Gone But Not Forgotten, The Penguins Of Silver Spring

Although the penguins of Silver Spring’s Metro station are still gone, The Penguin Post has learned that a Montgomery County official says residents can rest assured they haven’t been forgotten.

With last month’s opening of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, some are wondering when the 100-foot-long “Penguin Rush Hour” mural will return. The mural, which shows penguins with briefcases and newspapers rushing around a Metro station on the way to work, was installed in the late 1980s along Georgia Avenue under the Metrorail overpass.  It was originally meant as a temporary art installation, but the penguins (for obvious reasons) became so popular that Metro agreed to keep it in place.

A close-up of the "Penguins Rush Hour" mural that used to be at the Silver Spring Metro station

A close-up of the “Penguins Rush Hour” mural that used to be at the Silver Spring Metro station

It was there until 2004, when after about 15 years of being out in the elements, parts of the mural were in dire need of restoration. Montgomery County promoted a “Pennies for Penguins” fundraising campaign that raised $30,000 for the effort. Sally Callmer Thompson, the artist who painted the mural on 25 plywood panels in her Bethesda home,restored it in 2006.

But with construction on the Transit Center anticipated next door, the county didn’t want to reinstall the mural right away, according to Silver Spring Regional Center Director Reemberto Rodriguez.  The Transit Center project finally finished in September, five years after it was scheduled to open.  Now folks want to know when the penguin mural, which is sitting in storage in the Silver Spring Civic Building, will finally reappear.

On Sept. 25, someone behind the parody “SS Transit Center” Twitter account tweeted “I was PROMISED PENGUINS. Where are my penguin friends?!?” Rodriguez said the mural will be installed in the same location, though the county still must figure out the logistics of making it happen.

“We’re committed to bringing them back out,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “I can’t say whether it will be tomorrow, next week or the next month. But it’s really just a matter of going through with it and taking the steps to get them cleaned up.” Rodriguez said local arts organizations and the county’s Department of General Services, which led the Transit Center project before turning it over to Metro, will likely be involved. “I know we’ve had years to think this through,” Rodriguez said. “But we just don’t want to throw this out there. We’ll be working with other agencies and interests to make sure it happens.”

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