Baltimore City to Restore Two “Afro-Deco” Murals by Tom Miller

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tom miller mural 1 original

Tom Miller was a popular Baltimore muralist who passed away in 2000, but two of his best-known works will live on with the help of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts and proceeds from the Horseshoe Casino.

The arts agency is seeking proposals from professional artists, art service providers and conservators who are experienced in restoring murals.

tom miller mural 1 current

BOPA wants to restore two murals that Miller painted at the Cherry Hill Shopping Center in south Baltimore, one on the northeast façade and one in an interior stairwell. Miller, an African-American, painted them in 1987, which makes them nearly 30 years old. He became known for a distinctive “Afro-Deco” style of painting and used his work to fight racial stereotypes of African-American communities in Baltimore.

The outdoor mural is painted on a two-story-high brick wall and faces the football field at Dr. Carter G. Woodson School. The interior mural is nine feet wide and 27 feet high. According to BOPA, both are in poor condition “due to the effects of age, environmental wear, and vandalism.” Since Miller isn’t alive to restore them, the agency wants others who can.

“As a city with hundreds of murals, some dating back to the 1970s, there are most definitely several murals within our collection that our office would love to see restored,” said Maggie Villegas, BOPA’s Public Art Project Specialist. “Tom Miller was a prolific Baltimore artist…and we are thrilled to be able to honor his legacy by restoring his work back to its original glory.”

The murals are part of the Baltimore Mural Program’s collection and were created under the direction of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Arts & Culture. The shopping center is owned by Catholic Charities.

The “Tom Miller Mural Restoration Project” is a collaboration of BOPA and the Baltimore Local Development Council, with financial support from Casino Local Impact Grant funds provided by the City of Baltimore. The Horseshoe Casino on Russell Street has an agreement with the city to share a portion of its proceeds for projects that benefit south Baltimore, including Cherry Hill.

This is one of the first times that casino impact funds are being used for artwork in South Baltimore. According to BOPA spokesperson Tracy Baskerville, casino impact funds were used about two years ago to commission artists to create murals on Warner Street, near the casino. The deadline for proposals to restore the Miller murals is May 27.

Villegas said BOPA is glad to have a source of funds to restore aging works of art such as Miller’s murals.

“Funding for those restorations is often difficult to secure, so you can imagine, we are beyond excited to have the opportunity to partner with the Local Development Council for South Baltimore to allocate funding for the restoration of Tom Miller’s murals.”

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts


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