Science-themed art park caps off road construction near JHU

"Optical Gardens," part of the Charles Street reconstruction project, represents water microbes, the Chesapeake Bay, ocean currents and the galaxy.

A rendering of the Optical Gardens. (Image courtesy of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts)

Looking into deep space. Water microbes. Maryland weather patterns.
These are all subjects tackled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. Now, they’re also represented off campus in a Charles Street art park, according to the JHU Gazette.
The new piece of public art, titled Optical Gardens, was installed as part of the two-year, $25 million Charles Street reconstruction project, which spanned from 25th Street to University Parkway. The art park is located between 33rd and 34th Streets. As part of Baltimore’s 1 Percent for Art program, one percent of the budget of a public works project must be reserved for public art.

Optical Gardens

(Image courtesy of Haddad|Drugan)

Designed by the Seattle-based artists Tom Druggan and Laura Haddad, the publicly-funded project is divided into four outdoor “rooms,” each of which are lined by stainless steel ring sculptures and pebbles meant to mimic a meandering riverbed. Each “room” represents a different area of study at Hopkins.
Water microbes, the Chesapeake Bay, ocean currents and the galaxy, are all featured. They’re designed to make specific connections to Hopkins programs, like the Space Telescope Science Institute and the university’s initiatives that study the Chesapeake Bay.
Drugan and Haddad were selected from 90 artists, and were the first selected by Baltimore’s Public Art Commission. Although practical elements like benches and lighting are present for full public enjoyment, all who were involved in the project embraced the work’s conceptual leanings.
“This is one of our most layered works. It’s not a simple piece that you are meant to understand all at once,” Drugan told the JHU Gazette. “The meaning reveals itself over time. People will perceive it in many different ways.”

Companies: City of Baltimore / Bio-Rad Laboratories

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