Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Affiliate of Both Arsenals

One of Baltimore’s historical hotspots is located off of I-83, connecting with the Jones Falls Expressway and spanning over 745 acres.[1] It is an area of Baltimore that I frequent and relish in the uniqueness of its offerings. It has many draws ranging from the winding lakeside roads, to a zoo & conservatory amid profusions of various athletic outlets. The region is accessible by foot, car, bike, and could probably accommodate a pontoon plane landing.

Druid Hill Park offers clean air in a city where asthma plagues its residents and environmentalist conduct studies on the alarming quality of our air. I often feel moved in the park space; inspired and able to conceive ideas for a daunting list of art projects that awaits me.

This is a park where both the arsenal of inclusion and exclusion are applicable. The shear scale of the land is inviting on a gorgeous afternoon when people are out jogging around the lake, walking their pets or cruising around in their cars. However one memorable evening on my first outing north of Bolton Hill, I was turned back from my search of an alluring lakeside running-route. A middle-aged lady confronted me on Park Avenue and explained that Druid Hill Lake was a bad place to be after dark. Apparently it was full of nefarious individuals and drug dealings. Considering that the sun was nearly touching the horizon, I took her advice and abandoned the idea for the next couple of months.

Now having experienced the park on a number of levels I feel that it is more in line with the arsenal of inclusion. These crime waves are linked to the open area. The proximity of interactive spaces in which people occupy does something to delineate the perceived security of that region. In a city like Baltimore, crime is prevalent and can be realized in a large setting with many recesses for hiding or escaping the authorities under the cover of darkness. The same methods of accessibility can be outlets for unlawful behavior. Many people will avoid the area at night for this vey reason. I’ve witnessed chains of people precariously off-roading on their five-speeders throughout the lawns and running paths. I cringe at the thought of them loosing control and causing harm to themselves or others.

Conversely what a venue during the day! I’ve taken part in everything from the Caribbean Carnival, to workout classes and football matches. The park exercises key principals of open city philosophy. I personally felt integrated when I join in a game of tennis and have observed a diverse group of people who approach one another with genuine altruism. They swim in the inexpensive public pool and shoot hoops together on a level that transcends social class. Most of these recreational outlets are free, which advances these transcendental connections. Not dissimilar from the Iris Marion Young ideal, that acknowledges differences among social groups to counteract oppression. Druid Hill is seemingly tolerant and reassuring that all groups of people can coexist in a public space and feel empowered, not discriminated against.

The poet John Clare once said, “Citys … are nothing less than over grown prisons that shut out the world and all of its beauties.”[2] Druid Hill Park is a symbolic response against this very mineshaft outlook. What could be more beautiful than a space that exercises creativity, recreation and diversity on a daily basis. The park, as an extension of the city is very open and gives you a beautiful vantage point into its other avenues and districts. Baltimore is an open book atop the ridge off of 83. One becomes aware of this very large green space existing in an urban environment and is compelled to explore the rest of the city with candor.

[1], Druid Hill Park, West Baltimore Arts Examiner,, (Accessed September 23, 2009).

[2] Braungart, Michael and William McDonough, Cradle to Cradle, (New York: North Point Press, 2002), 20.

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