Gardens of Del Ray
(Photo: Kevin Baten)

Del Ray is another community in Alexandria that is very different from Old Town. Like Old Town, Del Ray has its own historical significance.  You can see this history reflected in the many murals on Mount Vernon Avenue. On the Walgreens store are two painted mural windows of antiques alongside an actual window allowing people to see inside the store as it is today. The mural windows show items that might have been in the store before it became Walgreens (it was formerly an antique store). Across the street from Walgreens is Junction Bakery. The mural here shows a train – part of Del Ray’s history – and the ingredients used to make bakery items.

One of the most magical murals in Alexandria reflects the colors and the flowers of plants displayed in the open space where it is located. The mural at Greenstreet Gardens of Del Ray is almost an extension of the garden. A nearby house on Mount Vernon Avenue has a mural painted on the side of flowers and trees which blend seamlessly into the branches of a real tree. The mural at Dog’s Best Friend store, although a logo, shows characterizations of dogs interacting with people – the connection of dogs and their owners. On the other store wall is a mural of a forest. This might be Del Ray before people and modern conveniences. The mural on the outside wall of St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub shows people doing what they do there – drinking coffee, eating snacks, chatting with friends and working on their computers.

The new “Greetings From Del Ray” mural is another favorite. Inside each bubble letter are scenes that are special for the community: the Halloween Parade and Art on the Avenue are examples. The Historic Del Ray mural on the side of Cheesetique is a painting of a train and horse that tells the story of Del Ray's past with the railyard (Potomac Yard) and the St. Asaph Racetrack. The mural at Mount Vernon Recreation Center shows the diversity and lives of those who live, work, play and attend school in Del Ray. 

Arlandria's Mural

Mural in Arlandria (Photo: Kevin Baten)

Across Glebe Road on Mount Vernon Avenue is Arlandria, a very different community from Del Ray. The mural on the Tenants and Workers United building shows that the Arlandria community works together as one even though people come from different races and countries – but they live and work there together as a community. You can also find a mural at the back of MOM’s that is very simple, but it shows sun and wind energy and farmland says that everything in the supermarket is organic. The community center that houses the Arlandria Farmer’s Market shows everyday life in Arlandria: people learning, playing, working, and cooking. There is also a large mural along the entire front of the Birchmere that tells the history of the music hall. 

Editor’s Note:
A mural is a painting or photograph applied directly to a wall, ceiling or other permanent surface. In Alexandria, murals often depict themes from community life, past or present. The beauty of learning about Alexandria through murals is that language is not a barrier. 

Kevin Baten is a senior at T. C. Williams High School doing Senior Experience with alexandrianews.org. He plans to study photography at NOVA and then VCU. Although his English is excellent, he came to Alexandria only five years ago from Guatemala. His first assignment was to locate and describe murals in Alexandria.

Kevin located and photographed 25 murals in the east end of Alexandria. These are his observations and photographs. The West End mural was not covered in this initial photo-journey. 

Alexandria's Murals