Arlington, VA

Last night, an art shop along Lee Highway debuted a brand new mural from a Spanish artist.

“I think it’s going to be a nice ‘talk of the town,'” said Jimmy Hakimi, who owns the business, KH Art & Framing. “It’s a nice art for the area. We are an art gallery so it makes sense.”

The shop is located at the busy intersection of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road, which made the building ideal for local officials looking to find a home for the public art that the Spanish Embassy was hoping to commission locally. The painter behind the new mural is Spanish artist David de la Mano.

“Hopefully it will bring some customers, but that wasn’t the main use,” said Hakimi, who has run the businesses for 33 years.

De la Mano is known for his monochromatic murals depicting groups of people fighting forces and fears, often intertwined with elements of nature like branches or animals.

His Arlington mural depicts ragtag groups of people marching forward with spindly flags upwards in an overgrown forest — inside of a person’s skull.

“He was a really fun artist to work with,” said Ginger Brown, vice president of the Lee Highway Alliance, which helped coordinate the project.

The Spanish embassy in D.C. had originally commissioned de la Mano for its own annual, mural project inside the embassy before looking for public art opportunities the artist could take advantage while in the area.

“It seems like it was a wonderful opportunity to have David’s work in Arlington,” said Ernesto Coro, a cultural affairs officer with the embassy who added the country liked to see “have the imprint of Spain” on the street.

The county has long sought to redevelop the area along Lee Highway, a mostly car-oriented stretch of parking lots and businesses between the East Falls Church Metro station and the Lyon Village neighborhood near Rosslyn. In 2016, the county-appointed Lee Highway Alliance released plans to study ways of transforming the region an “attractive, prosperous, safe, healthy, and livable main street community.”

“We’ve always wanted to incorporate public art into the corridor,” said Brown. “That includes temporary and permanent public art.”

Altogether she said the project cost around $7,000 — $6,000 of that went to de la Mano and another $1,000 went to buy the paint. Arlington developer BCN Homes covered the cost of the paint while the Spanish embassy and developer JBG Smith split the artist fees. Real estate firm Long & Foster sponsored Monday night’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

 The mural itself is titled “Changes Begins Within,” a title Brown said fits the corridor.

“It goes along with Lee Highway. It’s changing,” she said. “Our organization is a grassroots organization so we’re within. Change from within.”

Hakimi said the wall of his business at 4745 Lee Highway is usually repainted every five years, which means de la Mano’s mural may be only temporary.

“It’s possible that we keep it going,” he said. “As long as people like, we keep it.”

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