K Street NE Underpass

At more than 400 feet long, the K Street underpass is the longest in NoMa. It comprises six traffic lanes, including the K Street bikeway, and two narrow sidewalks that are each approximately 8 feet wide. The sidewalks are impinged upon by streetlight poles, posts supporting the elevated tracks, and drainage grates. Considering these constraints, NPF, with the input of local stakeholders and government partners, selected a digital display strategy called the “K Street Virtual Gallery” as a unique and exciting solution to the dark, unwelcoming conditions. For this underpass, instead of the project being the installation of infrastructural art to provide permanent lighting and appeal, the Foundation chose to leave the existing lighting in place and enhance it by providing the means for artists to project digital art pieces and light up the walls.

The K Street Virtual Gallery employs 12 laser projectors to create a series of large “canvases” on the reticulated stone walls in the darkest areas of the underpass, and it can be reprogrammed as often as wanted and practical. As a dynamic piece of technology, it will allow for a wide variety of artistic and cultural themes to be addressed and for different curators to be engaged to develop exhibits offering different perspectives. Finally, the K Street Virtual Gallery will provide a platform for artists to develop and adapt their work for digital display.

The first call for artist entries for the K Street Virtual Gallery was issued on November 8, 2022, and the first exhibit will open in early 2023. The NoMa BID and NPF will support the first several exhibits, in order to understand and demonstrate the capabilities of the equipment, with the help of contractor and concept designer Design Communications Ltd. In the future, however, the Foundation and the BID anticipate that other organizations will be invited to participate in creating and curating exhibits.