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A Mt. Vernon Walkabout

About a week back I posted about the controversy of the golden fence that was preventing animals from fouling the fresh spring grasses of Mt. Vernon Park, here in Baltimore. The fence, now removed to great applause, was one segment, literally, of Beyond the Compass, Beyond the Square, a collaboration between Maryland Institute students and the Walters Art Museum's Maps: Finding Our Place in the World exhibit (here is a map). What remains are some impressive temporary installations by the other MICA students and their interpretations of mapping. After the brouhaha over Lee Freeman's golden fence and its removal, spring has come to Mt. Vernon Park: the grass is green, flowers are popping, and discovering the remaining works felt like an egg hunt.

Um-Gi Lee's Exploring Mt. Vernon Park highlights five prominent architectural elements throughout the area, inviting the public to travel from station to station, keeping track of your travels by stamping your booklet/passport with an image unique to that location. The stamps are contained in plexiglass boxes with an etched 3-D image of the building. It's an engaging, intelligent and fun project. Daniel Allende's Historian, Mapping History is a reinvention of history that had me laughing out loud. His nine faux-bronze plaques describe a Mt. Vernon past that works for me, like Romance Of A Romantic or A Place Of Invention, ha! Emma Fowler's Right, Left, Or Straight is in her words a "self-guided journey" by the use of small ceramic balls embossed, as for the seeing impaired, with the key to your travels. The balls are lined up on a long wooden trough, making your choice of direction seem like a lottery.

Nothing changed the public atmosphere surrounding this project quite like Jonathan Taube's Sweep Action: Towards the Center. Instead of fencing the public out, Taube organized a massive community clean-up. From the Sun photos Taube seemed like a Harry Potter figure, saving the day with lots of hugs and a very cool monument constructed of brooms and waste remains to commemorate the project; it has a Zen feel to it.

Three other projects focus on community involvement. Rebecca Nagle's Boundry Block Party: Bench Project, and Rachel Faller's Knitted Bridge. A second one by Nagle, Peabody's New Outfit, asked community groups to design new outfits for the monuments that would rotate between them every two weeks. It's a real eye catcher as you drive up Charles Street.

Involving the community is key to the success of any project in public spaces, but it can also be the nightmare portion. I am grateful for the sacrifices and dedication of neighborhood and community organizations. They do amazing work and the block parties can be fun. But it's a tough way to produce challenging art when so many opinions and conditions need to be appeased. As a student project Beyond the Compass has been a perfect learning experience resulting in some thoughtful, engaging art. Many more images on Flickr.

Note: At post I was unable to confirm the identity of this work at the foot of Charles Street, but my crack team is on it.


Anonymous said...

that work at the foot of charles street does not belong to the exhibition and has been removed.

Mark Barry said...

It didn't seem right, like an alien invasion. Thanks Anon.