Arlington Renaissance Gardens

Background:

In 2018 a project was started by Baltimore City’s 21st Century School Initiative and the Department of Planning’s INSPIRE planning program to turn a nearby vacant lot by Arlington Elementary School into a
community garden. Together with the school and community associations, the Baltimore Office of
Promotion and the Arts (BOPA)
put out a call to artists to develop a garden gateway entrance. A gate
design by Michael Bowman of Formstone Castle LLC was selected by the community and was fabricated
and installed in late 2019.

The gateway design consisted of a deep double arch, flower cutouts, and hexagon acrylic tiles casting
stained glass-style light patterns on the ground. In the central gate, a silhouette of a child offers a flower
as a thank you to the Sun. This piece was titled Thank You For Helping Me Grow. A grand opening was
planned for April 2020 where students of Arlington Elementary would paint the hundreds of 5 sided
flower cutouts from the gate to attach them to the fence, but due to Covid-19, this was postponed.

A Proposal:

In winter 2023, a conversation was started between the community association president Bishop Troy Randall, and artist Michael Bowman to finally use these flower cutouts. Like flowers, this idea grew to b ecome the Arlington Renaissance Gardens: Four separate gardens with four different themes tied together with a common artistic style. With funding and in-kind donations from several organizations, ANA has begun landscaping three new gardens along Hayward Ave: one garden already under the control of the community, the Jazz Garden, and two vacant lots up the street into the Herb and Salad Gardens. ANA intends to use PAAM Funding to add artistic elements to these three gardens to help beautify the neighborhood and tie the new gardens visually to the existing Arlington INSPIRE Garden.

Common elements across all gardens will be metal flowers, painted by students, attached to the wooden
fences, and a themed sculpture around 10 feet tall integrated with an 8ft tall x 16in wide plate steel sign
with the name of each garden cut into it and acrylic stained glass letters. Smaller and simpler than the
15ft tall INSPIRE gate, these pieces are not gates, but mark points of entry. They are also designed to be
easier to transport and install than the INSPIRE gate. Sculptures incorporate the cutout elements from or
similar to the INSPIRE gate with acrylic components that cast light patterns on the ground.

Jazz Garden

Located one block Northwest of the INSPIRE Garden off of Cuthbert Ave. Five vines with
flowers made from the INSPIRE gate climb up one side of the entryway fence transforming into parallel lines of sheet music. The notes, made from the steel flowers of the INSPIRE gate as well as acrylic, are from a short moment in The Real Book sheet music from Cab Calloway’s classic Minnie the Moocher. Cab Calloway was raised in Baltimore from age 11 about 3 miles south of the Garden and even worked down the street at Pimlico Racecourse as a teen. The vines arch overhead, intertwining and coming down to meet the top of the “Jazz Garden” sign on the opposite side of the entryway. While the essence of the piece is outlined in the drawings, like jazz itself, there will be improvisation during fabrication adding twists and turns of the vines, placing the flowers, and adding colors in the spirit of the moment working
around these themes and structures.

Herb Garden

Located one block to the Northeast of the INSPIRE Garden at the corner of Hayward and Beaufort Avenues, the Herb Garden is having a short hedge of true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) installed on three sides. This plant has been used for centuries to create dyes for Nigerian adire, Japanese samurai silks, and cowboy denim reflecting the diversity of the surrounding neighborhood. The sculpture is a steel and acrylic indigo plant. Green plasma cut steel leaves capped with several acrylic purple indigo flower clusters. Formed by heating and bending, these are attached to steel stems which can be bolted to the rest of the plant and replaced if damaged.

Salad Garden

Located 3 blocks to the Northeast of the INSPIRE Garden off of Hayward and Denmore Avenues, this garden is the centerpiece of the project. Raised beds planted with greens, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and cabbage. A sculpture of collard green leaves. The vein pattern of the leaves is made of plasma-cut steel with green acrylic panels tiled in to create the stained glass casting light patterns on the ground. The modular design will use the same pattern of steel at different scales with improvised bends in the leaves.

There are no accidental choices. The greens leaves are traced from three sourced photos: an heirloom varietal, one grown in the artists’ garden this year, and one generated by AI with the prompt: “A photo of the perfect collard green”.


In the rear corner, a shipping container will store tools and supplies for the 3 gardens. Using community feedback, Baltimore muralist Justin Nethercut (NETHER)’s mural to transform the outward-facing side incorporating garden insects, and local flowers.

This project is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org)


@ The House (www.atthehouseinc.com)

Landscaping for the project has been supported by Mount Washington Pediatric Hospitals’ Food Desert Program.