Arts & Culture

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2010 - 2014

The Red Line D.C. Project

Identity, art & a city in transit.

The Red Line D.C. Project is a community-based documentary project about illegal art and public space. With the Washington metro as our backdrop, a fifteen minute ride along the Northeast portion of the Red line metro represents the changing face of the city.

THE 

RED LINE

STORY = SETTING

The RED LINE is the oldest line within the Metro rail system. It opened on March 27, 1976, and at the time, only ran from Rhode Island Avenue to Farragut North. Today, there are 27 stops along the route. SEE / LINE focuses on the outdoor segment that runs toward Glenmont.

The METROPOLITAN-BRANCH TRAIL (MBT) broke ground by Rhode Island Avenue station in the summer of 2009. The stretch between New York Avenue and Franklin Street, featured prominently in the film, is part of an 8-mile path paralleling the B&O Railroad, that will eventually run from Union Station to Silver Spring.

MURALS DC was established in 2007 as a way to abate illegal graffiti with city-sanctioned public art. The Department of Public Works, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and nonprofit organization Words Beats and Life, Inc. are responsible for many of the legal works cropping up along the Red line.

Is D.C. metro graffiti nothing more than “visual litter” or cause for conversation in transit? We interviewed stakeholders on opposing tracks to create a unique conversation around illegal public art.

This early Red Line D.C. video features an interview excerpt with JU, a D.C. graffiti writer who inspired director / producer, Saaret Yoseph to start her documentary project. 

THE 

WRITERS

GRAVE surveys his work, while his partner FAME paints his own name in the background.
It's after midnight and graffiti writer GRAVE is at work on the Red line.

For decades, “the Line” has been like a rite of passage for graffiti writers practicing the tradition and promoting their public name.

“I hit the Red line so I can be known ... There's so many ways to get on the Line, so many ways. You just gotta find 'em."

-- FAME

"I always go to Rhode Island, Brookland station, Takoma ... Silver Spring, because they have endless spots -- walls for days ... And, I'm a graffiti writer, so I hit 'em.

-- GRAVE

This teaser clip gives a glimpse of SEE / LINE, the final product of The Red Line D.C. Project. The short, two-part documentary uses interviews with Red line riders and graffiti writers to explore the meaning of everyday aesthetics in the capital city.

THE

RIDERS

How do commuters regard the the view outside their window?

JU's name was one of many that were once visible on the rooftop arches of the building. 

THE 

TRAIL

NIGHT & DAY -- Change comes to Northeast via the Metropolitan-Branch Trail, a pedestrian pathway being developed, between Union Station and Silver Spring. With it, we see an increase in buffed graffiti, commissioned murals and people accessing the Red line's surrounding space.

View of the Metropolitan-Branch Trail (MBT) by Rhode Island Ave. metro station. Fading graffiti is visible on the back wall while the new colors of a legal art piece are present in the foreground.

"... with regards to the graffiti, it's a little bit different, because the District owns the trail, but we don't own the buildings, these buildings belong to someone else ...

-- HEATHER DEUTSCH, urban planner

We know that, typically, wherever we put a mural, we know that's one less wall that will be tagged.

-- NANCEE LYONS, D.C. Dept. of Public Works

A defaced "HOPE" mural, by Rhode Island Ave metro station, sits below the Franklin St. bridge. 
Half-buffed wall between Rhode Island Ave. and New York Ave. metro station. Layers of paint cover a mural once done by a nearby arts therapy center. The expansive "Crossroads" mural done in the summer of 2014, includes a tribute to the center, done by Cita "Chelove" Cadeli.
A local resident happens upon a mural in progress while biking on the MBT. He shares his thoughts on the legal work, versus that of illegal graffiti.
Credits: Exhibit

Director / Producer — Saaret E. Yoseph

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.