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Black Last Supper Mural Hidden Behind Wall
October 24 – November 6, 2019
The Last Supper by Akili Ron Anderson

When the Studio Acting Conservatory began renovating its new space at 3423 Holmead Place, NW in Washington, D.C.’s gentrifying Columbia Heights neighborhood, it found an amazing Black collectible hidden behind a wall. The space was once home of the New Home Baptist Church. Hidden behind a wall, demolition contractors discovered a wall-length, all-Black Last Supper mural by native Washingtonian Akili Ron Anderson.

The Howard University Masters of Fine Arts graduate finished the New Home mural in 1982, eight years before Maurice Myron Jenkins completed the more famous all Black Last Supper at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast Washington. The New Home Last Supper was left behind when the congregation found a new home in 1997 in suburban Landover, Maryland, after 38 years on Holmead Place.

The Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) bought the place of worship and covered the mural. Interestingly, it was not until June 8, 1978 that the LDS accepted Blacks as equals.

The genesis of the mural started at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.  Anderson was head of the art department and teaching art when the school’s head janitor told him that the church he attends, New Home, was looking for an artist. “His name was Mr. Lovelace, I cannot recall his first name” says Anderson, who also grew up about a block from church.

Anderson proposed creating a sculpture, since that was his focus at the time.  “Painting or sculpture, the parishioners definitely wanted the commission to be of The Last Supper,” he recalls. Anderson used people from the neighborhood and the congregation as models. It took a year for Anderson to complete the work. 

He dedicated the piece to his mother to honor the support his parents and siblings gave him as an artist since his youth. “I was happy that she could walk around the corner from her home and see my work,” he said sitting on the old family stoop at 1342 Meridian Place, NW. His family was the second Black family to move on the block. Now, Anderson, who is an art professor at his alma mater, sees none.

Like the church, his old family home is under renovation. “I am calling out the names (of my former neighbors) and of course none of them are here,” he said. “They did preserve the front door,” he continued.
For now, Joy Zinoman, founder of the conservatory, is busy with also weighing the options of what do with the mural. She is listening and taking suggestions and offers.
Joy Zinoman founded the conservatory in 1975. Studio Theatre, now in DC’s gentrified 14 Street, NW, - Logan Circle area, grew from it. In February, the two entities split and with a $1.5 million gift from local philanthropists Dan and Gloria Logan, the Conservatory got the new home and the historic mural.

“We hope to be part of that community and help grow the community like I did in Logan Circle 40 years ago,” Zinoman told the Washingtonian. “Fourteenth Street has radically changed. In a way, moving to Columbia Heights feels better to me. It has the right feeling—it’s diverse and it’s alive and it’s not overly gentrified,” she continued.

For now, Zinoman is busy with also weighing the options of what do with the mural. She is listening and taking suggestions and offers. “The Conservatory is committed to preserving and finding it an appropriate home,” affirmed Joe Crea, a student and public affairs volunteer with the Conservatory. He told Port Of Harlem, “Preserving and protecting the mural is our priority.”  
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