Three teams of local artists have been selected to create major works of public art, including two outdoor sculptures and one two-dimensional work, for the $40 million renovation of Lexington Market scheduled to open in mid-2022.
Lexington Market has been working with the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore and Seawall Development to select artists for the project, which is being built on the market’s former south parking lot, alongside the former bed of Lexington Street between Paca and Eutaw streets. More than $300,000 has been budgeted for the art work, and more artists may be selected as the project nears completion.
The three artists or artist teams selected are: Oletha DeVane and Chris Kojzar for an outdoor sculpture entitled “Robert and Rosetta”; Jon Struse (who goes by Reed Bmore), Nick Ireys, and Eric Smith for an outdoor sculpture entitled “Food Play”; and visual artist SHAN Wallace in collaboration with cultural historian Jessica Harris for an indoor piece entitled “Our Ties to the Market.”
The artists were chosen from among 40 individuals or teams that responded to a Request for Qualifications issued by the market and Seawall in February, in a selection process facilitated by the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore.
They will be introduced and speak about their pieces at a Lexington Market Community Meeting that’s taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 17, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Zoom and Facebook Live. People who want to participate can register here.
The selected teams are all from Baltimore and the principals are either African American or Asian. In each case, the projects represent major commissions for the artists. They will be owned by the city of Baltimore and will become part of the city’s official inventory of public art.
“The artists selected to complete these feature artworks for the new market’s building and plaza are representative of Baltimore’s incredible arts community,” said Katie Marshall, director of communications at Seawall and project lead for Lexington Market’s public artwork, in a statement.
“These artists were selected for their deep ties to the city and pieces that will complement the new market’s public spaces, and notably, are receiving their largest commissions to date with each of these pieces – indicative of the project’s commitment to creating opportunity for makers and doers of all types,” Marshall said.
In advance of the community meeting, the market and its partners on Monday released images and other information about the three works of art. The works include:
“Robert and Rosetta”: The mother and son team of Oletha DeVane and Chris Kojzar were selected to complete a sculpture for the Eutaw Street side of the new market plaza. Robert and Rosetta are the names of two enslaved persons who were sold at the market, at a time when slavery was permitted in Maryland.
According to the market’s description of the work, the piece “pays homage to the two recorded instances of enslaved persons either being sold at the Market or hunted because of their connection to it. The piece seeks to seismically shift the principal idea behind ‘exchanging goods’ at the Market by displaying forged metal panels of the two individuals, Robert and Rosetta, to stand as aberrations to what one would advertise as ‘value.’ ”
DeVane, the project’s lead, is a multidisciplinary artist who explores diverse political, social identities and cultural interpretations. Her work is in permanent collections at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and she has exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Museum of the Bible in New York, and the Museum of the Americas in Washington D.C., among others. She is the former Head of Visual Arts and Gallery Director at the McDonogh School and will soon unveil her piece entitled “The Memorial to Those Enslaved and Freed” at the school. According to Marshall, $150,000 has been budgeted for this work.
“Food Play”: “The street artist known as Reed Bmore and collaborators Nick Ireys and Eric Smith were selected to create a metal sculpture for the Paca Street side of the plaza. Bmore, who is Asian, is known for guerilla art, often made with wire, that is unauthorized and typically appears in unexpected places on or over public streets. His given name is Jon Struse but he goes by Reed Bmore as an artist, in the same way that muralist Andrew Pisacane goes by GAIA. Ireys, who is Caucasian, and Smith, who is black, will fabricate the Lexington Market piece, which will be much larger than Bmore’s previous work and is meant to last longer.
According to a description of the team’s project provided by the market, the piece “explores our complex, but also playful and nostalgic, relationships with food through colorful folded pipe shapes meant for interaction. Known for their often unsanctioned and surprising bent wire sculptures hung at stoplights and street corners throughout Baltimore and other cities, Reed Bmore is a Baltimore resident and Maryland Institute College of Art graduate.” Marshall said $150,000 has been budget for this work.
“Our Ties to the Market”: Baltimore artist, educator and photographer SHAN Wallace, who is black, was chosen to create a work of art for a prominent “feature wall” inside the market.
According to the market, Wallace will translate her years photographing Lexington Market’s vendors and customers into a large-scale (approximately 30-foot by 15-foot), two-dimensional piece on the new building’s upper level. Marshall said it will be a collage, most likely on vinyl. A budget has not been disclosed.
“Wallace’s piece will focus on the history of Black food culture in Baltimore and America’s public markets, in general, and is a collaboration with culinary historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris, author of High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America,” according to the market’s description.
Wallace has exhibited work internationally in galleries and museums including The Baltimore Museum of Art and The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, California. Marshall said the Lexington Market piece will be a continuation of the artist’s recent outdoor installation along Art Museum Drive for the Baltimore Museum of Art, entitled “The Avenue.”
Lexington Market is the nation’s longest continuously-operating public market, serving as a hub in Baltimore City for small businesses and food access for more than 200 years.
In addition to the new market building, a public plaza is being created between Eutaw and Paca streets, making the former bed of Lexington Street a walkable, urban green space. When completed in mid-2022, the transformed Lexington Market will be home to approximately 50 vendors, and the plaza will be a setting for community gatherings.
The commissions of the two outdoor sculptures are partially funded by the Municipal Arts Society of Baltimore. The society was founded in 1899 to “provide sculptural and pictoral [sic] decoration and ornaments for the public buildings, streets and open spaces in the City of Baltimore, and to help generally beautify the City.”
Its past projects include the Olmsted Parks Plan (1904); The Boy and Turtle (1916); Redwood Street Arch (1988); Male/Female (2004); Frederick Douglas (2003), and others. Along with the Municipal Art Society of New York, The Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City is the only Municipal Art Society still operating under its original charter.
Seawall is a community organization made up of social entrepreneurs who believe in re-imagining the real estate industry and using the built environment to empower communities, unite cities, and help launch powerful ideas that create important movements. It is leading the design and construction of the new market building for the city of Baltimore, not developing the project for its own portfolio and not investing its own funds.
Working with Seawall, Lexington Market is in the process of selecting vendors for the new building. A specific opening date has not been announced.