A new sculptural bike rack was unveiled recently on Main Street in downtown Bel Air.
“Public art is one of those things that really adds to the quality of life for our residents,” Angela Robertson, grants and economic development coordinator for the town, said. “It makes our community unique.”
The Samara bike rack was one of 15 bike racks that were installed in the Bel Air Arts and Entertainment District, Robertson said.
“Artists submitted proposals to the Bel Air Downtown Alliance Design Committee and they chose the Samara for its natural elements and because its artistic fabrication was appealing,” Robertson said.
The samara sculpture was designed by Angela DeRan, of northern Harford County, to look like seeds that come from maple trees, Robertson said.
“This feels like it fits in our community. There are a lot of older trees in town, especially around the courthouse, and we knew that’s where we were putting the sculpture. We felt like it complemented the area really well,” Christine McPherson, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, said. “Being a kid, watching those seeds fall, picking them up and watching them fall again, it brought back the nostalgia of what you can find here in Harford County as a young child and the enjoyment we all had playing with them.”
The sculptural bike rack cost $13,810 and the manufactured bike racks cost $9,107, McPherson said. They were paid for through grants and private donations.
Bel Air has a number of public art pieces. The town’s development regulations require public art amenities for major projects, and both the nonprofit Downtown Alliance and the town’s Cultural Arts Commission, working with elected officials and business owners, have been instrumental in promoting public art around town.
One of the newer pieces of public art in Bel Air is a piece named “Queen Anne’s Lace,” which had been installed in August 2017 near the Hickory Avenue entrance of the parking garage.
The sculpture has since been moved, however, to the corner of Hickory and Pennsylvania avenues to give it more visibility, Robertson said.
The piece, about $9,000, was paid for in two phases by the Bel Air Cultural Arts Commission. The sculpture was produced in 2016 by Matthew Harris of Harris Metalsmith Studio in Perryville.
“The commission’s focus is on adding pieces of public art through sculptures or murals through town,” Robertson said.
The commission wanted to install “Queen Anne’s Lace” near the parking garage because some things that “were not great were happening at the garage, and we wanted to bring a positive to that space,” she said.
In June 2015 and March 2016, two people committed suicide by jumping from the roof of the six-level garage.
“It’s a well-traveled area, with high visibility. A lot of people will see it and it would be something positive located at the parking garage,” Robertson said.
Public art is something the cultural arts commission wants to add to the community in addition to its planned events.
“Art in general is known to inspire people who view it; it enhances their overall well-being when exposed,” Robertson said. “We’re looking for more permanent pieces to reduce stress and inspire our residents and visitors.”
The commission is looking to add another small mural in town, though it may not be this fiscal year. Robertson said a location has not been determined.
Two murals were incorporated into the Armory Marketplace project that was completed earlier this year, and the town has a prominent mural depicting Main Street in the 1950s and in contemporary times on the wall of the Sheriff’s Office headquarters at 45 S. Main St. next to a small park. The new bike rack sculpture is next to that mural.
“We’re looking this year to sponsor more non-profit art organizations to hold events in the armory,” Robertson said, “to be more events focused, partnering with local non-profits to do arts-related events.”