Posts Tagged ‘Joel Bergner’

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The Afro-Columbian Mural

The Afro-Columbian Mural, also known as Currulao y Desplazamiento, is a public mural that celebrates the Afro-Colombian culture of D.C., while at the same time increasing public awareness about the widespread displacement and other human rights violations related to the ongoing armed conflict in the South American country of Colombia.

Located in an alley at 1344 U Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s U Street corridor, the mural was funded by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and created by internationally recognized muralist Joel Bergner and his organization, Action Ashé! Global Art & Social Action Initiative, who also painted a number of other mural throughout the city, including Release Your Burdens and Be Free, Cultivating the Rebirth, “My Culture, Mi Gente” and A Survivor’s Journey.

According to the artist, he designed this mural with guidance, input, and inspiration of many of my close friends in D.C.’s Afro-Colombian community, many of whom have been granted political asylum in this country due to the severe human rights violations.  For additional inspiration, he also traveled to the Pacific Coast region of Colombia where the conflict is often most severe to visit his friends’ families, do research, and learn more about the political situation.

The colors of the mural are vibrant, intriguing and welcoming, while the mural’s complex content is depicted by several different scenes.  The size of the woman in the mural and the people underneath her portray the importance of Afro-Colombian traditions and culture.  These encouraging images are in a paradox with the depiction of the Colombian paramilitary, with people running from the forces, while a group of Afro-Colombians being exiled to huts is in the foreground.  And while working with a green field, Bergner also paints an airplane hovering above releasing ammo on the people below.

The mural was completed in 2009, and unveiled at a public event featuring speeches from the Afro-Colombian activist Marino Córdoba, as well as live music, traditional Afro-Colombian food, and a traditional dance presentation by the local Afro-Colombian dance group Tangaré.  The event was co-sponsored by TransAfrica Forum and the U.S. Network in Solidarity for Afro-Colombian Grassroots Communities.

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

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Release Your Burdens and Be Free

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.

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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]

"My Culture, Mi Gente"

“My Culture, Mi Gente”

While on this bike ride in northwest D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, I discovered a mural entitled “My Culture, Mi Gente.”  But as I later discovered when I was trying to find out more about what I had seen, it is more than just a mural.  And the man who created it is more than just an artist.

“My Culture, Mi Gente” is located at 3064 15th Street (MAP), across the street from the Columbia Heights Metro Station, in northwest D.C.  Funded by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the colorful mural celebrates the neighborhood’s rich diversity and culture, and was created by artists from the Latin American Youth Center’s Art+Media House, including Jamilla Okubo, Daphne Zecena, Janie Velasquez, and Gean C. Martinez, along with lead artist Joel Bergner.

Also known as Joel Artista, Joel Bergner is a social action muralist and street artist, as well as a youth and community art organizer who through art projects seeks to educate others on issues of culture and social justice by creating works that relate stories of those who have been ignored or misunderstood by society.

In addition to “My Culture, Mi Gente,” Joel Berger has also created large public murals in many other U.S. cities, as well in Brazil, the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Cuba, Kenya, Mozambique, Poland, Cape Verde in West Africa, El Salvador, and Peru. And much like his collaboration with the Latin American Youth Center here in D.C., his other works often feature collaborations with other youth-based organizations which represent incarcerated teenagers, Syrian refugees, youth from marginalized communities, the mentally and physically disabled, and street children in Rio de Janeiro. He has been commissioned by and worked with human rights groups as well, including the International Rescue Committee, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the Boys & Girls Club, UNICEF and Amnesty International.

I also found out that he has created other murals and other public art works here in D.C. So I hope to visit them on some of my future bike rides, and continue to learn more about the social awareness and action which they inspire.

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

A Survivor's Journey

A Survivor’s Journey

This bike ride took me to the Brookland neighborhood in northeast D.C., where I happened upon a Domestic Violence Awareness Project mural, entitled “A Survivor’s Journey.”  The public artwork is located near The Catholic University of America, on the side of The Brookland Café building at 3740 12th Street (MAP), which donated the wall as a canvas for the artwork.

Local award-winning mural artist Joel Bergner, who partnered with the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), an organization that provides refuge and services to victims of domestic abuse, created the large and colorful mural in 2010.  The project was financed through fundraisers, and in part by a campaign on Kickstarter, an online fundraising site for all things creative.

Designed based on interviews the artist conducted with victims of domestic violence and staff members at DASH, the mural is intended to use their stories as inspiration for its message about overcoming past trauma and looking toward a better future.  The dedication for the mural reads, “Inspired by true stories of domestic violence, this mural depicts a woman and child’s journey from a painful past to a brighter tomorrow with a myriad of support along the way.”

A Survivor’s Journey generally depicts darkness transitioning into light as it progresses from the left to the right of the piece, with the sun shown in top right corner of the piece.  The details of the mural show a collage of images.  Among them, an older couple positioned down the road from a home, a woman holding a clipboard, and a group of woman who appear to represent a variety of races and ethnic backgrounds.  Another image shows a scene which includes a figure of a controlling man with his hands on his hips standing in a doorway behind a woman, who is painted using only black and blue, possibly representing the bruises and injuries she has sustained as a result of physical abuse. The woman is covering her ears while a child, presumably her son, is looking up at her and tries to console her.

The largest image, which is the central focus of the mural, illustrates the same abused woman after overcoming her violent situation and reclaiming her life. This time, however, she is depicted with bright green eyes and a warm, colorful complexion. Symbolically on her clothes is the image of people tearing down a brick wall. Her son is again with her, but this time smiling and seemingly content. According to the artist, “They now look toward a brighter future with the support of family, friends, and a case worker and are joined by women of many backgrounds, showing that this issue is universal across race, ethnicity and nationality.”

SurvivorsJourney02a[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]