Showcasing the cherished connections between Druid Hill Park and surrounding neighborhoods, the Arches & Access project illuminated and activated the historic Druid Hill Park Gate at Madison Avenue, Druid Hill Park, and the Rawlings Conservatory with colorful lights, a community parade, and a public party. On the evening of November 3rd, 2019, over three hundred residents, artists, and performers transformed Madison Avenue at Druid Park Lake Drive into a spectacular, roving block party. Neighbors collectively created a place to march, dance, and perform in celebration of our West Baltimore communities united in green space and creating safe streets for people.
Arches & Access was a Neighborhood Lights Project presented as part of the Brilliant Baltimore / Light City festival of light and literature. The event was led by Reservoir Hill artist Jessy DeSantis, Reservoir Hill advocate Courtney Bettle, and Auchentoroly Terrace public artist Graham Coreil-Allen with major support from the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, a grant from Baltimore Heritage, and volunteers from Beth Am Synagogue’s IFO organization. The Reservoir Hill mothers Bettle and DeSantis took inspiration from DeSantis’ colorful painting of the Arches when they came up with the idea of creating a light art project in early 2019. Later the two reached out to Coreil-Allen of Graham Projects to help realize the light art. Collectively they expanded the vision to include solar powered lights leading into the park, activated by a joyful community parade showing what life could be like without highways hindering pedestrian access to Druid Hill Park.
With the block between the historic Arches and Druid Park Lake Drive successfully closed off to cars, hundreds of residents arrived on foot and bicycle from side streets and via the Big Jump shared-use path to see the lights and eagerly await the parade. The parade featured mental health awareness bicycle group Benevolent Bubbles, Mexi Art by Ale’s Catrin & Catrina puppets, Wings Over Washington Kite Club, Girl Scout Troops 1028 and 1703, and the Twilighters Marching Band. Taking five-lane-wide highway as their stage, the marching band performed several rousing beats and dance routines while motorists yielded to the community celebration. Having successfully created space for safe pedestrian passage, the parade moved northward into Druid Hill Park following rows of flashing, color-changing lights along the Swann Drive. Along the way march collected additional residents from Auchentoroly Terrace and Mondawmin side streets before rallying at the Rawlings Conservatory for an uplifting after party.
Arches & Access was supported a 2019 Neighborhood Lights Community Grant, The Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Baltimore Heritage, and The Access Project for Druid Hill Park (TAP Druid Hill). Special thanks to T. Rowe Price – Community Engagement Partner, The Herbert Bearman Foundation – Supporting Sponsor of Neighborhood Lights, and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts.
Photos by Graham Coreil-Allen, Paul Wilson, and Carde Cornish.