Baltimore County officials unveiled a trio of new features at Robert E. Lee Park on Thursday, including an outdoor art exhibit from the Walters Art Museum that matches the park's bucolic setting.
"I think that the icing on the cake today is going to be this mix of nature and culture, and we're so appreciative of the Walters for thinking of us with their new Off The Wall Program, which is something very special," said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
The artwork, a recreation of Alfred Sisley's The Terrace at Saint-Germain, Spring, is on waterproof canvas and in a gold acrylic frame. The work is part of a 25-piece outdoor collection the Walters is scattering throughout Baltimore city and county through the Off The Wall program
"It's a street art campaign, and the concept is very straightforward," said Matt Fry, marketing director for the Walters. "We decided to take these beautiful works in our collection, of which there are many, and reproduce them.
"With a little trickery," he said, "we create things that look like they've been taken off the museum wall and planted in natural space and on the sides of buildings."
During the first set of placements for the 25 pieces of art, Fry solicited input from the public and matched each location with a similar painting.
"In the case of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, we're taking an image called Syria, The Night Watch, which features lions walking through ruins, and putting it right on the lion exhibition at the zoo," Fry said.
On Thursday, the morning's first order of business was the unveiling of a new $142,000 pavilion and the $280,000 pedestrian bridge replacement that have been constructed since park upgrades were formally unveiled by Baltimore County last year.
The spacious wood pavilion features 14 picnic tables, including some with shortened benches to allow wheelchair access, and grills, with a view overlooking the Lake Roland Dam.
A former railroad bridge, the new pedestrian bridge was widened and rebuilt to accommodate the foot traffic that across the long walkway from the light rail parking lot.
Both complement what Barry Williams, director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks, said has become a "people's park" in the year since the county's $6.1 million improvement project was completed. The county acquired oversight of the 415-acre park from Baltimore City in 2009.
"This is a great place to come to put away your troubles and your worries, and just enjoy and commune with nature," Williams said.
Kamenetz said Robert E. Lee is a facility that captures all of the special features of the county's other public spaces, from Meadowbrook Regional Parks' recreation space and the dog park in Reisterstown to the natural appeal of Cromwell Valley Park.
"This has really turned into something special," he said.
Peter Maloney, president of the Robert E. Lee Nature Council, said the council is grateful that the county has continued to invest in the park.
"It's not just this pavilion," Maloney said. "There's a dog park, there's a new bridge at the Falls Road entrance, there's this wonderful stretch of nature as you're walking here from the MTA lot. It's an absolutely wonderful partnership between government and private enterprise."