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Celebrating 13th and U

Student mural depicts Temperance Row’s history

(Published December 16, 2002)

Students in Marissa Hoechstetter’s art classes at Maya Angelou Public Charter School got more than an art lesson when they created a new mural that will be unveiled in Shaw on Dec. 17.

"The mural project allowed us to integrate history, art and activism," said David Domenici, executive director of See Forever, the foundation that operates the school. "Many of our students have grown up in Shaw and Columbia Heights, and the mural project helped them maintain a sense of place and relevance here, even as the neighborhood is changing."

The 24-by-10-foot mural will be displayed at 13th and U streets NW, the former site of Temperance Row, a housing project for working-class blacks that was demolished in 1953 because of slum conditions. The demolition displaced 130 people.

The mural project was developed in partnership with Manna Community Development Corp., which plans to build a new 12-unit Temperance Row project geared toward keeping housing in the quickly gentrifying Shaw area affordable for lower-income residents. Construction of the new, limited-equity cooperative homes is expected to begin in 2004.

"Involving young people in this community is central to our mission of bringing together all stakeholders of a neighborhood in determining its future," said David Haiman, a Manna CDC community organizer.

Hoechstetter said the mural project allowed her students to learn to use their artwork to make political statements. The artwork was designed to celebrate the rich history of Temperance Row’s past, present and future, she said.

"Our students know U Street and are aware of the effects of gentrification in the neighborhood. They thought it was important to get this story out," Hoechstetter said.

The curriculum at Maya Angelou Public Charter School is focused on helping at-risk and court-involved teens earn their high school diploma while connecting with how the skills they learn will aid them in college or a career. Among the school’s goals is to teach students employment and money-management skills, as well as how to "become politically educated adults who are confident of their abilities to change the institutions that affect their lives."

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator