People who walk by Kelly Towles's mural, "Scout" -- which faces out over a vacant lot from the side of a rowhouse at 12th and W Streets NW -- take pictures of it. Flickr is full of them. Now, a videographer has thrown another record of the mural into the mix.
Sebastien Tobler made a short film about the mural, the artist, and the neighborhood. Set to the song "Elephant Gun" by Beirut, the film follows Isabella O'Brien, who is the 3-year-old niece of Towles's fiance, D.C. designer Virginia Arrisueño, as she plays in the U Street Corridor neighborhood.
Family might not be the first thing that comes to mind when seeing Towles's work. In the past, the graffiti artist has depicted mangy bozos, boxing goons and dopey animals. He has worked in graffiti but also showed prints and work at Adamson Gallery and other fine-art venues. A hint of his more raw subject matter bleeds through in this gentler mural.
Towles says the two-story is his biggest project yet. He has a few other public works out there: The purple, feline outline on the grate at the Black Cat on 14th Street NW is his, as is a mural in Shaw's Blagden Alley along a building that used to house a gallery, Signal 66.
The video shows Towles and his team as they completed the mural over four days in late June. Towles got permission from both the owner of the rowhouse and the owner of the vacant lot. A grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities funded the project.
"Scout" is a boon for Towles, but it's a bigger get for the District. Nothing attracts garbage and blight better than a vacant lot. Towles and Tobler managed to turn it into a playground -- or a close facsimile.