Tuesday, April 16, 2019

before the purple line, silver spring will get this train-chameleon mural

CORRECTION: this story has been updated to reflect the fact that this mural depicts a chameleon, not an iguana; I'm gonna go review my lizard flash cards now

The Purple Line won't open for a few years, but it'll arrive a little sooner in Silver Spring in the form of a new mural that turns the train into...a chameleon. Work on the mural started last week on a blank wall the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street, where Purple Line trains will run once the light rail opens in 2023.

The mural, currently in progress, depicts a train-chameleon hybrid. Photo by the author.

The Silver Spring Urban District, which manages everything from street sweeping to community events in the downtown, commissioned the mural with the Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment District. It held a poll last year for residents to choose from a few different designs, and this train-iguana hybrid won. (Full disclosure: I voted for it.)

The mural fills a block-long blank wall next to the future Purple Line. Photo by the author.

It's an important piece of public art for an intersection that's changed a lot. There used to be another building at the corner, but it was demolished in the 1970s to widen Bonifant Street, revealing the blank wall. In recent years, this stretch of Georgia Avenue has become the heart of Silver Spring nightlife. The Quarry House Tavern, which opened in the 1930s, sits across Georgia, and new venues like Society, Urban Butcher, and Astro Lab have opened nearby. Washington Property Company, which is building a new, 20-story apartment building across Bonifant Street, paid for the mural.

Here's what the mural will look like when it's done. Image from the Silver Spring Urban District.
However, the push for a mural started several years ago from community members. In 2014, local architects Atul Sharma and Mark Schrieber gave a presentation at PechaKucha Night Silver Spring about how underused public spaces could become opportunities for art or community gatherings. One of their proposals was painting a mural on the blank wall. Around the same time, mysterious posters appeared around the then-unfinished Silver Spring Transit Center calling for it to become recreational space.

When it's built, each Purple Line station will also have public artwork on display, but it's cool to see community-led artwork joining it. Hopefully, the train-chameleon will become a well-loved landmark for future riders.

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