- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

A mural depicting restoration efforts and life along the Anacostia River, painted by four District of Columbia teen-agers, was shown for the first time yesterday at the Interior Department building in Northwest D.C.

The nearly completed mural, celebrating the return of the bald eagle, a healthy fishing environment and indigenous plant life, located on the fourth floor of the building, was put on display yesterday by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and David C. Levy, president and director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

"The mural will be a symbolic reminder not only of the return of fish and wildlife to the river, but also of the efforts of the Earth Conservation Corps, volunteers and many of our own employees to protect the watershed," Mr. Babbitt said in a prepared statement.

The four teen-agers Shonondra Fogel, Brittany Oliver, Derrick Byrd and Brian Carpenter were recruited to work on the mural and related projects this summer and last as part of Corcoran Art: New Visions at School (CANVAS), a community outreach program.

They spent last summer learning about the history of the eight-mile river, which is rich in history but plagued by years of disregard. The Washington-based Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) worked with the students to familiarize them with river restoration efforts.

The students saw scientists testing the Anacostia's toxicity levels and parts of the cleanup effort over the past six years, which has included the removal of more than 5,000 tires, said Judy Southerland, the students' artistic adviser and instructor.

"Last summer, they were introduced to the environmental efforts under way to restore an ecosystem to the river that permits wildlife to survive," said Julia Moe, director of the CANVAS program. "Their understanding of these efforts has been eloquently conveyed this summer in the students' designs for the mural."

All four students live in Anacostia. Shonondra Fogel, 16, and Brittany Oliver, 14, are both sophomores at Woodrow Wilson High School. Derrick Byrd, 18, and Brian Carpenter, 17, are recent graduates of the Duke Ellington School for the Arts and both plan to attend the Maryland College of Art and Design in Silver Spring in the fall.

"The wildlife was a big inspiration. Up until last year, I didn't even know there were bald eagles in D.C.," Brian said. "I hope that money goes in to projects to clean the river… . I want to see this river in good condition."

Each of the students designed a mural earlier in the summer, and they collectively combined their visions in the final piece, which is expected to be completed next week. Part of the mural, painted by Derrick and Brian, depicts cleanup efforts by ECC members planting, removing waste and reintroducing various species to the Anacostia. The second half of the mural, painted by Shonondra and Brittany, represents their hopes for the future of the river abundant plant and animal life, safe and healthy recreation for D.C. residents, and a rejuvenated landscape.

"Right now, [the Anacostia] is not too pretty to look at. This is what I hope it looks like after it's clean," Brittany said. "It needs to be something that everyone can enjoy."

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