The best way to see Highlandtown is through a pair of doughnut eye-glasses.
That’s something that Hoehn’s Bakery, local residents and mural artist Michael Owen agree on. Fueled by a $5,000 grant from Healthy Neighborhoods, Owen has painted a large mural on the northern exterior wall of Hoehn’s Bakery, 400 S. Conkling St. A girl peeping through doughnuts like binoculars peers from the brick portion of the northern wall, which houses the storefront portion of the bakery. The Highlandtown scene that she spys plays out on the formstone wall that houses the ovens and working bakery behind Hoehn’s storefront.
The girl sees Ukrainian decorated eggs, Latino pinatas, and other symbols of the cultures that inhabit Highlandtown.
“The word ‘Peace’ is there because everyone believes that these cultures are all getting along here,” said Kari Snyder, director of neighborhood programs for the Southeast Community Development Corporation.
There are also nods to longstanding local businesses such as Matthew’s Pizza, G & A Restaurant and Stella’s Bridal.
The mural concept was born from brainstorming sessions between Owen—of Baltimore Love Project fame—and local residents. Snyder said that fliers inviting input were distributed along Conkling St. and Bank St., and residents were invited to brainstorming sessions at Rachel Taft’s home via Facebook.
Owen, who is currently an artist-in-residence at the Creative Alliance, said that he collaborated with Maryland Institute College of Art graduate Jordan Jones, who came up with some of the “whimsical” figures in the mural. The drawing’s “wavy” lines, added Owen, were compatible with the “bumpy formstone” of the building.
“My father would love the mural,” said Rob Hoehn of Hoehn’s Bakery, responding to a question from a local old-timer. “He used to make fun little signs with funny characters.”
“We want people to see Highlandtown the way we see Highlandtown,” said Sharon Hoehn, who does the baking.
And how does Hoehn’s see Highlandtown?
“In a word, changing,” she said. “From 1927 to 1960, we were really stuck in the same spot. Then in the 1960s it started to change, and it’s been changing ever since.”
by Erik Zygmont