Titled “Forward,” the installation dominates a 60-by-110-foot space on the side of the Catonsville Cube, owned by Carolyn Black-Sotir and her husband Michael Sotir, visible to drivers on the main corridor running through the southwestern Baltimore County town.
Conceived by Baltimore-based artist Nether 410 and fleshed out with input from community members, the aerosol-painted mural shows two children riding bicycles into a wooded background, with a Catonsville cityscape on the right featuring the Fire Department station, and a sign for the local farmer’s market on the left.
Items suggested by Catonsville locals are carried in one of the cyclists’ baskets — a Benjamin Banneker clock to honor the late 18th-century Oella mathematician and astronomist; a sparkler and chair showing traditions of Catonsville’s Fourth of July parade; and a guitar to represent Catonsville’s state-given moniker of Music City, Maryland.
The objects are “things that people enjoy and feel proud [about] in the village, or that they think represents Catonsville,” said Kirby Spencer, vice president of the Baltimore County Arts Guild, which helped sponsor the mural.
The mural also memorializes Damari Powell, a Catonsville Elementary School student who died in October after battling a critical illness.
Powell’s name was added to the left-hand bike rider after her mother saw Nether painting the girl, and remarked that she resembled Powell’s daughter, said muralist Justin Nethercut, who works under the alias “Nether.”
“With mural painting, it’s really serendipitous and beautiful moments where something can transform and mean something to somebody that might [have] been unintended, but the story of the mural always changes and evolves as it’s being created,” Nether said.
With Rails to Trails continuing to build out the short line connection from Mellor Avenue to Bill’s Music House that sits adjacent to the mural, “that seemed to be something that would be awesome to paint,” Nether said.
Rails to Trails has plans to create a “pocket park” on a modest patch of green space between Bill’s Music and the Cube building, Spencer said.
“We are hoping to have a little kind of vignette there that people can sit and look at the mural, bike racks that people can lock up their bikes while people are walking around the shops, and connecting that pocket park really in a very distinct visual way” to guide visitors to the bike trail, Spencer said.
With the Arts and Entertainment District designation, Spencer hopes to create more wayfinding signage throughout Catonsville that shows the town’s artistic assets and encourages tourism, she said.
The Baltimore County Arts Guild plans to solicit public opinion as it starts to bring the district from concept into reality, Spencer added.
“We want to come up with a concise, overall plan that creates a much more impactful public art program,” she said.
On Saturday, Dec. 7, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. will join community members and Nether during the ribbon-cutting at 2 p.m at 757 Frederick Road. Catonsville High’s steel drum band and Catonsville native and American Idol contestant Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon will also perform.