Sculptures weave in and out of office buildings near the Inner Harbor and illuminate subway stations with fluorescent light. Bright murals bring life to the sides of rowhomes and public schools. Some works you might pass by without even realizing they are art.
Baltimore was one of the first in the nation to adopt a “percent for public art” law, requiring the city allocate 1% of all capital construction costs toward public artwork. Today, the city has hundreds of works in its collection. But more money has gone to acquiring new works than to conserving the existing ones.
With its concrete foundation and rusting pyramid shapes, the Patapsco River Project on South Hanover Street might be mistaken for “something left over from a DOT project,” said Ryan Patterson, an administrator with Baltimore’s Office of Promotion & the Arts who works with the city’s public art collection.
This spring, BOPA partnered with Visit Baltimore to clean up the Patapsco River Project, removing trash, weeds and graffiti. In other cases, they have hired conservators to repaint artwork — like the battered Red Buoyant sculpture along the Inner Harbor by local artist Mary Ann Mears — or applied hot wax, as conservators did to a decades-old statue of Thurgood Marshall downtown. Today, Red Buoyant gleams brighter. Thurgood Marshall is recognizable as the first black Supreme Court justice. And the Patapsco River Project looks more like it did when it was first installed as a “gateway to the city” in the 1970s.