Art in the Public Sector: Washington DC

We're exploring a unique type of public art -- that which is conceived as part of the development of government places and spaces, otherwise known as public sector art. This includes taking a closer look at how state, federal and local agencies incorporate art into their public spaces, with interesting and aesthetically pleasing results. In identifying some of the best cities to view great public sector art, we can't think of a better place in the country to start than the nation's capital, Washington DC.


In DC, you don't have to navigate a path to the many museums and galleries (though we recommend you make time for those, too) to explore and experience incredible arts and culture opportunities. The General Services Administration (GSA) prioritizes federal art projects as part of its facilities' plans and projects. The District has a robust public art program as well, managed by the DC Commission on Arts and the Humanities. Their work includes an inventory of accessible works, ranging from murals and mosaics to sculptures and stained glass, with a healthy smattering of photography and street art mixed in for good measure.

We're sharing a few favorites among a long list of exceptional public sector artworks in Washington DC.Smithsonian Castle in Washington DC, Noon by UGallery artist Suren Nersisyan

Minimalism at the Department of LaborPhoto by gregorg

"She Who Must Be Obeyed" is an intriguing minimalist sculpture by artist Tony Smith which is located at the federal Department of Labor (DOL) building. The public artwork is part of the GSA's "Art in Architecture" program. At first glance, the piece seems fairly simple in design, however upon closer examination, visitors to the DOL will recognize the complexity of its dimensions and form.

Where to find it: 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC

Check out original minimalist art on UGallery's website


Captivating Murals in Columbia HeightsColumbia Heights Community Center mural, photo by Elvert Barnes

In Columbia Heights, constituents and visitors to the Rita Bright Community Center are greeted by a powerful and mesmerizing paint and tile mural, a collaborative effort among 21 artists, including well-known local muralist G. Byron Peck.

Peck lives and works in Columbia Heights, and his public art tells a story about the history and culture of the neighborhoods and communities he portrays. These include murals he has painted in other areas of the District such as transit art at Dupont Circle and the Metro Center station. Peck is known for the complex multidimensional elements he incorporates within each piece.

Where to find it: 2500 14th Street NW, Washington, DC

Amazing Architecture in AnacostiaCredit: DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Public Art Collection

"I Read" by artist William C. Howard is a large-scale architectural piece featuring an alphabet soup of colorful letters on stained glass. With a nod to the written word, the permanent installation located within the Washington DC Anacostia Library holds great appeal for children and adults alike, who are charmed by the shapes and figures interspersed within the colorful characters.

Where to find it: 1800 Good Hope Rd SE, Washington, DC

Ready to explore on your own? You can do so utilizing the district’s public art site and GSA’s website to establish your own personalized self-guided tour.

You can also check out original art online with new works posted weekly on the UGallery website.