Use Code BALT69 for a $69 Ticket to One Day University on July 9

The art left behind: At shuttered Baltimore County youth group home, colorful murals remain

When the Good Shepherd residential treatment center for adolescents in Baltimore County was shut down last year, some artwork got left behind.

Elaborate murals had been painted on the walls that were designed to give the troubled youths who lived at the Halethorpe facility a jolt of optimism and a reason to dream.

In retrospect, that's what bothers the artist Christopher Winslow the most — the lost opportunity. The murals he painted with his business partner, Charlie Macsherry, over the period of about three years starting in 2011 aren't being seen by the people they were created to help.

“I'm used to doing residential work for very affluent people,” Winslow said.

"Having a chance to create something in a semi-public space and to try to improve these kids lives just by making their environment better was very satisfying and very gratifying."

Winslow and Macsherry designed the gymnasium, cafeteria, a hallway and residential group areas not just to be attractive, but with a theme of female empowerment.

“When you're in a bright and lovely place, it lightens your mood," Winslow said. "It was a chance to do something for these kids so they wouldn't feel quite so oppressed.”

In 2016, Good Shepherd was cited by state regulators for not providing proper supervision after one patient reported being sexually assaulted and others showed signs of overdose after taking medicine stolen from a medical cart.

The following year, the center's operators decided to close the facility and put the 70-acre property up for sale, after two state agencies withdrew the youths they had placed there. Forty-nine children were moved to other treatment centers and 200 employees lost their jobs.

Winslow suspects that whoever buys the property will eventually tear the center down, and the murals with it.

Brian Kruger, senior managing director of the Baltimore office of the commercial real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank said that a potential buyer has been identified and is performing a feasibility study of the site. He declined to identify that purchaser or to speculate on how the property might be used in the future.

Winslow never had direct contact with the young occupants — that was prohibited — but he saw signs that they appreciated his artwork.

“There have been studies down that have found that murals in institutions are very respected by the residents," he said. "They don't get damaged because the residents see them as something to be revered.”

During the years that Winslow and Macsherry worked at the center off and on, they found graffiti scrawled on walls. But, their murals never were touched.

Winslow reached out to The Baltimore Sun to share photos of the center before and after the murals were painted. He reasoned that everyone uses the Internet these days. Who knows — perhaps some former residents would find this article and see the images.

If they happened to be having a bad day, it might even make them smile.

"I'd like to think," Winslow said, "that it wasn't all for naught."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad