City Arts creates large-scale public artworks with the assistance of talented DC youth. A special effort is made to recruit students who live in the neighborhoods where the artworks will be featured. Our projects are conceived primarily as community artworks and youth participation is the natural outgrowth of this collaboration. The students who participate look forward to more than just a brief summer job or after-school program. They participate in yearlong paid apprenticeships and work on several different murals, mosaics, and other art forms during their time in the program. In addition to gaining marketable artistic skills and career insights, students improve their organizational habits and gain self-confidence in their artistic abilities. They also learn how to make a positive contribution toward a team effort.
In addition to benefiting these students, the community artworks enhance the quality of life for tens of thousands of residents of the District and outlying suburbs, as well as numerous tourists who visit the city. The artworks beautify the city and bring neighborhoods and participants together in a common bond of appreciation for the District's unique history.
City Arts' community art projects have a track record of stimulating neighborhood revitalization efforts. For example, the well-known City Arts mural of Duke Ellington, installed in 1997 and expanded in 2004, has helped to transform the U Street, NW corridor into a lively arts and entertainment district. This once thriving neighborhood had strived for decades to recover from the 1968 riots, and the City Arts mural coincided with the area's return to its former stature. Public artworks such as this one contribute to the visual integrity of the streetscape, instill a sense of pride in the residents of the neighborhood, and attract homebuyers.