A few years ago, what is now Morrell Park Memorial Garden was an overgrown, trash-strewn lot in southwest Baltimore. Looking to honor their lost loved ones, the community and Access Art, an arts and media after-school program in the area, transformed the area into a garden, planting flowers, installing benches, and creating mosaics that formed a stepping stone path.
MICA student and Community Art Collaborative (CAC) member Rachael Shannon ’13 (MFA in Community Arts) got involved in the park redevelopment while working as a community artist-in-residence at Access Art. Shannon decided to spearhead the second phase of the Morrell Park Memorial Garden revitalization with neighborhood resident John Parlier. This initiative, called The Living Wall, would conceptually complement the themes of memorializing and loss in the earlier project by creating a positive space in Morrell Park that draws upon the community’s hopes, dreams, and visions.
In homage to the community’s historical railroad connection—the land is owned by CSX Transportation—The Living Wall is created out of discarded railroad wood decorated with plaques featuring inspirational writings handpicked by community members along with ceramic pockets, made by Access Art youth, designed to hold visitors’ offerings.
Located along the outer boundaries of the park, The Living Wall was completed last fall, creating a gathering area for events such as barbecues and picnics. Shannon said she hopes the renewed energy from the park revitalization will continue to spark ideas and community investment in the space.
In addition to Shannon and resident volunteers, many MICA and CAC members had a hand in this almost yearlong undertaking, including:
Marian Blair ’12* (MA in Community Arts); Tiffany Black ’13* (MFA in Community Arts), Cait Byrnes ’10* (general fine arts), Laura Cohen ’10 (MA in Community Arts), Suzanne Doogan*, Kristen Faber ’05 ’06* (general fine arts, MA in Community Arts), Dominique Hellgeth ’10* (ceramics), MFA in Community Arts faculty member Cinder Hypki, Dixon Stetler ’13* (MFA in Community Arts), and Sarah Tooley ’10 (MA in Community Arts). MICA’s Community Art Collaborative, an AmeriCorps program, and MFA in Community Arts supported the project, and the Office of Community Engagement provided funds that helped leverage additional support.
Additional partners in the project included dozens of Morrell Park resident volunteers; 901 Arts; A.A. Co. Farm, Lawn, & Garden Center; Access Art; Baltimore Clayworks; Baltimore Community Foundation; Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts; Bon Secours Health Sy stem’s Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Program; Cleaner Greener Baltimore; Constellation Energy Group, LLC; CSX Transportation; The Home Depot USA, Inc.; MECU of Baltimore, Inc.; Morrell Park & St. Paul’s Improvement Association; Morrell Park Recreation Council; Parks & People Foundation; and TKF Foundation.
* CAC member or alumnus.
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