Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia Art
by Ann Erskine
Community Artist-Mary Ferguson
Baltimore is a city straining to grow. Tourism is rising, young professionals are moving in and renovating old rowhouses, and large corporations are discovering the thriving downtown area of the city. However, in the shadows of attractions like Camden Yards, Raven Stadium, and Harborplace, there are neighborhoods filled with vacant buildings, drug dealers and frustrated residents yearning for renewed pride and identity. Recently, some of those neighborhoods have experienced the ignition they needed through the help of a community artist.
Mary Cafagno Ferguson is a neighborhood activist and co-founder of the Woman's Mural Project. Through an 18-month, $48,750 "community fellowship" from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, a branch of billionaire George Soros' philanthropy, she arrived in a needy neighborhood and helped to revitalize it with her brush and her easy manner. An area filled with red brick rowhouses, Pigtown has people anxious to welcome and help a muralist. (left: l to r: Marquis Eddy, Ellie Turner, A.J., Davon Baker, Tavon Jones, J. R. Carroll)
Mary spent several months creating the first mural which is a tribute to the neighborhood horseshoe pit where three elderly gentlemen have gathered for years to pitch horseshoes and trade gossip. During her work, residents would gather to watch, to talk and even to pick up a brush and help. The finished piece is a source of beauty and comfort for the neighborhood. (left: Marquis Eddy paints faux lace curtain on boarded window)
Her second project for the neighborhood involved the local elementary school. Working with the school's art teacher, Mary help students paint their images of an ideal city on wood boards which were then hung in the window spaces of a nearby vacant building. Following this, Mary and a social worker for a school-based mental health program helped middle school students rejuventate their cafeteria by painting a border of tiles around the perimeter of the room. Their designs ranged from cartoon characters to CD covers for popular musical groups. These projects led to another mural on the side of a corner row house. That mural is a depiction of a rowhouse painted in soothing shadows on a summer evening, surrounded by flowers and greenery. (right: J. R. Carroll, A.J. and Tavon Jones)
Mary's current efforts target a bridge that connects the Maryland Institute College of Art with an older, faded neighborhood in the city. She hopes to unite students from the college and local graffiti artists in painting the bridge. The project itself would actually bridge two very different worlds.
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