The lavishly painted roads, people, buildings and symbols that have popped up on the corner of Eisenhower and Claremont provide a bit of a creative pop out of the dull business zone where they are located.
These figures are the Eisenhower Valley’s new way of greeting visitors, as well as those who drive through regularly. With cooperation from the Campanga Center, Jorge Perez-Rubio, a Florida artist with a history in the area, has led a group of close to 20 teenagers in completing a five wall, public mural welcoming drivers to Eisenhower Valley.
The mural, which was planned and completed over three weeks in July, depicts the history and the culture of the Eisenhower Valley and the sections of Old Town that it leads into. Spanning the sides of multiple buildings across the Rosenthal Building Complex, the mural features images such as a statue of President Dwight Eisenhower, expansive highways, and the Masonic Temple.
"It’s not political, not religious, and not an advertisement," said Perez-Rubio, explaining that those were the only three restrictions put on him when he agreed to work on the project.
Perez-Rubio has been teaching art for about 20 years, and has been working on public art projects here and there along the way. He noted that this mural was not within the stereotypical mold of public art- bright colors and a graffiti style, done by fairly amateur artists.
"These guys are so well trained," said Perez-Rubio. "They were all vetted through their local art classes."
It was important to everyone involved to make sure the mural represented the best of this area- especially Perez-Rubio. Though he currently lives in Florida, he spent many years here and appreciates some of the unique qualities.
"I love this town. This is a real melting pot," he said, specifically relating the fact that he had five students from five different countries working on the mural with him.
SO HOW EXACTLY does an artist from Florida end up working on a public art mural in Eisenhower Valley? Through the work of a local businessman who approached the Campanga center about working on this project.
"Jorge is a personal friend and also an artist who I collect and respect," said Aaron Pomerantz, an executive and Grubb and Ellis who worked with the Campanga Center in developing the project.
Pomerantz, who met Perez-Rubio in 1989 through a friend of a friend, noted that the idea of the mural was something that was natural, not a grand plan.
"It just kind of came together in my mind that this would be a great project," he said, adding that "it was a fairly organic process."
The project is clearly for the public benefit, but that does not mean that Pomerantz has not gotten personal satisfaction out of his involvement in the development.
"Jorge is a fantastic, talented artist," he said. "My goal has always been to continue to work with him."
Pomerantz isn’t the only one. The kids who have been working hard for weeks to complete the mural are also the beneficiaries of their work with Perez-Rubio.
"He’s a great artist," said Olivia Gonzalez, a TC Williams student who was part of the mural team. "He also taught us stuff, so it’s been cool."