A project designed to improve the area around Martin Luther King Jr. Street could include a statue of the city’s current favorite son.
Fort Meade residents will be able to discuss the beautification of Martin Luther King Jr. Street during a community workshop at City Hall on April 22 at 6 p.m.
Residents will be surveyed about how they would like to see the street beautified, and they will discuss with native sculptor George Gadson plans for a statue of local baseball star Andrew McCutchen.
The workshop is being spearheaded by E.J. King through the Fort Meade Neighborhood Development Project, Inc., a newly founded organization dedicated to the beautification of MLK Jr. Street.
Their mission is to make the street more appealing for local entrepreneurs in the area, encouraging them to set up shop and create economic opportunities.
“Our mission is to help MLK Jr. Street become representative of the man and his beliefs,” King said. “We want to capture the history of the black community.”
King met with the Fort Meade City Commission during their meeting last week to discuss and schedule the workshop.
He had previously spoken with City Manager Fred Hilliard and City Planner April Brown a few weeks earlier to pitch his idea of beautifying the corner of MLK Jr. Street and Charleston Avenue.
His organization’s main objective is to create a statue of baseball star Andrew McCutchen to be displayed on the street corner.
There was no discussion at last week’s meeting on how much such an idea might actually cost, or how it would be paid for.
The center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, McCutchen was selected as the 11th pick in the opening round of the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft. He debuted with the Pirates in 2009, and last year was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. He is a three-time All-Star, as well as a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner.
McCutchen would not be where he is today if it were not for the opportunities provided to him in his hometown. For this reason, he has given back to his community both here and in Pittsburgh.
One of the many ways he contributes to his hometown is through his annual Raising The Standard Baseball Camp, which provides opportunities for Fort Meade children to play Dixie Youth Baseball.
“It is amazing what Andrew has done to inspire the community,” King said. “There are a bunch of kids who are growing up and there is no telling where they might go, and we want to inspire other kids in the community to do better, to feel better about the city.”
To honor his efforts, King wishes to dedicate a statue in his honor, and has commissioned native sculptor George Gadson to create it along with possibly another sculpture within the city.
A native of Fort Meade, Gadson is a nationally renowned artist who has been commissioned for numerous public and private art projects across the country.
He graduated from Duke University in 1975 and has received additional education through Florida Atlantic University, The University of Massachusetts, Brewer Christian College, and even the University of Valencia, Spain.
Some of his commissioned art projects included two bronze commemorative statues for the South Florida Super Bowl, a White House Christmas Tree Ornament, and several bronze relief portrait sculptures of high profile individuals including Jim Moran of the JM Family Enterprises and Founder Bill Darden for Darden Restaurants.
He also has extensive experience working with public art projects throughout Florida in cities such as Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Palm Beach, Delray Beach, and Miami.
Gadson had met with King in order to discuss commissioning a statue for Fort Meade and schedule a meeting with residents in order to discuss it further.
King had been advocating for such a project for the longest time, and has struggled to get the city on board with it. Having since received extended cooperation from the Chamber of Commerce and Visioning Committee, he much appreciates the city finally taking him up on his offer.
“We never had this before,” he said. “It has been a fight; but now it is more of a cooperative endeavor … with a new attitude of inclusion rather than exclusion, and this means a lot to us. It really does.”