The paint on the newest addition to Highlandtown’s mural landscape is almost dry.
“Shakedown Street Highlandtown,” located at East and Eastern avenues on the wall of High Grounds Coffee Roasters, and painted by artist Ezra Berger, depicts well-known and iconic Highlandtown businesses and venues, old and new, from the Laughing Pint, to Haussner’s, to the Creative Alliance at the Patterson.
The title alludes to the song “Shakedown Street” by the Grateful Dead.
“It’s one of my favorite songs,” says Berger, a MICA alum who got to know Highlandtown better last month, before he started the mural. “I wanted at title that talked about an old historic community with people, and houses, with character.”
“Amanda Smit-Peters from Highlandtown Main Street took me to a lot of the local favorites,” he says. “I ate at most of them, and spent hours walking around the neighborhood and taking pictures.”
The mural is Berger’s interpretation of Highlandtown.
While it is not geographically realistic–the Venice Tavern is across the street from the Creative Alliance at the Patterson (which has Berger’s name on the marquee) and next door to Matthew’s Pizza; Haussner’s vacant building on Eastern Ave. has a man looking out of the upstairs window and is next to the Laughing Pint, which is actually located on Conkling St.—the mural captures the neighborhood’s essence and spirit and has small, realistic details.
The Laughing Pint portion of the mural shows two gentleman drinking pints of beer visible through the front window.
Michael Wood, who owns High Grounds, asked Berger to add in a few Highlandtown denizens.
“Mrs. Wheeler, who lives on East Ave., is in the mural,” says Wood. “She has lived here forever and knows 60 percent of the people in Highlandtown. She comes in our coffee shop all the time and she knits constantly. I think of her as Highlandtown’s mayor. She’s really part of the town.”
“There’s also a gentleman who walks three dogs every day on Eastern Ave.,” Wood adds. “He’s in the mural, too.”
Berger says Wheeler was happy to sit and be painted. “We put a chair out for her to sit on.”
Wood says the whole mural is very ‘Highlandtowny’”
“I’m hoping it draws a lot of people in as they walk by,” says Berger, who does much of his mural work in Harford and Cecil Counties.
This is his first mural in Baltimore city.
“I like public art as opposed to gallery work and painting in Highlandtown was a lot of fun. I would love to do more work here,” he says.
The mural was funded by a Community Legacy grant, and is part of Highlandtown’s Creative Placemaking project.
by Danielle Sweeney