State seeking artists for the Red Line

As street art flourishes in Baltimore, opportunity looms with the $2.64 billion transit project

mural open walls mr. kim

“ECB’s finished Open Walls Baltimore mural of the late father of Mr. Kim (owner of the Seoul Rice Cake Factory) at North Avenue and N. Charles Street.”

Photo by: Open Walls Baltimore Facebook

There may be controversy over where the stations will be located on the Red Line through downtown Baltimore, but the Maryland Transit Administration wants to make sure artists are lined up to adorn them.

The transit agency has issued a call for applications from artists interested in creating works of art for stops along the 14.1 mile route from Woodlawn to Bayview.

The deadline for artist applications is the end of this week (June 13). Follow-up proposals are due in August. Commissions will be awarded starting this fall.

The work promises to be a bonanza for creators of public art in Maryland. The $2.64 billion Red Line is the biggest public works project in Baltimore’s history. Under the state’s Art in Transit Program, a percentage of the budget has been reserved for art in and around the stations. The budget for individual artworks may be up to $350,000.

According to the state’s official Call for Artists released recently, the MTA “is seeking artists and artists’ teams to create site-specific artworks and artistic enhancements for the future Baltimore Red Line Light Rail Line.

“There will be art opportunities at approximately 23 major locations, including five underground stations, fourteen above ground stations, one pedestrian connector, two portals, Route 40 bridges, and other infrastructure elements.”

Art for Fences, Bridges, Walls, Pylons

The call for artists is being issued, the state says, “to create a roster of artists and designers of all types, including 2D and 3D artists working in a variety of media to create integrated public artworks for the stations, environs and connecting infrastructure.”

As stated in the Call for Artists, the purpose of the Art in Transit Program is “to enhance the travel experience, to promote travel use, and to engage the community. Possible opportunities for artworks and artistic enhancements include feature walls, ground planes and plazas, streetscapes, light installations, fences and railings, portal walls, functional objects, bridge enhancements, retaining walls, pylons and other possibilities.”

Up to three artists may be selected for each station or other major location,. There is no geographic restriction on the artists, but applicants need to demonstrate experience creating public art. More information is available from Jo Schneider, Art in Transit Manager for the Red Line. Her address is

With neighborhoods and developers pushing state officials to relocate planned station stops (in one case succeeding), the chosen artists might want to incorporate references to the political provenance of the structures they’re enhancing.

Say a larger-than-life bust of John Paterakis?

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  • Andrew

    Are we talking about art or expensive graffiti ? How about we see the plans for the stations and talk about whether they are aesthetically congruent with the areas they are located in and whether they bring value or detract value from the immediate surroundings. I don’t like how their plan, right out of the gates, is based on making their walls look “ghetto”. We have to make Baltimore look better, as in, the way it was built originally with all it’s incredible architecture, not more modernist blight and dystopian signage.

    • Matt R

      I agree with that the station need to be aesthetically appropriate. I look at the mess on the wall at Johns Hopkins Station as an example (what does that scene have to do with the arrival station…shouldn’t it have something to do with studiousness and innovation?). I generally think with public art that less is more. I think maybe we should a standard, plain tile, traditional subway look, like that of the older New York or Philadelphia stations with a basic stairway and elevator (nothing too fancy or elaborate) with small pieces of public art that reflect the taste/vibe of the neighborhood.

      • CV resident

        Amen to Andrew and to Matt R, above. The ‘ghetto look’ has the virtue of being effortlessly and inexpensively brought into being. But is ‘easy and cheap’ a mindset we want our public art to vehicle? It’s as if architecture and the applied arts, not to mention the fine arts, were no longer to be taken seriously in a city that was long renowned for them.

  • Matt R

    How is a 14 mile Tram thru the path of least resistance the “biggest public works project in Baltimore’s history?”

    • baltimorebrew

      Costwise, the Red Line is the mother of all infrastructure projects in Baltimore. That’s for a single project, not for collective projects like the sewer/water/Back River Waste Treatment improvements planned for the next dozen years.

      By comparison, the 15.4-mile Metro subway cost $1.392 billion. -MR

      • Matt R

        Is that adjusted for inflation?

        • baltimorebrew

          No, but it does include the Metro’s very pricey eastern extension to JHH. Remember, the $2.6 billion Red Line cost is just an estimate – and Boston’s Big Dig tells us to take mega-project estimates with a tunnel-full of salt.

  • ushanellore

    You see this kind of art in the London subways–photos and murals. They are wonderful and uplifting. Art could be the one thing good about the Red Line.

    • Andrew


      • ushanellore

        What I say is art is ART,
        everything else is FART,
        cause I know art when I see art
        a scribble is not what I call
        stick figures are not what I call,
        daubs of paint are not what I call,
        criss crossing lines are not what I call

        What I too can do is not ART.
        If it is done in a jiffy not ART.
        Every joke on the public is not ART.
        Every eye sore sold up is not ART!
        Every pasted cut out is not art,
        every mad man’s mind is not art,

        frenetic swirls they have called art,
        a thousand dots on the canvas became art,
        cans arranged as pyramids some said art,
        a paper painted white sold as art,
        a cross immersed in urine claimed as art,
        a man pissed on paint and shouted ART,
        am I to buy those as ART?

        from the way it exudes its charm,
        from its fluidity and form,
        just the way it touches my heart,
        and awakens my deadened parts,
        what stops me in my tracks,
        what turns my head as I walk,
        what startles me out of my calm,
        what fills me with dread and alarm,
        what situates me in angles galore,
        examining a picture’s warts,
        what makes me want to look
        deep under the skull for the thoughts
        that went into any effort called art,
        in the day, in the night,
        under various lights,
        assessed sober and sad,
        evaluated when giddy or mad,
        based on who is seeing the art
        the age of the person at seeing
        and the mood of the moment of seeing–
        art changes what it offers it does..
        at least that’s what I think of ART.

        So to announce–
        What I say is art is ART–
        everything else is FART..
        Andrew you ain’t on the right track…
        or should I humbly say–
        You MAY NOT BE on the right track!

        Usha Nellore

        • Andrew

          The verdict is in; Aesthetics are not relative. There’s a actually a rigor and order to it. Sorry, there’s no hope for the frauds after all.

          • ushanellore

            So said the dictator or the enforcer–not the artist and not the art aficionados. You mean, there is hope for the frauds after all–indeed there is because art is part conjuration. It is truth couched as lie or lies couched as truth. You want order–look to a goose stepping army. You want rigor–look to a boot camp. You want aesthetics–there is plenty of art around for you to love. Leave the art alone you don’t love or you actually loathe. There are others to love what you despise and what do you know–some of them may be paying taxes too!

  • Andrew

    How about we NOT build the Red Line and thus give an incentive for people to live closer to where they work, as in, The City?

    • Matt R

      That would require making the city more attractive for businesses and for people to live first. Taxes, schools, removing criminals, better housing stock, reducing corruption, attracting new well paying industries, thinking long term.. It’s not happening any time soon

      • Andrew

        I put up with living in the city simply because I like having my work nearby. It’s my trade-off. And then I go on to Baltimore Brew to complain about what I see. City Hall should see more subways as a threat, not a boon for the local economy.

        • Matt R

          Yea and that works for you. I don’t know you but it seems that a majority of folks who have that lifestyle are 20 somethings without school aged children and empty nesters. Until the city cleans up the streets from criminals, has a school system where parental involvement is the norm and not the exception, has a tax policy that attracts numerous for-profit, tax paying businesses, finding and building a real niche in the national and regional economies, has officials that don’t derail long term progress to mitigate short term problems, etc., people will want to live elsewhere. I am all for rail but it shouldn’t be built simply for the MTA to get state and federal money (fleecing tax money) while serving the fewest people.

          • Andrew

            Everything you say is true. I hope they focus on all those things and save our money.

          • Nowis

            The City of Baltimore needs to advance into the 21st century. We need a operable subway system. Something that will eleviate traffic from Harbor East to I95. There are plenty of people living on the east side that could truly use the Red Line. Its important for the growth of the city.

          • Andrew

            What’s so great about the 21st century that we would want to join it? Why is growth important? What if we focused not on more construction and moving more people around but cleaning up what we have and alleviating the horrors of daily life? Digging up some main routes in the city for ten years will further stall the normalization of city life.This Eastcoast obsession with tying to become the next NYC is very perplexing. Smaller is better. Quieter is better. Less population density is happier.

  • Tom Gregory

    For those who are interested, I did a search on the website handling applications:

    The site stated June 23 as the deadline and not today:
    Public Art Projects for the Future Baltimore Red Line Phase 2
    Call Type: Public Art
    Eligibility: National
    City: Baltimore
    State: Maryland
    Entry Deadline: 6/23/14
    Days remaining to deadline: 10

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