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I have,” said Anna Rose Soevik, a Bethesda artist who did the work featuring Fitzgerald on a JBG apartment building in the Twinbrook section of Rockville. “I feel so grateful to have done it.”
Artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers adorned JBG’s property at 1300 First Street NE. (Photo by Miguel Martinez, courtesy JBG)
Murals and street art gained prominence in cities as forms of advocacy and protest. Historians have traced the origins of American graffiti art to inner Philadelphia in the 1960s, and it later earned notoriety on New York City subways.
A lot of contemporary murals are backed by arts groups, nonprofit organizations or individual property owners. JBG’s use of the form for “placemaking” raised questions among some artists and university art professors about what role the artists’ work played in the company’s business, particularly in a region increasingly divided over speedy development.
Is JBG’s art partly branding? Is it organic or corporate? Or both?
“The murals certainly will contribute toward the neighborhood,” said G. James Daichendt, who studies street art as dean of arts and humanities at San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University.
Daichendt said there was a spectrum of mural work from surface-level decoration to deep, meaningful contributions that reference important aspects of the community. JBG is far from alone in using murals for business purposes; Justin Bieber revealed a new song with a mural on Rhode Island Avenue NE, and last summer the Discovery Channel covered the side of its Silver Springbuilding to promote Shark Week.
“Great public art will engage the neighborhood and be a nexus for conversation,” Daichendt said. “It remains to be seen whether these murals will function in this manner.”
The JBG Companies has commissioned artists to paint two dozen murals to enhance neighborhoods where it owns real estate in the Washington region. (The JBG Companies)
Over the course of its 55 years in business, JBG has won the backing of Ivy League endowment managers and wealthy foreign investors, raising a series of real estate funds that allowed it to acquire more than $10 billion worth of hotels, shopping centers and office and apartment buildings, all of which are in or around the Capital Beltway.
JBG is the blue whale of Washington real estate firms. Its 23.6 million square feet of properties are more than any other company’s Washington holdings. The portfolio includes L’Enfant Plaza, the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, a portion of the Southwest Waterfront and large stakes in Rosslyn, U Street, Potomac Yard, Rockville, Tysons Corner and a dozen other neighborhoods.JBG also sometimes makes large real estate sales and has been considering some recently.
The mural project has resulted in four stories of painted flowers on the side of a Rockville office building and three fanciful bugs on the side of a JBG apartment building near U Street. A smiling crocodile with a butterfly on its nose adorns a park...