Streetcar station, fallout shelter: Here's what DuPont Underground is doing now

Remember last summer's "Beach" exhibit at the National Building Museum? The same 650-thousand plastic balls that filled that exhibit are back.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – A new interactive art exhibit opened Saturday in one of D.C.’s most historic, but underutilized spaces: an abandoned tunnel located beneath DuPont Circle. It’s called DuPont Underground.

The exhibit uses the same 650,000 plastic balls that filled the National Building Museum’s popular “Beach” exhibit last summer. 

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Before, the magnetic art display streamlined patrons through the tunnel running under New Hampshire Avenue. Now, it is chaotic creativity controlled by you.

For the next month, guests will be able to mix, match and recreate structures however they see fit.  


The exhibit is called “Raise/Raze” by Josh De Sousa and his wife and business partner Nancy Hou. The pair edged out four other finalists to win DuPont Underground’s “Re-Ball” Competition.

Their challenge?

How to best use 650,000 plastic balls in what De Sousa said is a “very long, underutilized space that has been forgotten by the city.”

According to a DuPont Underground spokesperson, in the ‘60s, the tunnel operated as a street car station, carrying passengers under DuPont Circle. It once acted as a Fallout Shelter to reduce causalities in a nuclear war. Fast forward to the mid-‘90s and a food court here failed almost as soon as it began. 

Larry Maloney, a DuPont Underground attendee, said he appreciates the exhibit’s local feel.

Maloney said it gives him a chance to use his lens to capture art that isn’t owed by the feds. This is one reason he contributed to the crowdfunding that helped open the exhibit.

“I’d like to see them bring other artists in from around the nation and around the world to create other things that the public can get engaged in,” Maloney said.

Ideas for the future of DuPont Underground are in the works.  


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