Building on Community Pride
Arts on the Block (AOB) has been working collaboratively with the Carroll Avenue Quebec Terrace apartment community since 2010 to create works of art that visually transform the neighborhood, improve perceptions of safety, and strengthen community bonds. This long-term partnership between public agencies, nonprofits, and community members has produced four temporary and two permanent public art projects in the neighborhood to date.
Creating a Plan with the Community
With a gracious grant from Donors Investing in Arts (DIVAs), AOB Apprentice Artists worked hand-in-hand with residents, property owners and professionals to formulate a five-year Master Plan in 2010 for this community, located at the southeast corner of Silver Spring in an area facing high crime rates and violent crime activity. At the on-site YMCA Youth and Family Services (YFS) community center, one of our partners on the Carroll Avenue Quebec Terrace projects, AOB facilitated several charrettes where community members gathered to discuss solutions.
Among other needs, the plan emphasizes lighting and community gathering spaces as priorities. The following projects have resulted:
Mosaic Staircases at Carroll Avenue Entrance
Residents reported feeling unsafe near a pair of centrally-located staircases leading into the neighborhood, as gang members from outside the community regularly met there after dark. However, residents also found that the stairs could be a powerful community gathering space.
Accordingly, a 17-year old AOB Apprentice Artist designed a vibrant mosaic work for the staircases, with funding assistance from Montgomery County and the State of Maryland. More than 200 residents and children attending the adjacent New Hampshire Estates Elementary School participated in laying out the tile per the design.
Surveys taken before and after the project installation reported a 35% decrease in the number of residents who felt “very unsafe” and a 5% increase in the number of residents who felt “very safe” in their community.
An AOB Apprentice Artist leads community youth in laying tiles for the staircase design
“It is exactly initiatives like this one, conceived by Arts on the Block that demonstrate that despite obstacles, good things are accomplished when we work together.”
– Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett at the stairs’ dedication
Mosaic Address Plaques
In addition to residents’ concerns of feeling unsafe in their poorly-lit neighborhood, public safety officials reported enormous difficulty finding addresses in emergencies due to poor lighting. To rectify this situation, young residents of the Carroll Avenue Quebec Terrace community who participate in the Common Ground program, in partnership with Brooklyn-based Tillett Lighting Design, designed and created beautifully lit mosaic address plaques for Carroll Avenue Apartments. These mosaic and stained glass address plaques allow addresses to be clearly visible during the day and evening while adding color, light and personality to the building façades.
“I helped design these signs, and watching the kids put them together really made my heart feel happy because they were working on something that was going to be a part of our community for a long time.”
– Common Ground Teen Mentor Maria Gomez
Common Ground participants during the summer of 2014 also designed and created a large fanciful welcoming sign for the YMCA community center, considered by many to be the heart of the neighborhood, and four unlit mosaic address plaques.
See more photographs and information about Common Ground programming at the Common Ground blog.
Shining a Light on Future Projects
Thanks to a generous donation from a Tillett Design supplier, several thousand dollars worth of lighting fixtures will be installed in the summer of 2015. They will line the mosaic-covered stairs (the first AOB-led project at Carroll Avenue Quebec Terrace) allowing community members to feel safe using the stairs at night. Also, currently in progress in concert with Tillett Design is the design and formation of a lit canopy for this community YMCA.
AOB is committed to future artistic initiatives that foster community pride, ownership and a sense of safety.