East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI) recently unveiled a new Eager Park mural with the support of residents, community leaders, elected officials and Johns Hopkins staff. The public art reflects the resilience and beauty of Eager Park in East Baltimore and the residents who have shaped this thriving neighborhood.
The mural is the inaugural project of EBDI’s Public Arts and Placemaking Workgroup — consisting of staff from EBDI, the Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts, the Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School and Johns Hopkins, as well as Eager Park residents and other community partners.
“Under my leadership, the effort of this workgroup is extremely important as we implement our broader public arts strategy for Eager Park,” says Cheryl Y. Washington, EBDI president and CEO. “It is critical that we solicit and honor community input, as well as prioritize three equally important core values — local history, community and social justice. This mural is the first of many public art initiatives to come.”
After a comprehensive search, the workgroup identified locations for public art within the Eager Park footprint. As its first project, the group chose the highly visible north face of the former Elmer A. Henderson School, located near the corner of E. Biddle and N. Wolfe streets, which can be seen from the Amtrak train tracks. Working with the Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts, the workgroup selected local artist LaToya D. Peoples to complete the mural.
Peoples is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and entrepreneur whose work explores identity and history through figuration, natural elements, color and pattern. Through her mural and sculptural installation work, she creates transformative pieces guided by youth and community engagement.
From January through April 2021, Peoples participated in several public virtual visioning sessions focused on community engagement and design input. During each session, community members shared the rich history of East Baltimore, the importance of intergenerational relationships, and other themes unique to the evolving Eager Park community.
“As a muralist, I get to create public art that is conceived of and lives in community,” says Peoples. “I ground my work in the vision of the people who make up the fabric of the neighborhood and use it to guide the direction of the piece. In each meeting, there was keen focus on the unique story of the neighborhood, the ways that the people who have been here the longest contribute to the beauty that it holds, and what it means to bridge the gap between the old and the new. I attempted to create a visual experience of that charm, resilience and complex narrative.”
“This mural showcases all that is the best of East Baltimore — the diversity, the culture, the history — in one piece of art,” says Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “It will serve as an inspiration for other public arts projects to come about in this neighborhood and continue to promote intersectional conversations and relationship building in our community — something that is so important for our city to grow again and become the best version of itself.”