Artist Marshall Adams, who has painted many exterior and interior murals in public spaces and businesses around Bel Air and Harford County, is putting the finishing touches on his latest creation, a mural on the Bel Air Armory Marketplace wall, to honor local first responders.
The image of an eagle with its wings spread, which Adams expects to finish early next week, is being painted on the wall that surrounds the rear parking lot of the Armory along East Lee Street.
“I thought that was a good bit of imagery, to encourage people to be courageous and remind people of the heroic acts of first responders,” Adams said Wednesday.
He said he has to add the final details to the eagle, paint text honoring first responders, plus his signature. Adam painted a mural in 2013 on an exterior wall of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Main Street. The mural depicts downtown Bel Air in the 1950s and in the present day.
He has also painted murals and signs for local businesses such as Independent Brewing Co., Jurassic Golf & Arcade, both of Bel Air, the downtown Bel Air building that has housed the Dark Horse Saloon, Main Street Oyster House and now Black-Eyed Suzie’s, and Legends of the Fog in Aberdeen.
His murals are among an array of public art pieces, such as paintings and sculptures, around Bel Air. Adams said people stop by while he is working to talk with him, and they are “always so appreciative and supportive.”
“I always try to do my best work and make it as inclusive as I can for everybody that looks at it,” Adams said.
His Armory Marketplace mural, which is called “Champions of Courage,” was commissioned by the town’s Cultural Arts Commission. It is meant to demonstrate first responders’ heroism and the community’s gratitude toward them, according to Trish Heidenreich, director of economic development for the Town of Bel Air.
The mural cost $5,000, paid through the town’s Art Amenity Fund, according to Heidenreich.
“The addition of the mural at Armory Marketplace further enhances the public art landscape in the Town of Bel Air,” she said in an emailed statement. “The Cultural Arts Commission recognizes the benefits of using murals and sculptures to beautify our community and to inspire and improve the well being of our residents and visitors.”
Town leaders are “so excited by how Marshall has been able to bring our concept to life,” Heidenreich added.
People can see the mural when using the walkway through the municipal Pennsylvania Avenue parking lot to the Armory Marketplace.
The marketplace has been developed by refurbishing the L-shaped bank of garages behind the historic Armory. The town spent more than $1 million on contracts to renovate the garages into five leasable spaces for a business incubator and market area. The majority of that $1 million cost has been covered by grants, according to town officials.
And all five units are occupied, according to Angela Robertson, manager of the town’s state-designated Arts and Entertainment District.
The tenants include Caprichos Books, which held a grand opening last Saturday, plus Ferrari Frame & Design, Love Evolution Studio, Kore Bootcamps and the Harford Artists’ Association Gallery, according to Robertson.
There will be a grand opening for the Armory Marketplace in September, Robertson said.
She said the mural is “just an additional piece that the Cultural Arts Commission wanted to add to draw people to Armory Marketplace.”
Robertson said commission members and town officials thought the Armory would be a good place for a mural to honor first responders, since the facility once housed Maryland National Guard personnel.
The building was named for Lt. Gen. Milton A. Reckord, a Bel Air native and Army officer, who served in World War I and World War II. He became Maryland’s adjutant general after World War II.
The Armory, which the state ordered built in 1915, was the home base for Company D of the Maryland National Guard’s First Maryland Regiment during the first decades of the 20th Century and the headquarters for civilian defense in Bel Air during World War II. The building has been used as a community center since the war ended, and the town acquired it from the state in 2004.
A mural painted by artist Jack Pabis, of Frederick, was completed on an Armory Marketplace wall facing Lee Street in 2016.
Adams, 34, lives in Baltimore City, but he grew up in the Bel Air area. He attended Saint Margaret School and C. Milton Wright High School, graduating in 2001. He attended Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore and painted his first mural in college.
He said he was first inspired to paint by his art teacher at Saint Margaret and sharpened his skills at art classes in the Main Street building now occupied by the Savona Italian deli and wine shop.
Adams said he has lived in California, Denver and Austin, Texas, and moved back to Maryland when he learned the Dark Hose Saloon operators were looking for an artist to paint interior murals.
Adams paints murals full time, and he has created works in Washington State and in Puerto Rico, before and after Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017.
He said he thinks it is “cool that Bel Air is supportive of so many different arts.”