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Artist selected for Towson library mural; painting to begin in October

Ryan Adams, a muralist from Portland, Maine, will be painting this mural on the side of the Towson library branch with a grant from the local chamber of commerce. The work is inspired by graffiti art that Adams saw as a 10-year-old.
Ryan Adams, a muralist from Portland, Maine, will be painting this mural on the side of the Towson library branch with a grant from the local chamber of commerce. The work is inspired by graffiti art that Adams saw as a 10-year-old. (Courtesy of Towson Chamber of Commerce)

Towson’s library building is about to get a face-lift.

The Towson Chamber of Commerce has commissioned Portland, Maine-based artist Ryan Adams to paint a $35,000 mural on the York Road side of the Towson library branch, work that is expected to get started in mid-October.

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The rendering shows a design that toys with the viewer’s perspective by playing geometric patterns off the angles of the library’s six jutting columns facing York Road, giving the impression of rippling waves of color on a gradient that shifts from rich purple, bright red and deep burgundy to warm orange, yellow and amber. The mural will cover roughly 1,800 square feet across the six jutting columns of the library’s exterior.

Adams, who was chosen from a pool of 40 applicants by the chamber’s artist selection committee, will buy more than $1,000 in painting materials from the nearby Plaza Artist Materials & Picture Framing on York Road, he said.

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“This original mural will bring new energy and appreciation to an iconic building in the heart of downtown Towson, adding to the vibrancy of our community,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. said in a statement. “We appreciate the efforts from the Towson Chamber of Commerce, the Friends of the Towson Library, and all those who are working to make this exciting project a reality.”

Throughout the piece, Adams, whose work is characterized by intricate geometric lettering — or “gem style," as he calls it — will paint the words “Explore,” “Learn,” “Create," “Connect,” “Read” and “Grow," themes that fall in line with the library’s goals of providing county residents with educational services, resources and programs.

Adams said he created the piece with the building’s architectural style in mind; facing the York Road side of the library, the columns rise and are angled so that the viewer’s eye is drawn inward toward the rest of the building, starting from the left to the right. He aims to work with the angles to make the geometric lettering pop, using shadows and highlights “to create movement within the piece” based around the letter forms, he said.

Plans call for a mural to span the Towson library building's panels that face York Road.
Plans call for a mural to span the Towson library building's panels that face York Road. (Steve Ruark / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Adams' “ability to create a fusion of color, light, and shadows to achieve geometric movement will merge perfectly into the brutalism architectural elements of the building," said Dave Riley, chair of the Towson Creative Partnership, a component of the chamber.

“Adams' selection as the winning artist gives downtown Towson immediate credibility as a destination to view cutting edge public art,” said Riley, who sits on the selection committee.

The money for the project is coming from a $50,000 Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development grant that was awarded to the Towson Chamber of Commerce in late November.

The Friends of Towson Library is also contributing $3,500 to the project. Adams expects to paint for roughly 12 days "if Mother Nature cooperates,” he said.

The mural “will enhance a major gateway into downtown Towson,” Towson-area Councilman David Marks said in a statement. “Senator Chris West and I supported this funding in 2019 because every great community appreciates the value of art."

The remaining $15,000 in state grant money went toward another beautification project in downtown Towson in July, funding six artists, all women, who were chosen to paint various designs on 13 flower boxes.

Artist Camila Leão paints a flower box on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Artist Camila Leão paints a flower box on Pennsylvania Avenue. (David Riley)

The project comes as large-scale development reshapes a major business area for the county seat. The $350 million Towson Row project, on 5 acres bounded by York Road, Towsontown Boulevard, Washington Avenue and Chesapeake Avenue, will include a Whole Foods Market an additional stores and restaurants, offices, apartments and a redevelopment of the former National Guard armory building into Towson University’s StarTUp, an incubator for startup businesses, and a 220-room hotel.

A pilot project for the Towson Circulator, a free bus that would connect Towson hubs like Towson University, Goucher College, local hospitals and the Towson Town Center mall, is also in the works.

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