Archive for August, 2016

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Giraffes Petroglyph

A petroglyph is defined as “a carving or inscription on a rock that is created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art.”  They are found world-wide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples.  So aside from possibly the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, you might not expect to find a petroglyph in D.C.  But on this lunchtime bike ride, that’s exactly what I did.

As I was riding on a driveway through the courtyard of a building located at 1145 17th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood, I saw a petroglyph depicting a couple of giraffes.   Hiding in some bushes and ivy and partially obscured by a tree, the giraffes seemed to be peeking out at me from behind the foliage.  So naturally I had to stop to get a better look and find out more about it. 

It turns out that the building with the petroglyph in the courtyard is the National Geographic Society’s headquarters.  One of the most well-known and largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world, the Society’s interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history.

The Society’s headquarters building also contains a museum that features a wide range of changing exhibitions, from interactive experiences to photography exhibitions featuring the work of National Geographic explorers, photographers, and scientists.  The museum is centrally located in downtown D.C., just a few blocks from the White House.  And admission tickets can be purchased in person at the museum ticket booth or online.

I’ll have to go back to the museum on another day when I have more time to spend so that I can more thoroughly enjoy it.  But for today, happening upon the giraffes petroglyph and finding out about the museum was enough.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

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Paul Raymond Tully’s Grave Marker

Earlier this year an obituary for the late Mary Anne Noland of Richmond, Virginia, was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper. It stated, “Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68.” And Noland’s obituary is not unique.  For example, an obituary for Ernest Overbey Jr., also of Richmond, ended with a request to “please vote for Donald Trump.” Similarly, the obituary for Katherine Michael Hinds, of Auburn, Alabama, suggested that “in lieu of flowers, do not vote for Donald Trump.”

Politics being important to someone, even after their death, is also not unique to the current election cycle. This became evident to me on a recent bike ride to Rock Creek Cemetery, located at 201 Allison Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Michigan Park neighborhood. There I saw the unusual grave marker for someone named Paul Raymond Tully. Aside from his name, and the dates of his birth and death, it simply read, “A Democrat.” This, combined with the appearance of the grave marker itself, compelled me to want to look into who he was, and why instead of sentiments like “Loving Husband” or “Devoted Father” or “Faithful Friend”, he was simply described by his political party affiliation.

Tully was born on May 14, 1944, in New York City, the son of working-class parents. He graduated from Yale and received a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania. But he then chose a career in politics rather than the law.  However, he did not run for office himself.  Nor was he the type of man who would eventually take some cushy political appointment in a Democratic administration. His lifelong work involved the political process, and getting a democrat elected president. Obsessed for more than two decades, he pursued this goal, thinking only a Democratic president could do the things he thought were needed to establish equity in American society.

Tully was only 48 years old when he died on September 24, 1992, in a hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he had just moved.  The coroner stated that he appeared to have died of natural causes, speculating that it was most likely a heart attack or stroke.  However, it is officially listed as unknown causes because no autopsy was allowed.

At the time of his death Tully was Director of Political Operations for the Democratic National Committee. With his roots in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, he had been closely associated with some of its most prominent figures, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Senators Gary Hart of Colorado, Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota and George McGovern of South Dakota, as well as former governor Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts. One of his party’s pre-eminent strategists, Tully had worked in every presidential campaign since 1968. And you may have already deduced from the place and timing of his death, at the time of died he was also key aide in the presidential campaign of Governor Bill Clinton.

The bronze memorial sculpture which serves as Tully’s headstone was designed by his eldest daughter, Jessica Tully. She created the nearly four and a half foot tall bronze and granite memorial, and worked with the Del Sol Foundry in California to cast and assemble the project. It consists of three elements. First, a representation of the wooden work chair from his home. On the chair is a folded copy of the New York Times from November 4, 1992, announcing the election of President Clinton. Lastly, there are two of his ubiquitous coffee cups, one for him and the other for whomever he would have been talking with, usually but not always about politics. The sculpture was not completed until more than a decade after his passing, and was unveiled at event on May 3, 2014, near what would have been his 70th birthday.

When I first saw it I just knew there would be an interesting story behind this unusual grave marker.  And I was right.  And after learning about the man, I can’t help but wonder what he would think of the current election.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

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The YuMe Tree

One of the best aspects of outdoor public art in D.C. is that it’s not limited to places like the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Art in D.C. can be found almost anywhere, and often in some unexpected places. A good example of this is the mural entitled The YuMe Tree, which I happened upon during this hot afternoon bike ride when I stopped at a store to buy a cold drink. On the wall of the north side of a building housing a CVS store, The YuMe Tree mural is located just off Pennsylvania Avenue at 500 12th Street (MAP), near the intersection with E Street, in the southeast area of D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The YuMe (you/me) Tree is a 28 by 14 foot mosaic art project that was literally built by the community as a tribute to community. It was designed by local artist and the founder of The Corner Store non-profit arts studio and performance center, Kris Swanson. Laurie Siegel, a fused glass artist and award winning art teacher who taught at Watkins Elementary School, located across the street from the mural, also contributed greatly to it. The project also included the input and involvement of dozens of friends, hundreds of Capitol Hill neighbors, and more than a thousand children at several elementary schools who sculpted and signed the three-inch names tiles that form the trunk, roots, and branches of the tree. Other tiles form the landscape out of which the tree emerges. These tiles contain messages reflecting some of the thoughts of the community, or are commemorative in nature, and come from various donors.

But one of the most striking aspects of The YuMe Tree is the tiles which make up the leaves of the tree. The leaves of the tree are cut mirror tiles, which reflect the reality of the mural’s surroundings back to the observer. The higher leaf groupings reflect the light and movement of the clouds in the sky. The lower mirror tiles reflect back the garden and other nearby trees, the street, Watkins Elementary School, and cars and people passing by.

The Yume Tree was installed and dedicated in October of 2003. But it remains an ever-evolving work.  It continues to change and grow along with the neighborhood as new name and sponsorship tiles are added periodically. So not only can you see this art project, but you can choose to contribute and be part of it as it carries forward in representing the community and beautifying the neighborhood.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

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Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church

On this lunchtime bike ride I went back to Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church.  It located at 1908 North Capitol Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, and is situated on hill next to a bridge where T Street passes over North Capitol Street.  I say I went “back” to the church because although it’s been many years, I have been there before.  My first (and current) wife and I were married there almost two decades ago, and this was the first time I’ve been back since.

Saint Martin’s Church was built in phases over time, and embraces an architecturally eclectic mix of neo-classical Greek and Roman styles. Beginning in 1902, a parish hall was constructed to serve the church, which was established the previous year. The original parish hall remains, and now serves as a community center. As the church continued to grow, a basement church was built on the corner of North Capital and T streets in 1913, and the main church was eventually added in 1939.

Martin of Tours was born in in Savaria in the Diocese of Pannonia, in what is now Szombathely, Hungary. Born of pagan parents, his father was a senior officer in the Roman Army who was later stationed at what was known as Ticinum, now Pavia, in northern Italy, where Martin spent much of his childhood. At the age of ten he attended the Christian church against the wishes of his parents, and became a catechumen. As the son of a veteran he was forced to serve in the Roman Army beginning at the age of 15. Then at the age of 18, while still in the Roman Army, he was baptised. This would eventually lead to a conflict of conscience and, at the age of 23, Martin found his military duty incompatible with his adopted Christian faith. He refused a war bonus and told his commander: “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” After great difficulties, he was discharged.

After living as a Catholic for some time, Martin traveled to meet Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, a theologian who would later also be canonized a saint. Martin’s spirituality and dedication to the faith impressed the bishop, who asked the former soldier to return to his diocese after a planned journey back to Hungary to visit his parents. While visiting them, Martin persuaded his mother, though not his father, to join the Church.

Martin became be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers, and was ordained an exorcist. He then became a monk, living first at Milan. Later, he moved to a small island named Gallinaria, now Isola d’Albenga, in the Ligurian Sea, where he lived the solitary life of a hermit. Eventually Martin returned to France and established what may have been the first French monastery near Poitiers. He lived there for the next decade, forming his disciples and preaching throughout the countryside. It was after this time that the people of Tours demanded that Martin become their bishop. A story was devised of a sick person at the church in Tours who was in need of Martin’s assistance. The ruse worked in bringing Martin to the church, where despite the deception he reluctantly allowed himself to be consecrated bishop.

After his appointed as Bishop, Martin continued to live as a monk, dressing plainly and owning no personal possessions. In fact, throughout the rest of his life Martin continued to live an austere life focused on the care of souls. In this same spirit of sacrifice, he traveled extensively as a missionary to places where Christianity was as yet barely known.

During his lifetime, Martin acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, and he was one of the first nonmartyrs to be publicly venerated as a saint.  Saint Martin of Tours has historically been among the most recognizable and beloved saints in the history of Europe.

I enjoyed learning more about the church and the saint after whom it was named as a result of this ride.  But even more, I enjoyed seeing the inside of the church again after so many years.  And it is exactly how I remembered it.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

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Cultivating the Rebirth

The MuralsDC Project is a program which was originally created by D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham as part of an effort to replace illegal graffiti throughout the city with artistic works, to revitalize sites within the community, and to teach young people the art of aerosol painting. It is now part of a part of a partnership between the one of the D.C. City Council’s committees chaired by Graham, the Public Works and Transportation Committee, as well as D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the D.C. Department of Public Works.

It was as part of this program that muralist Joel Bergner got together in the summer of 2010 with 30 young people from Civic Engagement, a Latin American Youth Center program based in Roosevelt High School.  Together, they spent the summer studying mural art, graffiti art and mosaics.  The program also provided the youths with supplies, and a legal means to practice and perform their newly-acquired skills in a way that promotes respect for public and private property and community awareness. As their final project of the summer program, they then designed and painted a mural entitled Cultivating the Rebirth.

Located in the 700 Block of Columbia Road (MAP) near its intersection with Georgia Avenue in northwest D.C.’s Park View neighborhood, Cultivating the Rebirth is a spray paint and mosaic mural that tells the story of students empowering themselves through education, working together on a collaborative effort to cultivate peace and uplift the community, and beautifying the neighborhood by taking a once old and cracked concrete retaining wall and turning it into a piece of art that I was able to enjoy during this lunchtime bike ride.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]