During this lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding through the Bloomingdale neighborhood, I happened upon another of the murals that are so prevalent throughout the city. Because I have seen his work before, I recognized the artistic style right away as that of Joel Bergner, also known as Joel Artista. He is a muralist, street artist, and educator. He is also an organizer of community-based public art initiatives, and is currently the co-director of the international community-based public arts network, the Artolution, which described itself as “an international community-based public arts network founded in creative empowerment through participatory and collaborative art making.”
Release Your Burdens and Be Free is located at the southwest corner of 1st and U Streets (MAP), on the side of a building currently housing a corner neighborhood market. It features the Hindu deity Ganesha, the “Remover of Obstacles,” and deals with people’s life obstacles that they create themselves by failing to release their personal baggage. The rest of the symbolism and meaning is up to the viewer to interpret. To me, the meaning of the artwork is similar to the reasons for my lunchtime bike rides, which allow me to temporarily release my burdens and stress, and feel free.
Bergner has created murals and public art pieces throughout the world, including several other murals here in D.C. which I’ve discovered during previous bike rides. These include Cultivating the Rebirth, My Culture, Mi Gente, and A Survivor’s Journey. I don’t know how many other works he has here in D.C., so I can only hope that I will encounter more of his art on future rides.