A letter from the Westport Improvement Association, objecting to the lack of community input about a wall mural by a New York artist, delayed funding for the project by another week.
The Board of Estimates deferred a $27,500 item to pay for a “Love Letter to Baltimore” mural by graffiti-artist-turned-celebrity Steve ESPO Powers on the Fitch Building in Westport until the protest was resolved.
Reached after today’s meeting, Ruth Sherrill, president of the association, said she “didn’t mind” if the mural were painted, but thought the community should be consulted before work proceeded.
“I was told they were going to talk to the community, but they didn’t talk to anyone,” she said, adding that there were better locations for the mural in her neighborhood.
“Over on Waterview Avenue, there’s a corner building painted in black. Doing a mural there would be better for the community,” she said.
A Mural vs. Drug Addicts
Powers’ “Love Letter to Baltimore” project – consisting of five to 10 murals of brightly-painted words and images (the number has not yet been determined) – is not intended to beautify a neighborhood, but to serve as high-profile “welcome signs” for visitors coming to the city.
The Fitch Building is on Russell Street near I-95 and the soon-to-be-opened Horseshoe Casino. The project’s $50,000 public budget – to be split between the housing department and Baltimore Development Corporation – became controversial after a Powers mural consisting of the words “Forever Together” was painted across a block of rowhouses slated to be demolished next month.
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young has called the funding “a waste of taxpayer dollars,” while Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defended the program as an enhancement to the city.
Sherrill said she was contacted today by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA), who is supervising the paintings and said they valued her opinion.
“What I told them was, ‘A mural is fine, but getting rid of the drug addicts hanging out at the Light Rail station in Westport is a lot more important to us.’”