Colorful, life-size elephants constructed to beautify Mondawmin community

BALTIMORE - Take a ride down McCulloh Street near Druid Hill Park and you'll see a herd of elephants hanging out on the grassy hill.

They didn't escape from the zoo. They're artwork designed by the Mondawmin community to make the area a better place to drive around and live.

The idea started in 2011 when several neighborhood associations approached the group ARTBLOCKS about ways to spruce up the Mondawmin community and address traffic concerns near Druid Hill Park.  Deborah Patterson, founder of ARTBLOCKS, knew she needed the community's help in coming up with ideas on how to make this happen.

"The community is the expert, they know what they want," she said.

Using a process called creative "placemaking," Patterson collected input from neighbors about what they wanted to see in the space.  

"It’s a bottom up grassroots process as opposed to the old top down where we come in and say this is what you need," she said.

After several workshops, the idea came to build replicas of life-sized elephants.  Patterson says the elephant is symbolic of many things, like love, kindness, wisdom and community, making it a perfect fit for the space.

Local artists were called in to design and construct the massive structures.  Two moms and three baby elephants were created.  One side features artwork made from recycled materials like pedals and stop signs.

"Part of the idea of the elephants was to make something that would remind people to go a little slower on the road," said Barbara Thompson, one of the artists on the project.

The other side features mosaics, made by people who call this area home.

"If you provide an opportunity for people to create who don’t normally get the opportunity to create, its incredibly uplifting and empowering," said Patterson.

The elephants are just one part of making the Mondawmin community more beautiful and safer for pedestrians.  Daffodils were planted near the street intersections and new crossing signals and pedestrian walkways were installed.

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