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The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission

The Wheaton HQ Mural Project

The Wheaton HQ Mural Project

Winning mural concept showcases diverse culture of Wheaton through dance

The outside of M-NCPPC’s downtown Wheaton Headquarters has a new mural!

The mural design was selected through an online community vote as part of The Wheaton HQ Mural Project. A total of 11,703 votes were cast online in March 2021 for three different mural designs. Nicole Bourgea’s concept of dancers reflecting Wheaton’s multicultural community received over 60% of community members’ votes.

The Wheaton HQ Mural Project is made possible by a generous donation from Stonebridge Development, the private partner who helped to build the Wheaton Headquarters.

Winning Mural Design

Nicole Bourgea, a local artist from Kensington, submitted her qualifications in fall 2020 in response to M-NCPPC’s call for mural artist qualifications. Out of 28 submissions, a jury of representatives from the local community, the Montgomery Planning and Parks Departments, and the Regional Services Center selected her as well as two other finalists to prepare mural designs for the community to vote on.

Bourgea submitted the following description of her work as “Artist #1” to help inform the public voting process:

This mural is a bold, colorful celebration of the fact that while we dance to our own beats, we all smile in the same language. We come from diverse multicultural legacies with unique perspectives and various abilities, but we each have an important gift to offer with our life.

The concept for this mural was inspired by the artist’s son who has Down syndrome and LOVES to dance. To see him dance—overcome with joy and the need to move his body to express that joy—is to know unequivocally that the most human thing we can do is to live fully alive! We dance for different reasons, in many different styles, but each dance is a tribute to the heart that beats in the chest of the dancer.

This mural is situated in the heart of Wheaton, MD, a community bustling with businesses run by people originating from many rich cultural legacies. This wall therefore represents a unique opportunity to both encourage these diverse heritages to thrive, as well as to welcome pedestrians of all backgrounds to experience the magic of this vibrant neighborhood. All lives are enhanced and enlivened by interactions with cultures and traditions once foreign to us. These experiences point to our shared identity as people. This design is a celebration of Wheaton’s strength as an authentic, vivid collage of humanity as well as its deep roots and bright, evolving future.

Mural Location

The mural is located on the outside of the new, 14-story M-NCPPC Wheaton Headquarters strategically placed in the heart of Wheaton’s Arts and Entertainment District. This LEED Platinum building, which opened in August 2020, is owned by M-NCPPC and houses the headquarters of Montgomery Planning and Montgomery Parks as well as several county agencies.

The mural is on the building’s north-facing concrete block wall, adjacent to an existing surface parking lot owned by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), between Triangle Lane and Grandview Avenue.

The Other Finalists

In addition to Bourgea’s concept (Artist #1), the community voted on designs from finalists Eric B. Ricks, (Artist #2), as well as MazPas with Oscar Gonzalez and Federico Frum (Artist #3).

Mural design submission from Eric B. Ricks (Artist #2) described in his own words:

Influenced by the work and mission of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, ‘Inspire a Story,’ depicts the beauty of nature, community and history that is the City of Wheaton. It shows a multicultural community that celebrates the power of inclusivity, welcoming all to a place that values diversity, and respects traditions in the arts, business and lifestyle. This award-winning artist presents an original, vibrant drawing of their mural concept for your consideration.

The bright greenery of Brookside Gardens formed the theme of this colorful mural, set inside a shadow box and featuring a silhouette of the Wheaton skyline. Unlike digital renderings, the details in this freehand drawing appear to come to life with rich colors and key elements that capture the live-life spirit of people, culture and experiences that the city has to offer. The sense of community is at the heart of the piece. To the right, the calm of Mother Nature represents security and protection. The paper boat floating in the water embodies the popular theme, “we are all in this together!” The small details come together to create the big picture. For example, the ant symbolizes working in the community for the good of the people. The signature butterfly reflects the symbol of transformation and growth–an homage to the Wings of Fancy at Brookside Gardens. The mural reflects the history and fortitude of Wheaton, including the bleeding heart symbolizing the city’s fragility and renewal over the years.

The key symbolizes the welcoming spirit of the diverse community, an eclectic place where people from all walks of life feel at home. Bringing together the warmth of Mother Nature on the right, and the next generation on the left. The key also represents the inheritance of culture and storytelling. History and traditions continue, with the antique television lying flat, celebrating the first-ever television broadcast coming out of Wheaton in 1929. The geometric shape on top carries the Wheaton Triangle within the square. Further, the pattern behind is inspired by the Wheaton library.

Inside the complex multi-figure design of the mural, there are simple but necessary elements for artists in practice to work on. The duck, for example, represents the tranquility of the city. The sunbathing turtles and the snowy egret scurrying around the Chesapeake Bay are also ideal opportunities for young artists to learn about the mural process.

It is with great pride and honor that the artist presents ‘Inspire a Story’ to the Montgomery County Planning Department. It celebrates the character, sense of place, culture and history found in Wheaton, and within the Montgomery County Parks and Planning Departments.

Mural design submission from MazPas with Oscar Gonzalez and Federico Frum (Artist #3) described in their own words:

High in the sky sits the four directions sunrepresenting a unification of cultures. The heart of this star represents Central and South America. Lotus leaves and a sacred mandala comprise the sun’s rays, representing South and East Asian cultures. This symbol holds in great respect the traditions of generations of immigrants that reside in the community and honors Native American cultures whose presence continue to strengthen and enrich the landscape of this country.

At the bottom left is a trail home, highlighted by beautiful Ethiopian patterns. The centerpiece of homes and houses represent the early neighborhoods that made this city into what it is now. This thriving community is a product of a well-thought-out Parks and Planning Departments.

A monarch butterfly rests her wings on the rooftop. She symbolizes transformation and resilience. She is a beautiful balance of simplicity and strength. To her right, a bouquet of Ginger, Lotus, Jasmine and Lychee flowers blossom, paying homage to the Asian community and the rich fauna and flora of their homelands. These plants also celebrate Wheaton’s enchanting parks and trails.

The backdrop is an abstract flow of color honoring the diversity of this community and the beauty of its natural environment. 

Wheaton History and Context

In 2016, the State of Maryland re-designated the Wheaton Central Business District an Arts and Entertainment District for the next 10 years after first giving it this designation in 2005. Today, Wheaton is home to roughly 50,000 residents with a median age of 36 and a household income of roughly $79,369.

Wheaton’s strongest asset continues to be the multicultural character and variety of cultural influences from El Salvador, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, Lebanon, etc., which are reflected in its people and businesses. Wheaton, Silver Spring, and Bethesda are the three Central Business Districts in Montgomery County that receive state and federal funding from the Maryland State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, which direct economic development towards these Central Business Districts.


Please direct all questions about the project to: Paul Mortensen, Senior Urban Designer,