Coloring is a stroke of pride

Folks at BikeJam can fill in mural

May 25, 2002|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,SUN STAFF

What sort of public art project would fit Baltimore's sense of itself? Kini Collins wondered. As events coordinator for BikeJam, today's daylong cycling extravaganza in Patterson Park, Collins wanted to schedule a creative activity that would give non-bikers something fun to do while calling attention to the splendors of the 155-acre park.

It had to be something colorful, easy, even kitschy. One of the things Collins appreciated most about Baltimore was that it didn't take itself too seriously.

An artist herself, Collins had experience bringing folks together in creative collaboration. For BikeJam, Collins wanted something accessible, but still grand. Maybe a mural - a banner - a giant paint-by-number picture of Patterson Park! She could imagine festival-goers of all ages filling in a few of the numbered sections, doing their part at bringing art to life. It would be a true community effort: traditional enough, yet quirky enough, for Baltimore.

In January, she sent out an e-mail call for artists to design two vinyl panels, each measuring 4 feet by 8 feet, that could be displayed together as one large banner. The design would salute the uses and attractions of Patterson Park, while also celebrating the world of cycling. It would be a banner that could be displayed at other community events.

Butcher's Hill artist Martha Simons rose to the challenge. A graphic artist who works for Lifetouch Photography, she had already contributed drawings to events linked to her beloved park: She drew the houses on her neighborhood's house-tour brochure and the image of a pagoda coming out of a saxophone in an ad for that landmark's recent re-opening. Simons and her dog, Stella, knew the nooks and crannies of the park very well. Even better, the artist retained an affection for paint-by-number pictures from her childhood in Idaville, Ind.

Simons' final design is coloring-book simple, which is to say very inviting. There are cyclists, an in-line skater and skate-boarder. A dog leaps into the air to catch a flying disc, a duck swims on the lake (which is being renovated). A prominent image of the pagoda rises behind the park's wonderfully large American flag. In the background, you can see rowhouses and the domes of St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Priming the banner took a quart of exterior paint. Coloring it in will require 10 quarts - two each of blue and green - to create nine colors.

The color code is: 1) Red; 2) Blue; 3) Green; 4) Yellow; 5) Orange; 6) Brown; 7) Pink; 8) Black and 9) Light Green (mixed from Nos. 3 and 4).

Simons will be on hand to shepherd the process along from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in a tent in the north central area of the park. She's curious to see how people approach the painting. She figures maybe 20 or 25 can paint at any one time (you don't want people dripping paint on one another).

Many unknowns remain: Will some people use more than one color? How long will the project take? Simons has included several hundred areas to paint, including big green swatches of lawn at the bottom for toddlers who may not have much control over their brushes yet.

What happens if people color outside the lines?

"They'll have to leave class," Collins teases.

"I'm thinking that it may end up being more interesting if they don't," Simons says. "We'll just flow with it."

BikeJam

Where: Patterson Park, Eastern Avenue at Patterson Park Avenue; all activities are mid-park just north of the lake area.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today

Events: Bike races begin at 9 a.m. Festival begins at 11, and includes bike safety rodeo, stunt riding on bikes and a parade with such human-powered vehicles as skateboards, rickshaws, baby strollers and wheelbarrows. Music by the Dunbar Jazz Ensemble, Michael Rosman, Hula Monsters and OB111+ 1.

Online: www.bikejam.org

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