St. John’s Episcopal Church, DowntownDC BID, the PAINTS Institute collective

Washington, D.C.

This collaboration facilitated an impactful and historic act of beauty. In the wake of COVID-19 the church’s doors had closed, and the welcoming traditions, public ceremonies and community interaction shifted online. Another inflection point was George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, which had ignited massive demonstrations near the church, mere steps from the White House. Subsequently, President Trump’s violent clearing of protestors further hampered St. John’s from forming community connection and reconciliation.

In the capital the PAINTS organization of local artists adorned shuttered building windows with symbols of unity and reclamation. St. John’s and DC BID saw the PAINTS activities as a powerful, synergistic opportunity. Artists created vivid murals on the plywood boards covering the priceless 19th-century stained-glass windows of St. John’s. Hundreds of people streamed by the church during the event. But in the weeks and months that followed, thousands more viewed the images of love, unity, and peace. Today, St. John’s has become a pilgrimage site and people stop and behold the murals that remain. St. John’s rector Rev. Rob Fisher notes that the “Mural March” allows the church to send rays of hope and reconciliation streaming outward.

Jury Comments

At a time of racial strife, instead of ‘circling the wagons’ this church and its collaborators reached out to the community at the scale of the city and the nation. They changed the narrative and made something very positive out of a very negative act. It is important that this project is ongoing, and the work here is historic. It brings multiple voices to this place.

Project Team Members

Rev. Rob Fisher, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church
Gerren Price, Interim Executive Director, DowntownDC BID
John Chisholm, Executive Director, PAINTS Institute (deceased)

Project Consultants

Levi Robinson, PAINTS Institute artist