For his OSI Community Fellowship, Graham Coreil-Allen is working with stakeholders and community members to help re-envision the public spaces around Druid Hill Park. Through his Druid Hill Complete Streets initiative, he aims to work with his neighbors to build support for the philosophy that streets should be safe and accessible for everyone using them – pedestrians, bicyclists, people with mobility devices, and cars.
As is the case with much of Baltimore, the streets around Druid Hill Park changed drastically in response to white flight, as more and more people moved to the suburbs. Historically, city planning often prioritized the needs of white people and their commute to the suburbs over the people still living in the city. In fact, at the time, city council acknowledged that creating the Druid Hill Expressway would have a negative effect on the surrounding communities, cutting residents off from the park and other parts of the city. But, they voted to move forward anyway.
Today, in the 21217 zip code, about 48 percent of residents don’t own cars, but 90 percent of the public right of way is dedicated to cars.
In 2018 and 2019, the city is undertaking a Druid Hill Park roadway alignment study, but the scope is more of a master planning effort for the entire corridor. Coreil-Allen doesn’t want residents to miss this opportunity to reconnect their communities to the park and reimagine what their streets could look like.
“I want to make sure all residents, young and old, have a say in how our neighborhood will one day reconnect with Druid Hill Park,’” Coreil-Allen says.
Through the Complete Streets project, he will engage with residents through local community associations and neighborhood events to implement a digital communications strategy that documents the conditions and experience of the residents and through public art installations. As part of the community engagement process, Coreil-Allen will lead walking tours that include key public spaces surrounding the park. He hopes the tours will offer residents a new perspective on their communities. He also hopes he can learn from residents, picking up information that will inform the street planning process and the public art installations. The art will be created with input from the communities around Druid Hill Park and help from local youth.
Coreil-Allen believes in the power of public art and public spaces to connect people. After art school, he moved to Brooklyn, where he was involved with Arts in Bushwick, a collective of artists who wanted to be allies to the original residents of the gentrifying neighborhood. Since moving to Baltimore in 2008 to get his MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, he has built a career around public art installations that are tied to public safety and planning efforts both in Baltimore and across the country.
In Auchentoroly Terrace, where he moved in 2013, Coreil-Allen has been active as a volunteer with the New Auchentoroly Terrace Association, working on various projects from an association website to a creative crosswalk encouraging residents to attend the Druid Hill Farmers Market. As an OSI Community Fellow, he will be able to focus on his neighborhood and dedicate his time to understanding the needs of his community.
“I think of my project as a historic restoration to what this area was before the expressway was built,” he says. “But, it will also be an inclusive effort that accounts for everyone’s needs. That will mean slower, safer, well-balanced streets that reflect our local culture and vibrant community through public art.”