DC Muralist shares his favorite spots in the historic U Street neighborhood
If you’ve ever walked downtown DC, public art practically jumps out at you from the walls. Undoubtedly, this is the case with the bold and beautiful work of Tenbeete Solomon, also known as Trap Bob, whose art can be seen in U Street, NOMA and Takoma Park, just to name a few. His vibrant, artistic style usually appears with a message, either obvious, such as “Fighting for Power” or “Know Your Rights,” or simply symbolized in the powerful black figures he represents.
As the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Solomon has long been surrounded by art. His father was an experienced artist who went to Parsons on a full trip. Ironically, it was something she never considered for herself until the end of her college career studying marketing at the University of Maryland. “Art was in my life before I knew I was an artist and then I started marketing before I knew I needed it,” he says. “If you’re creative, having a business education is really important.”
He soon took advantage of this education and skill when he began introducing his work to DC galleries. “When I started, I was obsessed with painting my hands, so I was able to have a series with a certain consistency,” she says, adding that she was influenced by the whimsical, bright images of Lisa Frank. “My first year I was performing at DC, I did about 50 shows. Yes, a program like every weekend. “
PHOTOGRAPH OF TRAP BOB
DC small and large businesses called and commissioned him to paint a mural for BET promoting the Lena Waithe Twenties show outside of Cloak & Dagger. In addition, his work can be found in Alethia Tanner Park, NOMA, the K Street pizza and shop, the Takoma Park picnic tables and the exterior wall of Hotel Zena, 14th Street.
This ever-present public art is one of the reasons Solomon loves DC, which she says is very different from its tourist reputation. “The cultural and creative scene has nothing to do with Capitol Hill and politics,” he says. “He is very showy, daring and strong. Everyone does art, organizes live shows and Go-Go plays somewhere several times a day. “
The U Street area speaks specifically to Solomon, not only because some of his works can be found there, but also because of its historical significance and sense of community. Known in the 1920s as “Black Broadway,” U Street was the center of DC’s cultural, artistic, and activist scenes.
“It feels like a gathering place for the people of the city,” he says, mentioning landmarks like Ben’s Chili Bowl and the T-Mobile store, famous for exploding Go-Go rhythms. “It seems like everyone ends up on U Street and Shaw and there’s always something to do no matter what time of day.”
Next time you visit U Street, be sure to visit some of Salomon’s favorite places for live music and vegan food, take a photo with one of its murals, and appreciate the significant role the neighborhood has played in shaping DC.
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