[Slideshow] Historic DC Church Gets a Mural Makeover

Posted on: April 12th, 2013 by Emily Potter 6 Comments

Alex Brewer, better known as HENSE, is an Atlanta, Ga.-based graffiti artist who took to Washington, D.C.’s city streets last year for a private commission to transform an abandoned, historic church into a work of art.

HENSE in his studio.

The old Friendship Baptist Church, on Delaware Street in Southwest DC, is located in a part of town that “has a huge potential to be the next arts district,” according to the artist. In fact, the lot across the street has been purchased as the site for a contemporary art museum, and there are also plans to build a hotel.

With a small crew, in just several weeks, HENSE dove into his imagination and conjured up the beautiful, vibrant mural that now envelopes the church

“Most of the tools I use in my murals and paintings are the same tools I learned to use by working in the street in the early years," he says. "I use rollers, brushes, spray paint, inks, acrylics, mops, enamels, paint sprayers and other various mediums and tools… Recently I've been experimenting in treating my exterior works similarly to my paintings.”

Friendship Baptist Church, completed with murals by Atlanta-based graffiti artist Hense. Photo courtesy Miguel Martinez

In describing the project, HENSE says, “Taking an existing building like the church and painting the entire thing re-contextualizes it and makes it a sculptural object. We really wanted to turn the church into a three-dimensional piece of artwork.

"With projects like this one, we really try to use the existing architecture as inspiration for the direction of the painting. I did several concept drawings for the church to present to the owner as rough ideas of aesthetic direction. I knew that visually, I wanted it to be drastically different from what it looked like before painting it. I also wanted to use very bright and bold colors to catch a viewer’s attention from far away.”

And eye-catching it is. Once neglected and deteriorating, the old church now stands as a positive beacon for a growing community. Watch the transformation:

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Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

Adaptive Reuse, Architecture, Revitalization

6 Responses

  1. Emad Ghattas

    April 12, 2013

    I think it’s great! It is time to propose bold new ideas for abandoned churches. It seems that their sacred nature limits us to engage with them. This intervention shows that we are not afraid to engage with a church.

    My question: what is happening inside the space? How is it being reused?

  2. Cliff Dweller

    April 12, 2013

    This is located at 734 First St. The Friendship congregation built a new church on Delaware in the sixties and is still flourishing. This building was stripped and left to rot.

  3. Jerry A. McCoy

    April 12, 2013

    How disrespectful of the congregation for abandoning this building as well as the entity that funded this “artist” for driving the final nail in the coffin that will bury this historic structure.

  4. Crystal

    April 12, 2013

    It’s beautiful and makes me smile to look at, I’m sure God would like that!

  5. Preston Wilson

    April 13, 2013

    I doubt if the paint will be the “nail in the coffin”. What -would- be is allowing the building to go neglected, until the city decides it needs to be torn down. What does it look like inside?

  6. Top Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of April 8, 2013 | Walter Communications

    April 15, 2013

    […] Historic church gets mural makeover. Graffiti artist Alex Brewer, also known as HENSE, took to Washington, D.C.’s city streets last year to transform an abandoned, historic church into a work of art. […]