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A Visit to the Dupont Underground


I can’t remember the last time I went to an art museum (or any museum, for that matter). I miss walking down long hallways and through expansive rooms, admiring art from different times in different styles in different forms. And I’m not sure when I will next be able to go to an art museum—the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is still “temporarily closed.” But museums aren’t the only places to see art.

I moved to D.C. in March for the Mid-Semester Residential Experience offered by the university, and I was not sure how much exploring of the city I would be able to do given the restrictions. While the Smithsonian museums are still closed and large gatherings are prohibited, there are, in fact, still plenty of activities to occupy myself. Besides, D.C. is so much more than just the monuments, museums, and memorials. 

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On every street, you can find some bit of local history and culture, including art. Street art (both legal and illegal) is quite common in neighborhoods throughout the city. In Dupont Circle, an arts organization utilizes an abandoned streetcar station to boast “creative exchange and contemporary arts.” Sharing a name with the organization, the physical Dupont Underground is located below the center of the neighborhood. 

I decided to take a visit with a friend.

I entered off of 19th Street (by the Starbucks). Patrons walk down a set of steps, where the walls are covered in art, to a dimly lit foyer and open a door painted red. On their left is a sculpture, in front a reception desk. The current exhibit at the Dupont Underground is titled “Architecture & the Question of Democracy.” Along one wall is a series of signs relating the political history of Portugal to the country’s architectural work. The other wall features projected screens that summarize a Re-Think Dupont Circle Design Competition, including conceptual designs for the winner and runners-up. Beyond the exhibit, one wall is covered in murals (you may even see artists at work adding to the wall). 

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I spent around 45 minutes walking through the Underground, admiring art, watching the projections change through slides, and reading signs. I could tell that the Underground was still not operating at the same capacity under restrictions of the pandemic. The pop-up bar was closed; speakers played music from a playlist (rather than live music); my friend and I were the only non-employees there. 

I highly recommend a visit sometime. Go with friends. Spend a whole day in Dupont. Stop at local cafes and bookstores, and scout out some street art. “Architecture & the Question of Democracy” is open until May 23 if that exhibit interests you. I, for one, would love to return to the Dupont Underground when conditions are different and to see a new exhibit (future exhibits have yet to be announced). 

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