Art Lives Here: Better Block Project (2014)

I have always been interested in doing public placemaking art, so I was thrilled that I got to be a part of the Art Lives Here: Better Block Project. The mission of this project is to use art as a way to revitalize several communities in and near Mount Rainier, Maryland.

This project had several sub-projects, and the one I was selected for was the Route 1 Farmer’s Market Bazaar. I and several other artists were tasked by the Gateway Community Development Corporation with the assignment to add art and creativity to the farmer’s market. For my project, I chose to do a theme of art and nature. To accomplish this, I decided to cover large parts of the fence surrounding the farmer’s market venue with large murals. The purpose of these murals would be to add color not only to the market, but to the daily happenings of community residents. I chose five mural themes: Electric Landscape, Our Four Seasons, Ant Colony, Bugs and Worms, and Jumble.

Electric Landscape was done as a humorous reference to how hard we are currently trying to be organic and natural, despite the fact that we are so dependent on man-made products and technology. This is not meant to condemn anyone. Rather, it is more of a humorous observation.

Our Four Seasons is a take on the four seasons that is especially geared toward the National Capital area. It depicts a landscape made up of a tree to represent each season. Hopefully each resident of the community will especially appreciate the pink cherry tree blossoms!

Ant Colony was especially challenging for me. I am a detail-oriented artist by nature. Realizing that drivers on Route 1 would have an easier (and probably safer) experience viewing a less detailed work, I forced myself to scale back on Ant Colony. Even now, I am still fighting the urge to paint in a thousand additional ants.

Bugs and Worms was a mural done to show an appreciation to the bugs, worms and creepy-crawlies that keep our environment in balance.

Jumble was a community engagement project done with local children. For this, I brought a mural to one of the regular farmer’s markets. I suggested that children could place a hand print and then turn their hand print into an animal, but that they could do something else if they like. The end result was a giant splash of color! Some children elected to do hand print animals, while others added paint splatters, signatures and miscellaneous designs. We even have a footprint animal in their somewhere! And it wasn’t just the kids that got dirty-adults at the farmer’s market jumped in on the fun as well.

Installing the murals was probably the most difficult task. As a mixed media artist who has a comfort zone that is relatively two dimensional, I am able to avoid a lot of the heavy lifting. Therefore, I was at a bit of a loss for how to proceed. Fortunately, some friends from Red Dirt Studio were kind enough to help me out. I have a brand new appreciation for sculptors. 3-D art should be classified as a sport…

The project is now complete and is on display along Route 1. If I have done my job correctly, it is adding a bit of something positive to the community. Giving back to the community became more important to me than ever before because I received major news while working on the project. My family and I would be relocating soon after the completion of the murals and would no longer be in close proximity of the Gateway Arts District. The Gateway is where I found my first professional art opportunities and an amazing group of artistic peers and art appreciators. For obvious reasons, it is hard to leave. Therefore, I hope more than ever that I was able to leave something good behind with these murals.