Intisar Haamid, owner of Circle Deli in Mount Rainier, wants her business to stand out, but she said the building’s beige exterior and small storefront sign make that difficult.
“It is extremely plain,” Haamid said. “I need something to focus attention on the building.”
Haamid said she would like to see some small murals and perhaps a larger landscape painting on the building. She might get her wish in the coming months as her building was chosen to be beautified by an artist as part of the third annual Better Block Project, an initiative spearheaded by nonprofit arts center Joe’s Movement Emporium to improve the look of the city.
The initiative is funded through a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for Joe’s Movement Emporium to run its Art Lives Here campaign, which includes the Better Block Project and other initiatives that pair artists with businesses in the city to reduce blight.
The deli is one of eight properties surrounding the traffic circle on Rhode Island Avenue that artists will look to enhance this year.
“I know that if we have a lot of positive activity there, that will just curb the folks that tend to hang out there and have a lot of anti-social behaviors,” said Brooke Kidd, executive director and founder of Joe’s Movement Emporium. “It will just drive more foot traffic into our businesses.”
In 2012, Kidd had artists focus on properties on the south side of Rhode Island Avenue, and in 2011 on properties on 34th Street.
Kidd said she has seen increased foot traffic in the areas that the Better Block Project had focused on in previous years.
The other properties on Rhode Island Avenue chosen this year by the committee are: the former Odd and Even Thrift Store property, an alleyway between the former thrift store and a convenience store, the city’s library and insurance office, Urban Eats Café, the Mon Cheri Gallery of Haitian Fine Arts and Custom Framing, a fence at Hands On Barber Shop and a vacant building, known as the Gallaher building.
Property owners will approve the art projects before work begins.
Joe’s Movement staff requested artist proposals for the properties by Feb. 15. Past projects have included large paintings on buildings, such as the circular designs in blue, green and red at the Dudley Funeral Home at 3200 Rhode Island Ave.
Artists’ pay will vary from $500 to $2,500 depending on the size and scope of the project, Kidd said, and the projects are expected to be completed by April. Preference will be given to artists who live in the Gateway Arts District of Hyattsville, Brentwood, North Brentwood and Mount Rainier, she said.