Westminster considers mural to spruce up downtown Set for movie sparks proposal to beautify area around Locust Lane

December 29, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The brick wall of the Optical Solution at 47 E. Main St. could become the canvas for a downtown mural.

"Murals need to be big, and this is the only big clear space," said Karen K. Blandford, the city coordinator of housing and community development, who recently applied for a state grant for the project.

The mural would be part of a larger city effort to spruce up Locust Lane, where Westminster has easements on the brick lane itself and the unused fountain, she said. Eventually, the city hopes to have a kiosk there.

"This has been kicked around by people downtown for years," Blandford said of a mural. "It's been so successful in other towns, and people come to Main Street meetings and say they saw one in another town and talk about getting a mural downtown, but nobody really tried."

Sandra M. Oxx, executive director of Carroll County Arts Council, said, "The arts council is delighted to be involved because public art is not only great for community pride but for understanding the arts as a vital part of a community."

A project in Mount Airy, where a town mural was dedicated in September, "got me excited about this," she said. "Westminster's would be a much bigger project."

"We're just in the very initial steps, but it will happen, I think. It's such a great opportunity," said Oxx. "I'm just so glad they're starting the ball rolling.

"Things like this can be a draw for an area," she said. "And seeing it installed is fascinating in itself. They'll probably do a transparency and project it onto the wall space and work on a scaffold to draw an outline."

Filming for the movie "For Richer or Poorer" drew attention to the Locust Lane area, where a gazebo was set up for some of the shots.

After the film crews left -- taking their props with them -- Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr. noted how many compliments he received about the flowers that had been placed there -- after they were removed. Within days, city workers planted gardens in the lane.

"Locust Lane has just that little patch of grass," Blandford said. "There is no open space downtown -- that's about it." So, city officials say they may try to get money from Project Open Space to acquire the small grass square.

The mural wouldn't have to have a local theme.

The city is asking for about $2,000 in grant money, Blandford said, to be used with about $7,500 from the city, if it is funded in its 1998 budget. The mural was considered but omitted from the 1997 budget.

Linda Mielke, director of the Carroll County public library, which is across from the lane, said she supports the idea.

"The library board is interested in making our area as attractive as possible, and we're looking forward to working with Karen and the city."

"We're hoping for this year," Blandford said. "We did just submit the application to the Maryland State Arts Council, in partnership with the Carroll County Arts Council, for a grant for arts projects for the 1998 fiscal year."

Three artists would be chosen by a committee of representatives from the arts council, elected officials and the business community in a statewide competition, based on slide submissions, she said. The three would be asked for specific designs, and one would be selected to create the mural.

Blandford said she received help from Washington County Arts Council, which has worked on mural projects.

The nonprofit Westminster Town Center Corp. has asked another nonprofit organization, the Neighborhood Design Center in Baltimore, for landscaping suggestions in redesigning Locust Lane and the library area.

Blandford said the Locust Lane project "involves a lot of people coming together -- the library and the county, the city, the Town Center Corp., the owners -- all working together and going in the same direction."

Pub Date: 12/29/97

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