From 2000 until 2009, Cultural Tourism DC led Art on Call, a city-wide effort to restore Washington's abandoned police and fire call boxes as neighborhood artistic icons. Cultural Tourism DC partnered with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the District Department of Transportation on this initiative. The project is now managed by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

The art in the reinvented call boxes ranges in style from representational to abstract. The boxes showcase each neighborhood's unique identity and entice residents and visitors to explore the city's distinctive communities.


Police and fire call boxes were installed throughout the capital starting in the 1860s. They began to become obsolete with the introduction of the 911 emergency call system in the 1970s, and the working electronic components were all removed by 1995. Yet the call boxes remained, too large and heavy to remove yet subject to deterioration from weather and vandalism.

The Art on Call initiative began in 2000 when the city surveyed and identified call boxes for refurbishment. More than 1,100 abandoned boxes have been located to date. The District Department of Transportation stripped, primed, and prepared about 700 boxes in 2002 and 2003


photos by Nick Eckert © 2009


Neighborhood organizations have formed coalitions with residents and artists to propose, and then carry out, ideas for refurbishing their neighborhood's call boxes. Each community selects a theme or color palette for its boxes, thereby creating recognizable identifiers for its geographic area.

Community Projects:

Sheridan-Kalorama Call Box Restoration Project 

The Sheridan-Kalorama Call Box Restoration Project began in 2003 when a group of Sheridan-Kalorama neighbors answered the call of Cultural Tourism DC to form a committee to take on a challenging task: the restoration of the sixteen abandoned police and fire call boxes in our neighborhood. The Sheridan-Kalorama Call Box Restoration Project is part of a larger Washington, DC citywide call box artistic and historic restoration effort initiated by Cultural Tourism DC. 



Currently the Commission on the Arts and Humanities provides funding for call boxes.


At the time Cultural Tourism DC wrapped up its work with the project, 145 completed call boxes could be seen in Capitol Hill, Cathedral Heights, Cleveland Park, Downtown, Dupont Circle, Forest Hills, Georgetown, Golden Triangle, Glover Park, McLean Gardens, Mount Pleasant, Sheridan/Kalorama, Southwest, Tenleytown, and Woodley Park.


photos by Nick Eckert © 2009


Art on Call is a project of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities


For more information, please contact Rachel Dickerson, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, at 202-724-5613 or rachel.dickerson@dc.gov.



Art on Call Dupont Circle Mount Pleasant Sheridan-Kalorama Tenleytown Woodley Park


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