"Hearts of Harford"

On of the "Hearts of Harford" sculptures the Bel Air Downtown Alliance plans to place at several places around Bel Air and have local artists decorate under sponsorships of local business and organization. People's Bank is the sponsor for the heart shown above by the Bel Air Record Armory. (Bel Air Downtown Alliance, Homestead Publishing / October 15, 2012)

The Bel Air Downtown Alliance, in cooperation with the Town of Bel Air, will be sponsoring a public art project entitled, "Hearts Of Harford."

The project will be similar to Baltimore's fish sculptures that temporarily graced locations in the Inner Harbor and other places in the city in the summer and fall of 2001. The city also later had painted crab sculptures installed at various locations.

The purpose of Bel Air's project, which was discussed by town government officials during the summer, "is to enhance the public space in and around downtown Bel Air, provide visual appeal to the public landscape, establish downtown Bel Air as an art destination and to honor downtown Bel Air as the 'Heart of Harford,'" the alliance said in a news release, referring to the downtown alliance's slogan.

The design of fiberglass heart sculpture is based on the heart used in the logo of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. The organization is hopeful some of the sculptures will be erected and decorated in time for the town's annual Christmas parade in early December.

The alliance said it is seeking proposals from artists to come up with designs for and paint the sculptures, which will be temporarily installed in various locations in and around downtown Bel Air.

"This is an incredibly exciting project," Scott T. Walker, executive director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, said in the news release. "Our design committee has been working on this idea for a number of years, and we have finally arrived at a point to make the project a reality."

Walker said the final design of the sculpture was created by Adrienne DeRan, a local artist and member of the Town of Bel Air's Cultural Arts Commission. DeRan will construct the blank hearts that will serve as the "canvas" for the artists selected to work on the project.

"Many other cities have launched projects similar to this one and they have had great success with it," Mr. Walker said. "Baltimore had fish and crabs, Elkton had their huge Elk, and Frederick had keys."

"The hearts are perfect for us and we can't wait to see them popping up all over town," he continued. "We have a lot of fun and exciting plans to help promote the project and we think the community will really enjoy seeing the hearts come to life."

There also are plans for mini-hearts to be decorated by the local shops, boutiques, salons, and restaurants to help bring attention to the project.

The Bel Air Downtown Alliance selected 15 possible sites for the "Hearts Of Harford."

According to the alliance's news release, the immediate goal of the project is to have eight to 10 hearts sponsored and produced by May 2013.

Sponsorships are being offered to local businesses interested in supporting the project. Once the hearts are installed at a location, they will remain there for one year. At the end of the year, the hearts will be auctioned off to help raise funds for the Bel Air Downtown Alliance and future public art projects.

Sponsorships are being offered for $1,500, or the heart can be purchased by the sponsor outright for $1,800.

After the heart is on display for one year, and if it is not been sold, it will be auctioned off to help raise funds for the "Hearts Of Harford" project.

The Bel Air Downtown Alliance said it has already presold two "Hearts Of Harford," one to People's Bank and one to Katzen Eye Group.

The heart purchased by People's Bank will be placed at the Bel Air Reckord Armory. A location for the Katzen Eye Group heart has not yet been determined.

The painted city sculpture craze took off nationwide in the early 2000s, when 300 fiberglass cows were placed around Chicago and painted by local artists. At the time, city officials said the "Parade of the Cows" increased tourism in the city significantly.

Other cities and towns large and small, including Baltimore, followed suit. Baltimore's "Fish Out of Water" project resulted in some 200, 6-foot long fiberglass fish being placed in the city in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the opening of the National Aquarium in 2001. Those sculptures were auctioned off when the project concluded.

Elkton in Cecil County has had a similar program with elk sculptures.

When Bel Air officials first discussed the project in July, some of the suggested locations broached included the Harford Historical Society, the Reckord Armory, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, the Bel Air library branch and Bel Air Town Hall. Initially, it was thought that one or two sculptures might be put in place for the Maryland BBQ Bash in August.

The Bel Air Downtown Alliance has released an RFP to commission artists interested in participating in the "Hearts Of Harford" project.

The first deadline for submissions is Friday, Nov. 9, in the hope of having the first heart completed and installed by Sunday, Dec, 2, the date of the annual Town of Bel Air Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting, the alliance said.

Submissions will be accepted after Nov. 9 for additional hearts.

For more information and complete details about the RFP process, contact Walker at 443-823-1797, swalker@downtownbelair.com or http://www.BelAirAlliance.com.

The Bel Air Downtown Alliance is a 501(c)(3) local nonprofit dedicated to creating a vibrant business community and visitor friendly destination in downtown Bel Air. The Alliance was founded in 2001 and is one of 26 Main Street Maryland communities.

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