A recap of 2023 and looking forward to 2024!
Art Blooms in the Park at LeDroit!
You may have noticed some colorful additions to the Park at LeDroit this past year, a 16-foot-tall bird, a vibrant new Little Library, two brilliant illustrations on the community message boards, and a secret garden bench.
The Friends of the Park at LeDroit collaborated with talented local community members and the Audobon Society to bring these to fruition in 2023. The Park at LeDroit is the communal living room of our neighborhood: where we go to gather, farm, exercise, play, and make friends. Adding public art is one way that FoPaL seeks to create moments of magic and inspiration available to all neighbors - enhancing opportunities to learn, and to reflect the rich history of our community.
What is the inspiration for the new art?
Eastern Black Rail Bird: is a large painting of a native bird that faces the park from Elm Street, and is a collaboration between Audubon and the Endangered Species Coalition in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. The Eastern Black Rail is both a threatened species protected by ESA, as well as a Washington DC native. The piece depicts the bird in its marsh habitat and features a combination of native Saltmeadow Cordgrass, Saltgrass, and Glasswort. The intention for this mural is to raise awareness of the Endangered Species Act and the inhabitants of the natural environment with whom we share our DC home.
“The Goose Girl” and “Preaching to the Choir”: can be found on the two community message boards in the park along Elm and V Streets. These paintings are re-tellings of Hilda Rue Wilkinson Brown's illustrated characters featured in issues of The Brownie's Book, created in 1920, as the first magazine published for Black American children. Its editor, W. E. B. Du Bois wanted to showcase the talents and achievements of Black writers and artists, with content designed to uplift the beauty of Blackness. They were created for The Park at LeDroit by local artist Aiyana Adams with the permission of Wilkinson Brown's family.
For those unfamiliar with Hilda Rue Wilkinson Brown (1894-1981), she was an artist and educator who lived in LeDroit Park at 237 Rhode Island Avenue; the cityscape and residents of LeDroit Park were the subject matter for many of her paintings. She was an alumnus of Howard University, and her work is included in the collections of the MET and the Art Institute of Chicago. (For more on Wilkinson Brown, watch the half-hour PBS special, "Kindred Spirits: Artists Hilda Wilkinson Brown and Lilian Thomas Burwell", available online at WETA.org)
The Little Free Library: Seeing that the much loved Little Library in the park was in need of replacement, neighbors Elliot Siebert and Aiyana Adams took it upon themselves to rebuild a new version from scratch. Elliot intentionally designed and constructed it in the style of the previous Little Library using reclaimed materials, while the intricate illustrations were created by Aiyana. The colors and shapes of the illustrations are inspired by Mexican Folk Art, to compliment her nearby murals “The Goose Girl” and “Preaching to the Choir” while adding a pop of visual love to the park.
Secret Garden Bench: is an eco-brick installation tucked away in a small grove of Fringe Trees in the park. Although it would be unfair to reveal the location given its name, it can be found with a little exploration! Secret Garden Bench was the senior project of Sofia Parodi, a high school student from School Without Walls in DC. She sought to bring awareness to the process of construction using eco-bricks (reclaimed PET bottles filled with small bits of plastic waste, that can then be stacked to fabricate a wall or structure.) It is a way of using otherwise discarded materials to build functional elements in an economical and environmentally sustainable way while keeping plastic from degrading into toxins and microplastics. The curvilinear shape of Secret Garden Bench is designed to be able to read a book to a child or perch while watching the pups romp nearby. You are invited to find a book in the Little Library and share it with someone you love.
Who Contributed to the Public Art and Improvements?
The new murals and additions are the direct result of your LeDroit Park neighbors who are passionate about showcasing the beauty and history of our community for all to enjoy.
A special thanks to local artist and neighbor, Aiyana Adams, who continually shares her talent and passion for art with the LeDroit Park community. You will find her planting flower bulbs in our shared green spaces, face-painting at community events, learning history from LeDroit elders, and leaving a hand-painted trail of inspiration wherever she treads.
Another special thanks to neighbor and community leader, Elliot Siebert, who lovingly built the Little Library in the Park, and just completed a tenure as President of the LeDroit Park Civic Association. His continuous civic engagement, and thoughtful ideas and approach inspire us all to be better neighbors.
An additional thanks to Audobon and the Endangered Species Coalition for commissioning and coordinating the Eastern Black Rail mural, as well as the committed efforts of the Friends of the Park at LeDroit and our ever supportive ANC Commissioner Handerhan.
What to anticipate in 2024?
The Park at LeDroit will be hosting several events in conjunction with CommonGood Farm this year, including the annual Earth Day Celebration and Tomato Party as well as providing the venue for Bloomingdale/ LeDroit Toddler Soccer.
Thanks to the advocacy of the LeDroit Dog Park committee, we anticipate seeing much-needed drainage and surfacing repairs to the LeDroit Dog Park this year. While the Department of Parks and Recreation has not yet released plans or a formal schedule, they have informed us that they will conduct a meeting for community comment prior to formalizing any plans. FoPaL will help to spread the word once a date for the community meeting and construction schedule is confirmed.
Join Us, and Get Involved with the Park at LeDroit
There are so many ways to get involved, from regular participation to one-time projects and events to making a donation. Currently, the Friends of the Park at LeDroit are looking for new board members for the roles of President and Treasurer. If you are looking for an enjoyable and fulfilling opportunity to meet thoughtful neighbors, engage in your community, and improve our beloved shared green space, this is your chance! If this sounds like something you may be interested in, please email us at email@example.com.
And – if you would like to contribute financially to our efforts, you can make a tax-deductible donation through our Greenspaces page: https://greenspacesfordc.org/friends-of-the-park-at-ledroit.