Anne Arundel Community College is a jewel of an asset to Maryland’s art community. As an alum who spent half my college career in one studio or another in the CADE fine arts building, I can say first-hand that the facilities and instructors make it a top-notch art institution for students seeking an individualized arts education.
It’s no wonder why Anne Arundel County Beautification Manager, Loni Moyer, called on their resources to develop a public art piece to dress up a county-owned building in Glen Burnie – which AACC currently leases. Arundel Center North at 101 Crain Highway, a towering 68’ brick facade passed by thousands of traveling cars and pedestrians every day, was the blank canvas.
When Loni approached the institution and Visual Arts Dept Chair Matthew Moore, they were thrilled with the idea. Moore and instructor Matt Klos began developing a curriculum for a semester-long class around the project. After working out the less glamorous details of public art (logistics of manning the site, liabilities and insurances, all that fun stuff), Matt Klos and a class of seven students got to work.
They didn’t just jump in a cherry picker with paint rollers in hand though. Klos said of the project:
“I knew from the very beginning we had to get the community behind us or this would never work. After weeks of community meetings [where we presented our concept sketches and listened to their feedback] they understood what we were trying to do, and from that point on we were unstoppable.”
After many discussions with the community, one landmark kept popping up– the town’s 100+ year-old carnival. From that, a collaborative evolution of the balloon motif took shape, with each balloon depicting a staple of the town’s cultural history. Students conducted research at the neighboring Kuethe Library, and zeroed in on local historic structures, like the chimney on Old Furnace Road, the carnival’s ferris wheel and the nearby skating rink, and the tradition of classic car shows. Even Maryland native Frank Zappa makes an appearance! The concept of the balloon strings passing from an older hand to the hand of a child signifies the passing on of history and culture.
Once the plan for the mural had been honed through many rounds of sketches, it was finally time to paint. Klos recruited the expertise of fellow instructor Chris Mona and acclaimed muralist Jeff Huntington to round out the team. The mural demanded a solid 3-4 weeks of labor, at times into early morning hours. Luckily, they had company. Members of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association grabbed lawn chairs and watched in support as the art they helped inform took shape.
When asked about the experience, student Scout Bender said
“The challenges were greatly rewarding, and I think it should be an experience every art student should experience. We put everything we had into that mural and the best part was seeing the smiles and amazement of the community.”
Several students have gone on to land professional assignments utilizing the painting skills they’ve acquired during the process. The Glen Burnie community has a piece of art they feel truly invested in, and AACC has a real-world model for training professional artists. Potential projects are already in the works for future semesters!
Learn more about how you can get involved at aacc.edu.