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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

“The Beacon” brings light and artistic expression to the East Baltimore Community New art installation points to brighter Baltimore future

On Monday, May 2, 2022, Mayor Brandon Scott, State Senator Cory V. McCray with China Boak Terrell, CEO of nonprofit American Communities Trust, and over 100 Baltimoreans dedicated the first permanent artistic light installation of Last Mile Park, entitled “The Beacon.”  “The Beacon” is sixteen light totems that glow in vibrant blue and amber that will provide a welcoming path for drivers, pedestrians, residents, and workers. Located along North Gay Street through the Amtrak overpass, it is

an artistic gateway that connects neighborhoods, improves safety, and serves as a reassuring sign of more to come in Charm City.  “Showcasing inspiring local art is a great way to express our pride in Baltimore and its communities. I’m excited to see the Last Mile Park project kick off with this creative installation to light up our neighborhoods. This initiative will continue helping to spotlight the heart, culture, and talent of Baltimoreans from all parts of our city,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“The Beacon” is it is the first permanent artistic light installation of Last Mile Park. Residents and American Communities Trust are planning a one-mile urban ecological and public art trail that will loop through Amtrak’s eight overpasses.   “We are completely rewriting the standard for what’s possible and should be expected in working-class neighborhoods,” says China Boak Terrell, project lead and CEO of American Communities Trust, Inc. “The Beacon is the first of its kind because of where it is. Completing projects like Last Mile Park are how we build value for working-class residents. This must be the beginning.”

With The Beacon, the overpasses that serve as boundaries for neighborhoods will become entry points. The lights will help link the Oliver, Broadway East, and Berea neighborhoods in the north with the Eager Park, EBDI and the Johns Hopkins University communities in the south.  Mayor Brandon M Scott, who joined in the ceremonial activities of sharing with residents and elected officials, the cutting of the ribbon and the opening of this artistic gateway, shared his excitement, “This beautiful installation will literally and figuratively light up our East Baltimore communities,” said the Mayor.  “We are showing our residents that they deserve to have world-class parks and public art. These amenities are essential to improving the well-being of residents in these communities.” 

Charity Kenyall and Yolanda “Yo-Yo Famba of HeartSmiles join China Boak Terrell, CEO of nonprofit American Community Trust and Project Owner, in presenting the first “The Beacon” light totem dedication to the Temple of God Baptist Church whose selfless service helped to get the project completed.  Temple of God Baptist Church Pastor Dantwan Broady accepted the award along with members of his congregation.

Every neighborhood deserves to be safe and walkable,” said State Senator Cory V. McCray who was supportive of this project. “To keep the promise of investing in our neighborhoods, the 45th Legislative district introduces The Last Mile Park Project: to provide opportunities of neighborhood connection, through creative lighting, and the establishment of a new concept in Baltimore.”

Each year one of The Beacon’s light totems will be dedicated to an individual or organization that has been a source of hope and change by serving Baltimore. Pastor Dantwan Broady and the Temple of God Baptist Church are the first honorees for their selfless service in helping to get the project completed. They will also award future honorees for their service going forward.  “I’m honored that our work has meant so much to our community.  The lights are breathtaking and inspiring. We need more.  Our community is ready to push for that,” said Pastor Dantwan Broady.

Councilmember Robert Stokes and Mayor Brandon Scott cut the ribbon on the first of “The Beacon’s” sixteen light totems.

Ms. Ella Durant, community leader and chair of City Life Community Builders’ Board of Directors is among the residents involved in the project with ACT from the beginning.  “Pedestrians need safe, lighted pathways. As this evolves, Last Mile Park will connect more prominent communities to communities that were once overlooked,” said Ms. Durant.

Artist-designers from the architectural firm, PI.KL led the work. They were supported by engineers from MC Dean, Flux Studio, Sixty Forty Design, and Tarantino Engineering Consultants and fabricator Seymore Welding & Mechanical. The Beacon’s artistic team was minority-led. Additionally, Ms. Boak Terrell said that at least 65% of all design and construction spending went to Black- and minority-owned firms.

Funding support for this nearly $600,000 investment comes from the State of Maryland, the Abell Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Baltimore Ravens, and the James and Mary Miller Charitable Gift Fund.

Baltimore City agencies, especially the Departments of Planning, Transportation and Public Works provided valuable technical support.

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