Last month, BOPA teamed up with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability to bring together farmers, artists, and community residents for a charette designed to help us shape our latest public art initiative. Together, we’re developing an unprecedented program that will provide microgrants for temporary public art works on and around hoop houses sited on city-owned vacant property.

Overall, we’re excited about the positive response we got and are grateful for the enthusiastic participants who contributed to our charette. We’re taking all the feedback we received and using it to generate an RFP (Request for Proposals) which we will release later this year.

Here’s a quick recap of the charette in case you missed it:

We started off with a tour of Gather Baltimore‘s hoop house in Oliver. Growing Green Coordinator, Jenny Guillaume, led the group into the plastic tunnel Gather’s farmers use to extend their growing season. It was warm inside despite the freezing temperatures outside the hoop house doors.

Like most hoop houses, Gather’s is made of polythylene film and bent steel sturdy enough for one of the farmers in attendance to show off his pull ups. The sidewalls are removable and the poly can be rolled up to lower the inside temperature and improve airflow during the hot summer months. In addition to wall modifications, shadecloths can also be draped over the structure to lower temperatures, and “cooling paint” can be applied directly to the poly. This particular hoop house was fully sprinklered and, though it had a streetlight nearby, it had no electricity.

After our quick tour, we went back inside for a group discussion, which we broke up into two sections – “Hoop Dreams” and “Hoop Realities”.

HOOP DREAMS –
We asked: What do you want to see? 

  • Solar-powered lighting, ambient lighting, and in-frame lighting
  • Seasonal decorations / installations
  • Community involvement!
  • Painted-screen style shadecloths
  • Frame painting
  • Colored poly
  • Artistic water gathering/recycling features
  • Other functional artistic features such as: bird houses, trellis, materials that encourage habitats for bees
  • Designed space for farmers to interface with residents
  • Designed space for farmers to process
  • Activating the hoop house during the off season (December-February)

HOOP REALITIES –
We asked: What kind of design constraints do you foresee?

  • Hoop houses are largely unmonitored when they aren’t being worked in so any equipment (eg. expensive lights or projectors) would not necessarily be secured
  • Some community residents don’t find hoop houses attractive, especially in the winter months, and would prefer that they be set back in lots rather than on main thoroughfares
  • March-November are the busy farming months. December-February are dormant.
  • Planting beds should not be tread on
  • Hoop houses rarely have power sources
  • Water control is often needed to prevent flooding
  • Communities want the food grown inside local hoophouses to be made available to the community

After our discussion, we broke out into groups. Equipped with colored pencils, we all began to draw out our concepts. Some hoop houses turned into caterpillars.  Some turned into castles and living rooms. Others still were retrofitted with wire sculptures, puppets, and sculptural vegetation on designed trellis.

I think it’s safe to say that the possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to what you can do to infuse artwork into local hoop houses. Stay tuned for the release of our micro-granting program later this spring!

Elephants Groundbreaking

The Greater Mondawmin Community Association and Artblocks, winners of the 2012 PNC Transformative Art Prize, have officially broken ground on installing 5 life-sized elephant sculptures in Druid Hill Park.

Stop by on Wednesday, June 11 at 2:30 pm for the unveiling celebration!

The focus of Bromo Tower District’s ‘Transit’ project is Howard Street. Once a bustling corridor of large retail stores, many of buildings along Howard Street now sit vacant. Hope is strong that the newly-designated A&E District will spur neighborhood growth. Howard Street’s light rail line, a major north/south commuter option, passes by the Station North A&E District, through the campus of the Maryland Institute College of Art, and terminates adjacent to a MARC (commuter train) station at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Re-imagining the corridor (how it is used by riders, how it integrates into tHoward Streethe community, and how it is viewed by community residents and businesses), is an opportunity to mobilize urban planners, architects and artists, and engage community residents and businesses, to strategically transform the transit environment in the District. Utilizing ‘Transit’ the Bromo Tower District will create an accessible, unique, arts destination, and supply opportunities for dynamic and participatory arts experiences.

With those goals in mind, in the spring of 2013 The City of Baltimore, the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts in collaboration with the Baltimore City Department of Transportation released a call to artist or artist team to assist with the replacement of old crosswalks within District. The goals of the project were to:  install crosswalks that were distinctive and artist designed, but also compliant with traffic and safety regulations; and to improve the pedestrian experience, give better definition to downtown’s Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District, and add an additional public art experience in the City’s third Arts & Entertainment District.

The response to the RFP from the local arts community was extremely positive, and the District received approximately 50 complete proposals. Of course as with any project that engages the arts community, exciting and unexpected proposals are presented. This number was narrowed by a panel of community and city agency stakeholders to four designs. One for each crosswalk slated for renewal.

Bromo Seltzer Tower - Baltimore Maryland

Once selected, the District hoped that the designs would be installed by August 2013. After all, the stakeholder group had included members of the arts community and District residents, a public art project manager, as well as officials from the lead agencies responsible for project installation. As the project began to proceed, it was soon realized that subject matter experts  would also need to be engaged if the project was to move forward, including those specializing in the materials use and installation (for Thermoplast in particular) and traffic safety for pedestrians and vehicles. For all your due diligence, public projects involve a village of participants. Some you will seem obvious, others make themselves known as the project moves forward.
Additionally the initial goal of the project was to include 10crosswalks within the District. As plans moved forward, the projects total budget, which seemed robust at the outset, was consumed by costs to prepare the street for installation (an anticipated cost) and a Maintenance of Traffic cost that is associated with diverting traffic during the installation of any street construction (unanticipated). As with any public art project, be prepared to make necessary modifications to the budget, and perhaps even the projects scope.
The project moves forward, in spite of those challenges, in a more scaled version. Installation is set to conclude October 2013, in conjunction with Arts and Humanities month and will include a community event in the Bromo Tower Art & Entertainment District.

In 2013 and 2014, EUNIC Washington will partner with Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) for an ambitious 18 month project highlighting the positive role of culture in urban development. The BOPA , is the Arts Council for the City of Baltimore, addressing the needs of the arts community through arts and cultural activities and the development of grant programs. The Office also produces festivals, special events and promotions for the City.

Two opportunities are available to participate in the ongoing “Transit: Creative Placemaking in Baltimore” project:

EUNIC Washington DC Cluster – Culture and Communications Intern for Baltimore

EUNIC and BOPA “Transit” Public Art Residency

Sculpture by artist David Tonnesen

The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts is seeking a Public Art Administrator. The Public Art Administrator is a full-time regular, exempt position reporting to the Assistant Director of Cultural Affairs. The position is responsible for managing the Public Art Program team which produces public art projects in the City of Baltimore.

For a full description, or to apply, visit www.promotionandarts.org.