(Painted) Water Under the Bridge
New Underpass Mural Allows Community Members to Enjoy the View
Buckets of paint stick out among the rocks beneath Paint Branch Bridge on Baltimore Avenue. Two girls, rising high school seniors, balance on the stones. One dabs green onto the underpass wall, creating leaves to match those on the trees lining the bike path. The other fills in the outline of a face.
The result is a mural called “A Path Forward,” reflecting the Lakeland community and its connection to the University of Maryland. City, state and university officials are scheduled to attend its unveiling at 10 a.m. today.
The project—a joint effort of the College Park City-University Partnership, the city of College Park, the Lakeland Community Heritage Project, the UMD Office of Community Engagement, the College Park Arts Exchange and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission—is part of an ongoing initiative to enliven public spaces in College Park.
“It’s a very integral intersection of campus and community,” said Valerie Woodall, senior program associate at the College Park City-University Partnership.
The partnership worked with Imaginex, founded by former UMD student Eric Mintzer, to install artistic lighting at the bridge, which was unveiled in late June. It enhanced the bridge’s visibility, but illuminated a different problem in the underpass.
“If we put lights on the bridge and there’s graffiti under there, that doesn’t really look that nice,” Woodall said.
So planning meetings for the mural began in February. It’s supported by grants from the Maryland Department of Housing and Development Nonprofit Assistance Fund, the College Park Community Foundation, the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area and M-NCPPC. In May, community members attended a workshop with the lead artists to brainstorm design options.
“We could just paint it blue. We could have birds,” Woodall said, but “one of the things community members wanted to see was some of the history of Lakeland.”
The final design by Eleanor Roosevelt High School art teacher Christine Wilkin—focusing on people with prominent roles in Lakeland, a historic African-American community in College Park—was selected June 7. Painting began June 25, with materials and labor supplied by M-NCPPC.
Roosevelt student Victoria Lewis, who heard about the project from one of her art teachers, painted on the nine-member crew as a summer job. She detailed the uniforms of a couple of Boy Scouts, painted the cap and gown of a Maryland grad and illustrated the face of a woman enjoying a ride on a swing.
The partnership and M-NCPPC are in talks to clean up the mud in the underpass as the initiative continues.
“It really shows what can be done when people work together quickly and well,” Woodall said. “It’s just a testament to the community of College Park.”