WASHINGTON, DC – After a seven-year absence, G. Byron Peck’s Duke Ellington mural has returned to the exterior of the True Reformer Building at 1200 U Street NW.
The mural honors Ellington’s deep ties to the U Street Corridor and sits near his childhood home. Ellington played his first paid performance in the auditorium of the True Reformer Building where the mural now hangs.
“I am proud to have been able to paint a mural that celebrates the legacy of Duke Ellington and his importance to the history and community of the neighborhood,” Peck said. “Its visibility at that location is a reminder to all who pass by it of Mr. Ellington’s enduring positive and artistic contributions. As a fellow artist, that has great meaning for me personally, too. It is great to see it back up where it belongs.”
The mural was painted by Founder and Director of City Arts G. Byron Peck in 1997 on concrete panels using Keim Mineral Paint. Originally installed at U and 13th Streets, it was moved and reinstalled at the True Reformer Building at U and 12th when a new building went up that would block the mural from view. The mural was removed from the True Reformer Building in 2012 for restoration but, upon investigation of the damage, was replaced with a replica.
“It is an honor to welcome Byron Peck’s Duke Ellington mural back home to the True Reformer Building,” Public Welfare Foundation President and CEO Candice Jones said. “Like the True Reformer Building itself, the mural is a gift to our community — a reminder of our rich history and a prompt to continue fighting to advance social good.”
The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the official arts agency for the District of Columbia, commissioned the mural in 1997, and has provided funding for the creation of the newly-installed replica.
“The Duke Ellington mural is an iconic artwork on the U Street Corridor,” DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Executive Director Terrie Rouse-Rosario said. “Returning the mural to the exterior of the True Reformer Building restores a vibrant symbol of the District’s artistic and cultural history to the community.”
Constructed for the True Reformers, the True Reformer Building was the first building in the United States to be designed, financed, built, and owned by the African American community after Reconstruction. Located at 1200 U Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C., it was designed by John Anderson Lankford, the city’s first African-American registered architect. The building was commissioned by the Grand United Order of True Reformers in 1902 and was dedicated on July 15, 1903.
Public Welfare Foundation, a private foundation advancing justice and opportunity, bought the True Reformer Building in 1999. After completing a major renovation of the space, the foundation moved into the building as its headquarters in 2001.
Today Public Welfare Foundation is committed to keeping the spirit of the building alive by hosting various events, convenings, and celebrations. The Foundation also shares the space with the nonprofit community who are looking for event space free of charge.