The Well-Kept Secret That Is Shaw

Shaw's colorful murals alone are worth a trip to the neighborhood.  Ricoh GR.
Shaw’s colorful murals alone are worth a trip to the neighborhood. Ricoh GR.
The revitalization of this old Washington, DC neighborhood is heavily influenced by the local art scene.  Ricoh GR.
The revitalization of this old Washington, DC neighborhood is heavily influenced by the local art scene. Ricoh GR.
Ethnic restaurants are a big part of what makes the Shaw neighborhood a good food destination.  Ricoh GR.
Ethnic restaurants are a big part of what makes the Shaw neighborhood a good food destination. Ricoh GR.
Every neighborhood needs a popular watering hole for the locals and Shaw's Tavern takes care of those special needs.  Ricoh GR.
Every neighborhood needs a popular watering hole for the locals and Shaw’s Tavern takes care of those special needs. Ricoh GR.
A wall is not just a wall at Shaw, but rather a reflection of the local character.  Ricoh GR.
A wall is not just a wall at Shaw, but rather a reflection of the local character. Ricoh GR.
Shaw's library is a fantastic example of modern architecture blending with the neighborhood's historical buildings.  Ricoh GR.
Shaw’s library is a fantastic example of modern architecture blending with the neighborhood’s historical buildings. Ricoh GR.

Ever heard of the Shaw neighborhood in Washington, DC?  Can’t blame you if you haven’t.  Most locals haven’t either.  And judging from my recent visit to Shaw, it doesn’t look like it’s one of the tourism hubs in Washington, DC either.  But if you think this somewhat low-keyed anonymity means that you should ignore this part of town, you will be sadly mistaken.  This wonderful neighborhood is home to Howard University and the incredibly popular Art All Night DC  event, which takes place at the imposing building that was once home to the Wonder Bread Factory on S Street NW.  And if the “Big Easy” label were not already taken, it would fit Shaw like a glove.  Laid back, friendly, and not totally gentrified, Shaw is one of those places that once you visit, you’ll be asking yourself why you had never been there before.  Not that the neighborhood can match its richer and more famous U Street neighbor a few blocks away, but rather that if it were noise and rowdy crowds I was intent in getting away from, then Shaw is the place I would head on out to.  This is specially the case starting next month when the Right Proper Brewing Company opens its doors at T Street NW.

Underpass Canvases

Crossing Washington, DC via the nondescript I-695 it would be impossible to imagine what lies underneath.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED.
The art that lies underneath the nondescript I-695 in Washington, DC . Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED.

Sometimes I wonder if I was meant to live part of my life in an underpass under some road.  Not that I would look forward to cuddling-up every night in such a place with all my possessions stacked in a shopping cart, but rather that I have developed this fascination with what lies underneath all those crossroads we mindlessly travel every day in our hurry to get somewhere.  Let’s just say that the moment I see an underpass these days, I immediately start exploring its magnificent under-structure with the fascination of a structural engineer.  Of course, my interest is somewhat more artistic in nature, but the surprises I keep finding under these metal and concrete monuments to modern engineering never cease to amaze me.  It is like finding a painting inside a dusty cave in the middle of nowhere.  I can’t stop wondering about the people who painted murals like these in such meticulous detail.  Where they famous artists within the community?  Does anyone remember them now?  What message was being conveyed by the artistic choices made?  Of course, some of these questions are easier to answer than others, or to imagine for that matter.  But perhaps too much information is not what matters here.  After all, don’t we enjoy museum masterpieces before we ever discover who painted them?  Perhaps all that matters then is that some artist whom we shall never meet has managed to touch our lives in some incredible way, and in the most unlikely of places.  And it doesn’t get much more “unlikely” than the I-695 underpass by 8th Street SE in our nation’s capital.