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Renovated MLK Library to feature artwork by D.C. public school teacher on large glass walls

The walls will display protest buttons and King-related items as individual dots that form a bigger image

Rendering of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library project
D.C. Public Library

D.C. Public Library (DCPL) has chosen a city public school teacher from more than 70 artists to decorate new double-height glass walls at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library as part of the flagship library’s ongoing $211 million overhaul. Nekisha Durrett, who teaches at the famed Duke Ellington School of the Arts, will create the display in the library’s vestibule.

“[Her] artwork will turn thousands of images of protest buttons and King-related ephemera into discrete dots that create a larger image,” DCPL explains in a release. “The work will be a unique visual interpretation of Dr. King’s legacy as it connects to the Library today.” Source materials are anticipated to come from DCPL’s special collections in addition to two youth badge-making workshops that Durrett will be involved in at library locations this summer.

The renovation plans for the library, which closed in 2017 and is scheduled to reopen in fall 2020, call for a grand main entrance. The glass walls will replace the brick ones that used to occupy the entrance’s east and west sides. They will allow visitors to view two big staircases.

DCPL says a panel of experts selected Durrett’s artwork proposal, incorporating input from a group of community advisors. She has worked with the library system on various art projects before, including a 2013 graphic novel-inspired installation in the MLK entryway and a 2017 mural inside the West End Library. (The latter library just earned a local architecture award.)

“The vestibule art is the second of three permanent public art pieces that will go in the modernized Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library,” DCPL adds. “Noted artist Xenobia Bailey was selected to design the grand reading room ceiling in 2018. A future call will be issued for art in the plaza in front of the building,” located at 901 G St. NW, in Penn Quarter.