Religion on Acid: Former Church Gets a Bold Makeover

HENSE transforms an old church into a new piece of contemporary art.

Christianity has been reinvented, reinterpreted and reworked countless times throughout the ages. Its only natural then, that its house of worship would also go through a metamorphosis over time. Enter HENSE, a multidisciplinary Atlanta-based artist who has transformed a former church in Washington D.C. into a bright, bold landmark that breathes new life into this building once used for prayer.

Located in what people are claiming will be D.C.'s next emerging arts district, the church's owner commissioned HENSE to transform the structure into something contemporary. That he did, coating every inch in the kind of hues you would never see in church, a little bit like religion on acid.

It's "the first step in bringing some life and color into the area," HENSE explains. "Taking an existing object like the church and painting the entire thing recontextualizes it and makes it a sculptural object. We really wanted to turn the church into a three-demential piece of artwork. With projects like this one, we really try to use the existing architecture as inspiration for the direction of the painting."

With a small crew, the team worked 10 - 12 hour days for several weeks to complete the process, with a buildup of paint left in their wake. "Most of my works are done in layers. The first step was to just get paint and color on every side and surface of the building. We then started developing large shapes and marks that would takes days to paint."

The building was originally a Friendship Baptist Church, build around 1886. In its heyday it had a cobblestone path that led directly to the Capitol, but today signs of that street are all but covered up. While honoring the church's history, HENSE wants visitors to see if for what it is today.

"I'd like for the piece to be viewed as something completely different than it's original use. In my eyes, it is no longer a church," said HENSE. "Creating work in public space can generate many different feelings and opinions and I always want to inspire people."

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Be An (Un)Simple Pilgrim. Follow along and join the conversation at and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.

Images courtesy of HENSE\n
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