Creative Placemaking Talks

Public Project Creative Placemaking

I am presenting artist talks on my on my work dealing with creative placemaking locally today and up in NYC on Monday. Today I am presenting to the Preserving Places course in UMBC’s IRC Fellows Programs. Monday I am delivering a talk and critiquing with students up in NYC as part of the Public Project speaker series offered by the Pratt Graduate Communications Design department. Public Project operates as a collective of faculty and students engaged in the topic of design for social impact and what it means to have a social practice. If you are in NYC Monday and want to hear more about my work, please join us for this public event!

Creative Placemaking Talk
Public Project

144 West 14th Street
7th Floor, Room 707
New York, NY 10011

Struggle and Joy in the Druid Hill Park Memorial Pool

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824
Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen

Struggle and Joy in the Druid Hill Park Memorial Pool

By Graham Coreil-Allen
Originally Published in What Weekly, January 8, 2014
Edited by Marcus Civin

I recently moved in across the street from Druid Hill Park. A friend told me about a place little-known to neighborhood outsiders—a once abandoned public pool now filled in with dirt, covered in grass and framed with sumptuous, meandering walkways designed by celebrated Baltimore artist Joyce J. Scott. Wandering through the park on a warm, sunny afternoon, I discovered the large, rectangular grassy field framed by cobalt blue ceramic tiles, expansive marble steps and forgotten structures belonging to what was once Baltimore’s only segregation era public pool for African-Americans. Long cherished by generations of residents formerly restricted to only certain park facilities, the dignified yet understated Memorial Pool remains as a landscape of memory honoring the pride and struggles of Baltimore’s black community.

Druid Hill Park Pool No. 2 undated Afro American Newspaper

[Swimming pool], Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, undated, The Afro-American Newspapers Collection, via Project Gado

North of the reservoir and east of the Jones Falls, the pool once anchored a larger complex of tennis courts, trees and a playground that collectively stood as Druid Hill Park’s only “negro” recreational facilities. The 100 foot by 105 foot “Pool No. 2”, as it was originally known, was built in 1921 to meet the recreational and competitive swimming needs of all of Baltimore’s hundreds of thousands of African-Americans. Elsewhere in the city, six separate public pools were well-maintained but off-limits to African-Americans. Despite being nearly half the size of the nearby, whites-only Pool No. 1, Pool No. 2 proved so popular that the crowds had to be admitted in shifts. Nevertheless, the patrons of color took pride in taking care of their grounds and keeping the area clean and attractive. The African-American competitive athletics society members that gathered around the space also showed off their finest in tennis fashion while meeting their future husbands and wives and socializing with friends and neighbors. Both the pool and surrounding segregated tennis courts were frequented by many of the era’s most accomplished black athletes. These visits and other aspects of Druid Hill Park’s history are noted on signs throughout the park and in books such as Eden Unger Bowditch’s Druid Hill Park: The Heart of Historic Baltimore.

Druid Hill Park Swimming Pool August 1948 Paul Henderson

[Swimming pool], Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, August 1948, Paul Henderson, (1899-1988), 4×5 inch film negative. Baltimore City Life Museum Collection, HEN.01.03-013, via Maryland Historical Society Photographs

Things began to change in 1953 when an African-American boy accidentally drowned while swimming with friends in the Patapsco River. He lived near Clifton Park but was not allowed to swim in the park’s whites-only pool. For this reason it was thought that he chose to swim in the dangerous river feeding Baltimore Harbor’s Middle Branch. As a result, the NAACP pushed for all Baltimore municipal pools to be opened to all races. When the Parks Board refused, the NAACP filed a lawsuit, which they eventually won on appeal. On June 23, 1956, all of the city’s public pools were opened for the summer season on a non-segregated basis. That opening day, over 100 African-Americans reportedly braved the waters in Pool No. 1, while only one white person swam in Pool. No. 2. After that summer of transition, Pool No. 2 was closed for good in an effort to eliminate all vestiges of the city’s former “separate but equal” swimming infrastructure. After that point, all Druid Hill Park patrons wishing to swim had access to the twice-as-large and still existing Pool No. 1.

Forty years after Pool No. 2 closed, the concrete structure lay dangerously empty while the surrounding tennis courts stood in need of repair. Then, in the mid-nineties, park officials began talking with residents about what they most valued about Druid Hill Park. This was the research phase of the 1995 Druid Hill Park Master Plan. During this research phase, the planners discovered that local residents shared a strong sense of nostalgia for the historically African-American section of the park. In response, the adopted master plan called for, “a meditative, artistic, and informative setting acknowledging the segregation era at the site of the formerly “Negroe Pool”.” After a 1996 open call for proposals, Baltimore artist Joyce J. Scott was selected to redesign the pool as a place of reflection and celebration. By that point, Scott was well-known for her provocative, figurative beaded sculptures dealing with issues of race, class and gender. Growing up in Sandtown, Scott had frequented Druid Hill Park as a child and swam in the formerly whites-only pool. During an interview for this article, the artist shared with me some of her unrealized visions for the memorial design as well as her take on how the Memorial Pool’s symbolic and functional design represents the slow progress around issues of race and class in Baltimore. We also discussed the memorial as it exists today and it’s contextual surrounds in Druid Hill Park.

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

As its remains today, the now weathered Memorial Pool area continues to serve the tennis and recreational needs of hundreds of thousands of predominantly African-American park goers annually. Memorial Pool is on the southwest corner of Shop and Commissary Roads. The space is fronted by a wide, concrete pad embedded with large-scale, faded red and orange curvy concrete patterns framed by four square columns that consist of 24 inch square by 12 inch tall marble blocks stacked approximately nine feet tall and topped with diagonally sloped capitals that look like one corner of a pyramid. The chisel-topped columns suggest the outline of the old field house where pool tickets were once sold. A wide flight of marble steps leads to a 105 feet long by 100 feet wide rectangular expanse of grass resting approximately seven feet below street level.

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

The grassy void is outlined by a thin perimeter of two rows of 2 inch square ” blue tiles surrounded by concrete sidewalks embedded with undulating patterns of orange, red and blue based on traditional African motifs representing peace, tranquility and community bonds. Around the blue perimeter tiles stand blue-painted armatures of the forlorn diving board; ladders and lifeguard stations that function as uncanny reminders of the space’s former aquatic use while also serving as skeletal sundials casting angular shadows across concrete and grass. Running parallel to the length of the pool’s north side stands a low-lying brown wooden building that used to house the men’s dressing rooms. The structure is topped with a black, pitched roof featuring a wave of blue roofing tiles symbolizing water. Around the void, the subtly colorful concrete pavement continues beyond the perimeter before turning into a meandering, southbound path accented by collections of cement-set riverstones. The river-like path connects the Memorial Pool to the nearby tennis courts, picnic grove and playground. Both ends of the path are marked with stanchions detailing the site’s rich history.

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

The entire site is surrounded on two sides by park maintenance facilities including loading docks, garages and trucks. On the other side of Shop Road, behind a small parking lot and two tennis courts, the historic St. Paul’s cemetery is in need of extensive restoration. The contextual contradictions and resonances of the Memorial Pool as a place of memory next to that same active loading dock and the crumbling cemetery were not lost on Joyce Scott when she approached the project in 1999. Scott first asked herself, “How do we make this area useful and beautiful, and harken back to the pool era?”

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824In designing the functional monument, she states that her intent was to create an “art situation where people can go into space and hopefully be, and have a variety of uses.” Early on, there were plans to include programming in the grassy area, with the hope being that people would want to sit, picnic or just relax around the space. In addition to the architectural framing devices and aquatic symbolism, the original installation included abstract, colorful painted designs on the pavement around the pool that have since faded from the concrete surface and disappeared due to time and weather. Scott’s initial vision also included a series of metal tree sculptures embedded with clay panels and mirrors. These trees would have stood on the stony shoals of the river-like connecting path. In the end, the artist’s trees of reflection and remembrance were omitted from the plans after some members of the community expressed concern that the sculptures would have evoked lynching. While the artist strongly disagrees with this interpretation, at the time she thought it was best to acquiesce to the constituents’ concerns. By asking Scott to compromise her design, the neighbors may have unintentionally made the southern end of the memorial harder to recognize as a space of memory. In comparison to the northern end, the southern end of the memorial comes off more subtle in its overall presence, reading less like a public memorial and more like a creatively designed sidewalk with a historical marker.

For all that Pool No. 2 represents about the history of struggle over African-American access to public spaces in Baltimore, it seems inevitable that any attempt to memorialize the space would cause some controversy. But through her own vision and standing, Scott was able to effectively work with various city departments, the Maryland State Arts Council, and local community groups on creating a unique space of memory that honors the joys and struggles embedded in Druid Hill Park. The artist tells a story of how, back before desegregation, the white-only Pool No. 1 was unfiltered and connected directly to the reservoir, while the African-American Pool No. 2 was filtered in order to “de-negroize” the water to ensure the safety of the rest of the city. Inadvertently, this offensive policy resulted in a better experience for African-Americans. Scott succinctly states, “What was seen as a way of restraining someone only made them stronger.” She continues to explain that African-Americans in Baltimore responded to racist oppression by building up their own safe spaces and strong institutions. African-American strength was expressed through socializing, play and competition at the only pool offered by the city.

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824


For me, the psychic presence remaining from the decades of aquatic joy and athletic gathering can no doubt be felt as I stand at the pool’s grassy, western edge, next to a diving board casting long afternoon shadows. For Scott, the Memorial Pool represents, “the sway and the slow change in our race history in our city that isn’t really that much of a change.” Indeed, as it lays today, the history, form and condition of the Memorial Pool makes a compelling, if at times concerning, analogy for Baltimore City as a whole. A brief stroll from Harbor East through the Inner Harbor and then into Lexington Market shows that while the city is much more racially integrated than it once was, it still remains intensely segregated, especially by class. Economic progress has been made in some areas while paint peels off in others. It’s through the Memorial Pool’s poignant contradictions of place and history that Scott reminds us of the inseparability between pleasure and strife. States the artist: “People have to remember that struggle and joy go hand in hand. You don’t many times understand the beauty of joy unless you go through a struggle.”

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824

Memorial Pool, 1999, by Joyce J. Scott, photograph by Graham Coreil-Allen 130824


Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus Construction

Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus boots progress

Construction of the Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus at the corner of Eutaw and Lombard Streets in downtown Baltimore is now complete. As the public continues to show their excitement in person and online, I thought I would share a few initial shots and a little background on the project. My project is one of three sets of artist-designed crosswalks made possible by Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts for the Bromo Seltzer Arts & Entertainment District. To the BOPA open call, I responded with the following proposal:

The Monumental City is played by giants among many – the business person, the bird, the worker and you. Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus is an intersection of four oversized hopscotch-court-crosswalks, each featuring a quintessential Baltimore path-print. Featuring the shoe, the bird track, the boot and the footprint, the project is a monument to the people who populate the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District and make Baltimore The Greatest City in America.

North Side: The Shoe – The Towering Businessperson skips east approaching downtown skyscrapers. 
East Side: The Bird Track – The Superbird Champion hops south heading to Camden Yards and The Raven’s Walk. 
South Side: The Boot – Wobbling west The Worker passes through a former garment district built by labor. 
West Side: The Footprint – The Hippie Artist bounces north with abandon towards lofty digs in the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District.

Additional coverage can be found at the Baltimore Sun, NPR, Co.DesignAtlantic Cities and WJZ CBS Baltimore. Enjoy! – Graham

Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus Birdtracks.JPG

Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus feet progress

Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus intersection progress

Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus tower view

Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus Overhead VIew Complete

Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus Coreil-Allen progress

Balto East Bike Tour Rolling Success

131005 NPS Balto East Bike Tour - 23

With seventeen participants discovering invisible sites with abandon, the Balto East Bike Tour proved to be a rolling success. In a spirit of radical pedestrianism, we stuck together for more than an hour and a half and over four plus miles while navigating traffic conditions from serene to challenging. Thanks for everyone who participated for your bravery and endurance, and asking thoughtful questions and offering helpful commentary. From the Cork Seer Crossing and Greektown Alleydrift to Expressways Amalgamated and the O’Donnell St Bohverlook, we explored  an array of public spaces while learning from our everyday surroundings and each other. Special thanks to The Creative Alliance for hosting the event and Liz Donadio for documenting the ride.

Click here for the full post.

Bike Tour Oct 5 & Emerge Oct 3-6

Two awesome New Public Events on the same weekend!

Balto East Bike Tour

New Public Sites – Balto East Bike Tour

Saturday, October 5th | 1-2:30 p.m.
the Creative Alliance
3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore MD 21224

Adv. Mbr. $15, Adv. Reg. $20 / Day-of Mbr. $20, Reg. $25

Travel Eastern Ave, O’Donnell St America!

Take a guided bicycle tour from Highlandtown to the Travel America Center and back, that will explore how the urban design of “invisible” public spaces affects our everyday experiences of eastern Baltimore. The tour will investigate the architectural dynamics and social conditions that make places such as the Eastern Avenue Underpass and the O’Donnell Street Interchange as mundane and confounding as they are fascinating and beautiful. A version of this tour was featured on the podcast 99% Invisible. All participants will receive a limited edition, signed 11″ x 17″ tour map.

Click here to download the official press release. Check for updates. Meet at the Creative Alliance and bring your bicycle, helmet and radical pedestrianism! Space is limited so reserve your tickets today.

Click here to register for the tour at the Creative Alliance website or call 410-276-1651.

Shards of Site at (e)merge art fair

October 3-6

Capital Skyline Hotel
10 “I” Street, SWWashington D.C., DC 20024

Prints, poster-paintings, shards and more!

Join myself and the other print/collect artists as we travel our show down to DC for the (e)merge art fair at the Capital Skyline Hotel October 3-6. Check out (e)merge art fair website to find out more about international roster of 80 exhibitors presenting works by 150 artists from 30 countries. In addition to my Shards of Site print, I will also be showing a new series of New Public Sites “poster-paintings” inspired by Ed Rushca’s typographic works. Copies of my book, The Typology of New Public Sites, will be available for $10, plus free shredded pavement souvenirs serving as mementos of place (certificate of authenticity included).

Thursday, October 3: 7pm – 9pm: Preview Party 9pm – 11pm
Friday, October 4: 12pm – 7pm / Saturday, October 5: 12pm – 7pm / Sunday, October 6: 12pm – 5pm
Opening Preview: $35 advance purchase, $50 at the door
Daily: $15 ($10 Seniors and Students w/ valid ID)

Print/Collect NPS Shards

Shards of Site Poster


Exhibition July 13-28th
Current Gallery
421 N Howard St Baltimore, MD 21201
Opening Reception: July 13th 8-11pm

Check out the collectable New Public Sites print, Shards of Site, at the Print/Collect opening on Saturday, July 13, from 8-11pm at Current Space in Baltimore.

Print/Collect is an independent publication that showcases eight artists working in Baltimore by circulating an affordable portfolio of limited edition prints. Each portfolio within the edition of 125 is available for $200 and includes eight 16″x20″ prints plus a 64 page catalog. The catalog features interviews and images that provide background information on the participating artists. Print/Collect is curated by curated by Jennifer Coster and features artists Colin Benjamin, John Bohl, James Bouché, Cindy Cheng, Graham Coreil-Allen, Chris Day, Andrew Liang and Molly Colleen O’Connell.

The Shards of Site poster is the first ever deliberately salable New Public Sites print and features an array of poetically titled urban artifacts collected from the streets of Baltimore. The shredded pavement souvenirs will serve as mementos of place as they gracefully hang on the walls of your urban abode. Click here to purchasing your copy of the inaugural Print/Collect portfolio and catalog.

Click here to download the official press release and learn more about the project and other artists at

Print Collect Promo


Spontaneous Interventions makes US debut

Spontaneous Interventions Chicago

Spontaneous Interventions Chicago

Spontaneous Interventions“, the official U.S. presentation at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale, has made its U.S. debut at the Chicago Cultural Center where it is currently representing a spirited movement for improving cities through DIY innovation and playful direct action. The original exhibition received over 178,000 visitors in Venice, and earned a Special Mention from the Golden Lion jury, the first time the United States has been honored in the history of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Now the spirit of direct action to improve cities embodies by New Public Sites and other project carries on in Chicago. Learn more about Spontaneous Interventions and New Public Sites at and newpublicsites.orgClick here for Opening Week Programs.

MAY 24 – SEP 1, 2013
Chicago Cultural Center Michigan Ave. Galleries
78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602

Station North Ave Drift

Station North Avenue walking tours a drifting success

After gathering around the kiosk and handing out maps, we drifted through through the New Public Sites of North Avenue. Among four varied tours, one night, three day, three warm, one cold, we faced a perpendicular extreme, indulged retail adventure and climbed an enlightened elevation – all in the name of radical pedestrianism. Full project page here, more pictures at


New Public Sites – Station North Avenue

Join us for New Public Sites – Station North Avenue, a series of free walking tours through seven collections of invisible sites and overlooked architectural and psychic features along North Avenue in the Station North Arts District.

New Public Sites – Station North Avenue

Organized in conjunction with the Invited: Celebration Station
October 21 – November 11, 2012
MICA Studio Center Gallery
Sheila & Richard Riggs and Leidy galleries
113 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201

Reception and Graduate Studio Center Open House
Sunday, October 21, 2–4 pm, followed by walking tour at 4pm

New Public Sites – Station North Avenue is free walking tour through seven collections of invisible sites and overlooked architectural and psychic features along North Avenue between Greenmount and Howard Streets. Using terms and ideas from the New Public Sites field guide and free walking tour maps available in the gallery, participants are invited to drift through Station North, identify different types of “invisible” public spaces and experiences, and then upload them to Along the way, the tour features places such as a billboard-framed vacant lot identified as “Clear Channel Commons”, North Avenue’s impressive median strip, which is likened to “Barrier Islands”, plus a selection of Anniversary List businesses. The ongoing New Public Sites project pushes pedestrian agency, interprets aspects of the everyday and investigates the negotiable nature of the built environment.

Sunday, October 21 – 4pm
Saturday, October 27, 3pm
Saturday, November 3, 3pm

All walking tours are free and open to the public
Meet at the New Public Sites Kiosk
MICA Graduate Studio Center
113 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201

Download the free map, interact and find out more at