Local history painted larger than life

The same artist that brought you the mural in Columbian Square depicting hippo and rowing illustrations has embarked on another, more public project on F Street that chronicles the growth of the Foggy Bottom community.

Alumnus Calder Brannock is the brainchild behind the mural being painted on the side wall of the Foggy Bottom Grocery on 22nd and F streets. The fine arts major at the Maryland Institute College of Art is expected to complete the project in the next few weeks.

In its unfinished state, the wall features larger-than-life images of construction workers and George Washington holding a calligraphy pen. And despite Brannock’s influence in the project, it could not have happened without senior Jeremy Sapriel.

Two years ago, Sapriel walked past what he called a “big ugly wall … that looked like it was going to fall over” and knew he had to transform it.

“I turned to my friend and said, ‘If there’s one thing I do here, it’s going to be that,'” said Sapriel, a psychology major.

He connected with last year’s Student Association President, Nicole Capp, who shared his enthusiasm for the project. The students contacted Alicia O’Neil, managing director of the Office of Real Estate, and Executive Vice President Lou Katz, who helped them get the project started.

“There were no real challenges to the project, but there were logistics that had to be handled before the project could begin,” O’Neil said.

The mural stalled until they could sort out those obstacles, which included reviewing regulatory requirements, providing information on the project to city officials and getting the muralist under contract.

Katz, who approved the funding for the mural, said it was beneficial to the school and the community.

“When the project was presented to me, I was eager to participate in a project that had such significant student support and would help further the sense of place on the campus,” Katz said.

Despite clashes between the University and the Foggy Bottom community on projects such as University expansion and zoning decisions, Katz said the mural has been well-received by GW’s neighbors.

After the green light from the city and administration, Brannock devised the mural’s theme of progress.

“When Calder showed us a sketch of what he wanted to do with the wall, it was what we all envisioned,” Sapriel said. “He just put it into a picture – we all worked well together.”

Brannock said the whole reason for institutions like GW is to create progress, and he wanted to illustrate that through an interpretive history mural of the Foggy Bottom area.

“I wanted something that was related to the community around here, the Foggy Bottom area, not necessarily strictly GW,” he said. “I think there’s enough to remind you you’re on campus, so I wanted something that would reflect the themes and the goals of the University, but without being University imagery.”

He said he spent hours in the library researching the history of the Foggy Bottom area.

“It’s a historically rich and vibrant area in spite of the University and I wanted to project how the community itself and the progress it has made is sort of the reason the University exists,” he said.

But the mural is not just a history lesson.

“This is my snapshot of history, how I’m interpreting these things and what I feel is important,” Brannock said, adding that he included construction workers because “the biggest part of my time at GW was people building buildings.”

Brannock said he hopes that the mural will be something people notice.

“I hope they see the idea of progress,” he said. “And I hope it sort of reminds people why they’re going to GW.”

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