When some residents of Baltimore’s Pigtown community first suggested the area should have a gateway sculpture to welcome visitors, skeptics said that would happen “when pigs fly.”
Seven years later, the community is celebrating the completion of “Pigtown,” a 36-foot-tall, pig-shaped weathervane sculpture that marks a gateway to the Pigtown community in southwest Baltimore while also showing which way the wind is blowing.
The Citizens of Pigtown neighborhood organization and leaders of the Pigtown Main Street revitalization program held a ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday to dedicate the $120,000 bronze and steel creation by sculptor and Pigtown resident Rodney Carroll.
“Pigtown Main Street is happy to announce the pigs are flying – or at least one pig now hovers atop the weathervane sculpture near the corner of Bayard Street and Washington Boulevard, at the entrance to Carroll Park,” said Kim Lane, executive director of the Pigtown Main Street program, in a statement about the event.
Carroll is the sculptor who created the William Donald Schaefer statue on the west shore of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, honoring the former mayor and governor who was born almost exactly 100 years ago, on Nov. 2, 1921. He has created both figurative and abstract sculptures for public and private clients around the country. This work, which has about the same budget as Mark di Suvero’s “Under Sky One Family” piece in the Inner Harbor did in 1980, was very much a homecoming for the artist, who has a residence, studio and sculpture garden in Pigtown.
Carroll’s latest work consists of three curving strands of stainless steel that support a weathervane in the shape of a pig, bearing the word “Pigtown” on its side.
The area is called Pigtown because pigs from the Midwest arrived in Baltimore via the B&O Railroad in the 19th century and were herded down Ostend and Cross streets to slaughterhouses in South Baltimore. Some communities might have gone with another name as part of an effort to reverse population declines after World War II. But Pigtown leaders, in a show of both authenticity and counterintuitive marketing, have embraced it over the years as a way of celebrating the area’s history.
Actually, there was an attempt to change the name.
“As part of urban renewal efforts in the 1970s the City tried to give the neighborhood a new image and changed its name to Washington Village,” according to the Pigtown Main Street website. “While official city maps still reflect this renaming, as the neighborhood has rebounded many residents are rallying to return to the historic name. The area is listed as Pigtown in the National Register of Historic Places, and both the neighborhood association (Citizens of Pigtown), and Main Street have chosen to use the historic neighborhood name.”
The Pigtown weathervane sculpture, which has been donated to the city and rises on city land, is the latest sign that the community is using its history to create a memorable brand. The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts and the Department of Recreation and Parks worked with the neighborhood association and the Main Street program to make it a reality.
The $120,000 cost includes design, materials, fabrication and installation. Funds came from Baltimore City’s Casino Local Impact Grant program, with guidance from the all-volunteer Casino Local Development Council; a PNC Transformative Art Prize awarded by BOPA; the France Merrick Foundation, South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, Baltimore National Heritage and Pigtown Main Street. In-kind contributions were provided by the artist, the parks department, the Citizens of Pigtown and Pigtown Main Street. Carroll’s contribution, in the form of labor, has been valued at $39,000.
Pigtown Main Street is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the commercial revitalization of the Washington Boulevard corridor and equitable community development in Pigtown. Founded in 2000, it is an original member of Baltimore Main Streets and an accredited National Main Streets member organization.
“Pigtown is a unique, special neighborhood that is welcoming in spirit and energy,” said Diante Edwards, vice president of Citizens of Pigtown, in a statement. “We feel this sculpture captures the inviting essence of our community. The process of getting the sculpture from conception to installation definitely exemplifies Pigtown’s history and heritage of resiliency.”
Besides being one of the largest community-based donations of artwork to a Baltimore City park, the sculpture is part of a plan to upgrade facilities and landscaping in Carroll Park in order to draw more visitors and link the park to the Pigtown community and Pigtown’s Main Street commercial district, Lane said.
“The sculpture will also inspire street art that will be implemented at this intersection as part of ‘Pigtown Connects,’ a traffic calming and streetscaping project along Washington Boulevard,” she said.
“Baltimore has a long tradition of public art in its parks,” said Reginald Moore, director of the Department of Recreation and Parks. “The weathervane sculpture is an exciting addition to that collection, marking the gateway to Pigtown from the Gwynns Falls Trail, while adding visual interest and a unique sense of place to this important entrance to Carroll Park.”
The sculpture also provides a reminder that pigs do fly sometimes, despite the skeptics.
As Mayor Brandon Scott put it about the dedication, “This is an example of Baltimoreans coming together to improve our city in ways that few thought possible.”