A public art piece to commemorate Fort Meade’s rich history is currently being eyed, and a committee of community representatives will be formed to determine its focus and location.
This future art piece was discussed during a community workshop at city hall last Tuesday featuring the artist local leaders are hoping will do the work, Fort Meade native George Gadson.
Gadson was first approached by E.J. King through the newly-founded Fort Meade Neighborhood Development Project, an organization dedicated to the beautification of MLK Jr. Street.
King desires to see MLK Jr. Street beautified to attract new businesses to the community. Part of this beautification would include a public art piece to be displayed on the corner of MLK Jr. Street and Charleston Avenue.
Originally, the art piece was planned solely as a statue of native baseball star Andrew McCutchen, whose athletic prowess has figuratively placed Fort Meade on the map, and whose philanthropy has helped support the community that first supported him, King noted.
Though Gadson could ultimately create the sculpture of McCutchen, after gleaning feedback during the meeting, he plans on making it the centerpiece of a larger art piece that will commemorate other notable figures within the community and showcase the town’s history.
Other aspects for the art piece suggested during the workshop include a history walk and a mural of various community figures, of which McCutchen would be one.
As someone born in Fort Meade and raised in lower-class conditions, Gadson realizes the need for role models as an inspiration for other children within the community.
“When I talk to kids about what I do, I tell them I am from here, Fort Meade,” he said. “I went to Duke. That is where the rich kids are, but I did not care. I was proud of where I came from, and I never used the color of my skin as an excuse not to be successful.”
Currently, Gadson does not have any plans or budget for the art piece. Whenever he is commissioned, he conducts community outreach first to glean input and feedback from the community of what they would like to see before coming up with a plan or price.
“I feel it is important that we hear from the public, the people, who will ultimately be experiencing the art and viewing the art, so when they see it, they can see one element they have voiced of what they would like to see,” Gadson said.
“Every article I have seen written about him, he was representing Fort Meade, and I just think Fort Meade should represent him,” said Franklin Davidson, McCutchen’s cousin. “It takes a lot for us to recreate MLK, and it can start with this statue.”
The main consensus of the workshop was to form a committee of representatives from community organizations to discuss the possibilities for the art piece, determine what the community would want it to be, and whom would be best represented by it.
King was more than pleased with the solidarity.
“There is a lot of information out here that will allow the city to move in this direction,” King said. “So it opened up their eyes, and it is going to give them more reason to want to explore it further and see what they can actually do to make it happen.”
Gadson originally started his career in banking after graduating Duke University in 1975. The stress of his job prompted him to seek relief through art, which started as a hobby and evolved into another career.
He has since become a renowned artist and sculptor who has created numerous private commissions and public art pieces. His previous work includes a South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee commemorative sculpture in 1995, a White House Christmas Tree Ornament in 2008, and a bronze replica of Joe Lee, Former CEO of Darden Restaurants.