Duke Ellington Mural
Shown in dramatic relief against a black background, a brooding Duke Ellington looks west over the neighborhood that shaped and nurtured him. The monumental likeness was created in panels and attached to the side wall of Mood Indigo, the “nostalgia” shop adjacent to the Green Line metro station at 13th and U Streets, N.W.
The mural honors Washington's most illustrious "native son," the world-class musician and public figure who grew up “just around the corner” on Bates Street and began his career in the music halls and clubs that flourished along 14th Street in the 1910s. The art also celebrates the renaissance of the historic neighborhood and the easing of racial tensions.
From its high point as a center of black commerce and entertainment at the turn of the century, the “14th street corridor,” as it came to be known, fell victim to post-War urban blight. The street was badly damaged by the 1968 riots that rocked the city after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was virtually impassable during much of the 1980s due to subway construction.
Many businesses closed. One that didn't was Mood Indigo, the shop owned by Eugenia Lucas. The building had been in her family for generations, first as a laundry and cleaners, more recently as recycler of second-hand clothing and memorabilia. Lucas had long wanted a mural of Ellington, but some relatives opposed it, and besides, there was no money.
Meanwhile, white muralist G. Byron Peck also developed an interest in an Ellington piece. A project to be funded by McDonald's fell through, and someone put Lucas and Peck in touch. Peck was able to secure corporate funding from Mobil Oil; Lucas smoothed the way for community support and modest contributions from local businesses.
The painting is based on a photo of Ellington on the frontispiece of his autobiography, Music Is My Mistress. It was completed in 1997.
1200 U St., NW.
The True Reformer Building.
Metro: U St/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo (green line); 13th St. exit