Meet the Washington woman working to preserve D.C.’s mural history

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the past 40 years, the mural art scene in Washington, D.C. has steadily grown. Now one woman is working to ensure the artwork is not lost.

"There’s much more to Washington than the monuments and the museums downtown," Dr. Perry Frank, founding director of DC Murals: Spectacle and Story, said. "I think that they are a part of the heartbeat of the District."

Frank, who has doctorate in American Studies at George Washington University, has studied and documented D.C. murals since the 1990s.

Since starting her project, which Frank said came to her "like a flash of lightning” while in the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., she has launched a website documenting city’s murals and plans to write a book on the subject.

Frank said she has faced several forces working against her. Many murals around the city are shells of their former selves, as weather has taken its toll on the artwork.

"What’s happening here is very have water damage comes in an separates the pigment from the wall itself," G. Byron Peck, an artist who has worked in D.C. since the 1980s, said.

Another challenge is as older buildings are demolished, so too are the murals.

"If you look ahead a 1,000 years. What buildings are really going to be left in Washington, perhaps the monument and the Capitol, but in a much shorter time frame we're in a period of fantastic development and murals are going down," Frank said. "We want the people of Washington to know about this. Many of these street art murals present DC in a different way than the classical way that it started. So we have a very rich, robust tradition of street art ongoing, and boy is it going up."