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Art installations create beauty, improve pedestrian safety in Baltimore neighborhoods

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Posted at 4:20 AM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 17:23:50-04

BALTIMORE — Traffic can move pretty quickly on York Road in North Baltimore. Even with the traffic lights, it's a challenge to get drivers to go slow.

"We want to slow people down," said City Councilman Mark Conway, who represents District 4, and includes the Govans neighborhood in North Baltimore.

How to get people to slow down was a different challenge until a local artist came into the picture with a unique solution.

Graham Coreil-Allen is the founder of Graham Projects, a company based in Baltimore that specializes in public placemaking.

"Placemaking is the process of really listening to residents, stakeholders, and businesses to understand what are their needs," he said. "What are they most proud of about their public spaces and how can we build on that to better meet their needs and create a very successful public space."

For Conway, the residents of Govans and the York Road Partnership, Coreil-Allen's skills seemed like the perfect solution to slow down traffic at the intersection of York Road and Beaumont Avenue, which sits across from the Govans Farmers Market.

"One of the things we’re really trying to do is bring more folks to the York Road Corridor and one of the great opportunities we had was to work with Graham to beautify this area, to highlight the crosswalk and to bring some art to the area," said Conway.

"Honestly it seems like the cars have the right away but actually the pedestrians do," said Christopher Forrest, the president of the Winston-Govans Neighborhood Association. "[We're] bringing the walk-ability so you walk, you talk, you shop, you share."

Coreil-Allen and his team collaborated with residents to come up with the design for the crosswalk, called "Unity Tracks." There are symbols of peace, along with bird feet that complement bird murals in the neighborhood and healthy foods to represent the farmers market.

"The artistic crosswalk is a way to raise the visibility of people on foot and make it safer for them," he said.

They also added bump outs, or flexible posts, which extend the sidewalk without adding concrete and shorten the crosswalk for pedestrians, thus forcing drivers to slow down when making the turn down Beaumont.

"Every time I get invited into a neighborhood, its such a joy to learn about these places through the lens of the folks who live here," Coreil-Allen said. "Ultimately its the people who live in these neighborhoods that effectively create the public space."

You can find other examples of Graham Projects installations throughout the city, each using symbols to represent the community while encouraging residents and visitors to get out and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

"A public space by itself isn’t successful. We gotta have the people in the place and make it inclusive," said Coreil-Allen. "That’s the happening part. We want to make a happening public space."

Graham Projects is holding a pop-up event in Pigtown at 934 Washington Blvd. on July 10 from 1-4 p.m. They are seeking design input on crosswalks and public art furniture from residents and business owners.