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Exploring AAPI Murals in DC

The Copyright Office’s hometown—Washington, DC—is a city filled with history, civics, and culture. But did you know that beyond the lawmaking and famous baby pandas, DC is also full of creative people and artists? With so much to see and do, visitors might not know where to start. While DC’s museums are a must-visit, the city also has a vibrant public art scene. Murals, in particular, can be found throughout the city’s neighborhoods, and there’s always a new one to discover.

Every year, MuralsDC and DC Walls (formerly known as POW! WOW! DC), along with private companies and individuals, invite artists from across the country, and the world, to brighten the city’s walls and share their art, culture, and inspiration—leading to a vibrant mix of cultures and heritages worthy of exploration.

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re celebrating some of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are painting the walls of DC—and exploring how the copyright system supports their creativity.

Image of MISS CHELOVE's mural, Reseeded, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Reseeded: A Forest Floor Flow, 2022, for the National Museum for Women in the Arts; Copyright: MISS CHELOVE.

Cita Sadeli (a.k.a. MISS CHELOVE)

Known as MISS CHELOVE, DC-based artist Cita Sadeli’s murals can be found in various locations across the city. Her works, such as You Are Welcome, Guardians of the Four Directions, and All My Hopes & Dreams, are often reflective of her multicultural background as an Indonesian American who grew up in Washington, DC, as well as the local culture and people of the city. Sedeli noted, “One thing that’s important for me to do is to sort of maintain some of these stories from the minorities and the Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the area and just keep those stories alive and circulating in the street as much as I can.”

In addition to her DC murals, Sadeli’s art has been featured around the world, and she has collaborated with major museums, including DC’s Smithsonian Institution, National Museum for Women in the Arts, and the Phillips Collection.

Julia Chon (a.k.a. Kimchi Juice)

Korean American artist Julia Chon, also known as Kimchi Juice, is from DC and began showcasing her art at just fifteen years old. At seventeen, Chon painted her first mural, Cute Animals, for POW! WOW! DC. The 132-foot-long wall showcases her signature adorable small animal designs. Chon also often depicts Korean women in her art, like those featured in her 2021 DC Walls mural, Ripple of Dream. Both murals are located in DC’s NoMa neighborhood. In addition to creating murals around the world, Chon has exhibited her works in museums across the country, including in DC, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Much of Chon’s work is influenced by her Korean heritage. She explained: “As a young Asian-American female raised by a mother who is one of seven girls, I felt impressed to portray strong, powerful Asian women like the ones I know. Depicted in traditional Korean dress, these modern women redefine what it means to be a ‘good Asian girl.’”

Image of DC mural, Connect, by Jasjyot Singh Hans with artist in front.

Connected, 2019; Copyright: Jasjyot Singh Hans.

Jasjyot Singh Hans

Jasjyot Singh Hans is an Indian artist and illustrator based in Baltimore, Maryland. After growing up in Delhi, he moved to the United States to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art and feel more open to expressing himself through his creative works, which includes highlighting body image issues, self-love, and sexuality. In 2019, he painted a ninety-foot-long mural, Connected, for POW! WOW! DC, located in the NoMa neighborhood. In describing the work on his website, Singh Hans shared his cultural influence: “Hair in Sikh culture is sacred, and all men and women wear their hair unshorn. Our hair makes us equal, and connects us to our ancestors in the past as well our community in the present. This mural is a love letter to big and beautiful Sikh women everywhere.”

Singh Hans’s work has been featured in art shows around the country, on the pages of mainstream magazines, and for international brands.

Tracie Ching

A self-taught illustrator, Tracie Ching is primarily known for her pop-culture graphic designs. In 2019, she painted her first-ever mural for the POW! WOW! DC festival. Through the bright colors and design, Ching showcases elements of her Hawaiian and Chinese heritage alongside her artistic style on the hundred-foot-long wall. About working on the piece, Ching said, “I was so excited to attempt a new media and bridge experiences by taking my know-how as a digital designer and translating to a large-scale public artwork.”

Ching’s work has been shown in San Francisco and London, and her graphic designs have been commissioned by major international brands and public figures.

Image of Tracie Ching's mural

POW! WOW! DC, 2019; Copyright: Tracie Ching.

More Murals to Check Out

As you wander around DC, you’ll also find murals by many other AAPI artists, including Chinese American artists Peter Chang (in collaboration with Brandon Hill as No Kings Collective), Shani Shih, Wingchow, and Lauren YS; Hawaiian and AAPI artists Matthew and Roxanne Ortiz (in collaboration as Wooden Wave); Iranian American artist Niki Zarrabi; and Korean American artist KeyHan.

Copyright Incentivizes and Protects the Visual Arts

Muralists are visual artists, and the intellectual property rights of a professional artist are some of their most important business assets. Copyright law protects visual arts from the moment the artist fixes their creative work in a tangible format, such as on a page or on a wall. That protection comes with exclusive rights that give copyright owners greater control over their use of their works, including the rights to reproduce and distribute them. Registering a work of visual art at the Copyright Office is not required, but it does provide additional benefits. Certain visual artists may also have rights of attribution and integrity, detailed in section 106A of the Copyright Act, which resulted from the passage of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. Learn more about how copyright incentivizes and protects visual arts in our Learning Engine series video Copyright for Visual Artists.

What to See Next

DC’s public art scene is full of contributions from AAPI artists. Be sure to check out The Golden Cranes, a sculpture by Nina Akamu at the National Japanese American Memorial; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall designed by Maya Lin; and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art designed by I. M. Pei. You can also learn more about copyright protection for architecture and view some works related to I. M. Pei at the Copyright Office’s new exhibit Find Yourself in Copyright.