County Executive Isiah Leggett welcomed the return of the “Penguin Rush Hour” mural. Photo by Mike Diegel.

They’re back.

County Executive Isiah Leggett and other dignitaries officially welcomed the return of the “Penguin Rush Hour” mural to the Silver Spring Metro Station.

The new installation is a copy of the original 1989 mural, which was painted by Sally Callmer Thompson on 25 4’ by 8’ sheets of plywood and intended for a one-year display.

“Public art can give a community or building a visual identity, while also enhancing the qualities that those places unique,” Thompson said in a statement, as she was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness.

“Public art is experienced where many people might not expect to find art, and through those shared public experiences, a lasting connection to that community, and the artwork itself, can be formed,” the statement concluded.

Thompson refurbished the panels, which had deteriorated over time, in 2007 and they remained in storage. The Silver Spring Regional Center and the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County held a fundraising campaign to help pay the $25,560 it took to restore the artwork.

“Everywhere I go, people stop to say to me ‘When are the penguins coming back?’” Leggett said. “They forgot about the Transit Center, they forgot about Fillmore, they forgot about Veterans’ Plaza, they forgot about all the other things [done in Silver Spring], but they did not forget about these penguins.”

“Public art in public spaces really matters to people,” said Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5). “We hear that so often from our constituents. This piece of public art in particular is so important to this community.

“The penguin has become such an iconic part of Silver Spring’s brand. These penguins, being so old, have spawned offspring,” he continued, referring to the penguin in the Thanksgiving parade, the penguins used for support at the ice rink on Veterans’ Plaza, and a sculpture at the corner of Cedar Street and Ellsworth Drive, near the old library.

The restored artwork was digitally scanned and printed onto thin sheets of aluminum by Dodge Chrome in Silver Spring. The aluminum sheets were bonded to a polyethylene core, mounted in aluminum frames and coated with an anti-graffiti screen coating.

“Penguin Rush Hour” is owned by the county and on loan to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority for a renewable 10-year term.

And those thin spikes lining the tops of the frames? They’ll keep other birds away.

Penguin wrap

The 100-foot long mural wraps in the Metro underpass along Colesville Road. Photo by Mike Diegel.

Mike Diegel