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.”
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:
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.