European artists will help transform Baltimore bus, train and light rail stations to be more attractive, better designed and more user-friendly as part of a $200,000 grant from ArtPlace America, a consortium of banks and foundations that gives money to art projects with the potential for regenerating communities.
The grant, announced this week, is part of a project that will bring artists from the United Kingdom, Austria, Spain, Ireland and Greece to Baltimore for a six-week residency sometime in the winter or spring of 2014. The artists will focus on transportation hubs in the city's three arts and entertainment districts: the Penn Station Plaza in Station North; the Howard Street light rail line in the Bromo Tower district, and bus stops in the Highlandtown Arts & Entertainment district.
Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, said that he was approached earlier this year by the Brussels-based European Union National Institutes for Culture about doing a project of some sort in Baltimore.
"Europe is so much ahead of where we are in terms of public transit," he said. "In America we hesitate to get out of our cars. But in Europe, public transportation is well integrated into daily life."
The European artists, Gilmore said, will be asked to address the Penn Station plaza, which has a design that discourages commuters from lingering; the bus stops on Eastern Avenue, which lack adequate seating, lighting and shelter, and the economically depressed Howard Street corridor with its empty storefronts and shuttered shops. In addition, he said, the targeted areas lack signs directing pedestrians to nearby galleries and performance halls.
Though Baltimore artists will be encouraged to provide feedback, Gilmore said, the projects will be designed and executed by the Europeans.
"This is a chance to learn from what artists in other cities are doing well," he said.