In 2021, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (BCDOT) was awarded a $50,000 Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery Grant to help adapt streets in service of communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).
Graham Projects was an integral part of the BCDOT Lake 2 Lake Project application alongside fellow community partners Bikemore and Black People Ride Bikes. The grant funded community engagement activities for traffic calming, mobile bike shop pop-ups, group bike rides, and the pavement art installation at 33rd Street and Hillen Road.
This project leveraged existing BCDOT plans for traffic calming at the main intersection gateway to Lake Montebello at 33rd Street and Hillen Road as well as maintenance and repairs to The Big Jump shared-use path leading to Druid Hill Park. Graham Projects provided project branding design, facilitated community engagement, and solicited community-based design inspiration through COVID-19-safe pop-up drawing events and via COLORoW, our custom online public art drawing tool. Based on the public conversations and drawings submitted by residents, Graham Projects developed design proposals that over 500 residents voted on in selecting the final work of traffic calming public art.
Community partner organizations, Bikemore and Black People Ride hosted a community event in November 2021 celebrating the project and unveiling the traffic calming plan by BCDOT and the community inspired pavement art design by Graham Projects named Rayobello. Local residents inspired the design by sharing their cherished experiences witnessing colorful sunrises and sunsets as seen from the lake.
2020 proved to be an unprecedented year of challenges and innovations for Graham Projects. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic several of our public art and civic engagement projects were either cancelled or significantly delayed. Remaining projects were significantly slowed by the need to take precautionary measures in conducting community engagement and installation of our works. From these challenges arose new opportunities for remote creative collaboration and physically distancing activations of public space. We are proud and appreciative of having so many amazing partners who continue to help us improve cities through public art and civic engagement. Below are a few highlights of our work this year and the folks who made it all possible.
In May we responded to the limitations of in-person engagement posed by the COVID-19 pandemic by collaborating with Tobey Albright and Mollie Edgar of Hour Studio to create the online placemaking toolkit, Make Place Happen. The Make Place Happen website offers resources for “Do-it-Yourself Urbanism” and/or participating with Graham Projects’ current placemaking efforts. The most exciting feature is COLORoW, a coloring book-like web app for drawing your own artistic crosswalk or pavement mural.
Also in May, we responded to Neighborhood Design Center’s “Design for Distancing” call for ideas to help businesses along Baltimore’s main streets safely reopen using spatial distancing outdoor public space enhancements. The Graham Projects Curblet Commons design kit transforms an on-street parking lane into an accessible, safe, and inviting pedestrian space including creative ADA curb ramps, modular barriers, and physical distancing stencils. Out of over 160 submissions, the Curblet Commons open source accessibility designs were one of ten selected for the Design For Distancing Guidebook. This free guidebook provides COVID-19 safe placemaking inspiration for businesses, cities, and people worldwide on how to safely reopen and improve their own public spaces. Click here to download the free Design for Distancing Guidebook.
Soon after seeing our designs accepted into the Design for Distancing guidebook, we partnered with Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street, Property Consulting, Inc., LANNINGSMITH, and Annie Howe Papercuts to secure a large design-build commission transforming three blocks of Harford Road into a place for safe pedestrian gathering and neighborhood shopping. Our Curbside Commons Design for Distancing project converted a parking lane into a public space for community, shopping, services, and culinary encounters along Hamilton-Lauraville’s main street, Harford Road. Design for Distancing is a tactical urban design initiative of the Baltimore Development Corporation and Neighborhood Design Center intended to help small businesses in Baltimore reopen without compromising public health. We met with the adjacent small businesses to understand their needs to stay open while maintaining physical distancing and other COVID-19 precautions. In response we delivered outdoor seating, distancing markers, event space, pedestrian and wheelchair accessibility, public art, signage, bicycle parking, and artful wayfinding.
After a marathon of fall install, we managed to find a few more warm enough days to fit in one last exciting project – the Oak Wisdom art crosswalks in Colling Square. During pre-COVID community engagement, we learned that the Collington Square community of East Baltimore holds a 200+ year old Swamp White Oak tree as its symbol. Working with resident input, we designed the “Oak Wisdom” traffic calming art crosswalks and Collington Square Neighborhood Association street pole banners are inspired by looking up through those sanctuary leaves. The street pole banners elevate neighborhood identity by showcasing a positive symbol for the area – the beloved centuries-old tree that stands magnificently atop the hill in their local park. The art crosswalks and “bump outs” provide a welcome gateway to Collington Square while slowing down aggressive car traffic, improving street-crossing safety for its residents who rely on walking to get to school and work.
While we may be under an extended stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham Projects is keeping busy with public art in the service of people and places. Springtime is usually when we are deep in community engagement and designing projects for installation in the summer and fall. Like many organizations, we’ve had to carefully retool our work while practicing social distancing.
In lieu of public meetings we’ve been working the phones, online hangouts, video chats, and zooms. COVID won’t stop our creative action, so today we are proud to announce our new online placemaking toolkit, Make Place Happen. Use the resources at Make Place Happen for “Do-it-Yourself Urbanism” and/or participating with our current placemaking projects!
Our new DIY Urbanism website was co-designed and built by the amazing artist-designers Tobey Albright and Mollie Edgar of Hour Studio. They took our ideas and colors, skillfully designed the website and brand, and helped us realize the most exciting part of Make Place Happen: the COLORoW online public art design tool. COLORoW is short for “COLOring the Right of Way”. It is a coloring book-like web app for drawing your own artistic crosswalk or pavement mural.
Residents are invited to use COLORoW to share their ideas with us for specific projects in their neighborhood. Participants can draw what they would like to see in their public space, download the drawing, and then share it with us along with text and other visual inspiration via an embedded upload form.
Using everyone’s drawings as inspiration we will develop our always exciting array of design options. Like with our face-to-face workshops, but online, Graham Projects will then shareback the community-based artwork for resident feedback and selection.
Check out the new Make Place Happen website, and stay tuned for added features to come; including a store for creative street stencils, a guide for making pavement art, and a local “how to” for kid-friendly play streets.