Dorchester County’s newest public mural will be dedicated on Friday, July 21, at 4pm near the corner of Maryland Avenue and Route 50 in Cambridge. All are invited to attend the dedication.
The mural highlights Cambridge’s rich African-American history, culture and heritage, particularly in the community around Pine Street, which is one of the oldest African-American communities in the country that dates back to the mid-1800s. The 11-foot-by-48-foot mural was created by artist Michael Rosato, whose studio is in downtown Cambridge. Rosato’s work is featured in museums, public spaces and private residences across the country, including the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.
Rosato met with community members to discuss the mural’s design and to get ideas about the people and places they thought should be included. The final product is a mix of some of Dorchester’s most well-known citizens, as well as “ordinary” people. Rosato explained that the design of the mural is very deliberate.
“At the center of the mural is Harriet Tubman, who is a symbol of courage, hard work, perseverance, and loyalty to her family and community,” Rosato said. “Everything radiates out from her, from her heart and center.” (Tubman was born into slavery in Dorchester County, just a few miles away from the mural.)
To Tubman’s left and right are leaders, including Gloria Richardson Dandridge, a key figure in the civil rights movement in Cambridge in the 1960s, and small business owners and everyday people whose contributions may not be as well known but resonate to this day—a bricklayer, a barber, a baker, a farmer, a high school athlete, and more. Other figures in the mural represent a Tuskegee airman; Dr. J. Edwin Fassett; Nurse Maxine Magee, one of the first African-American public health nurses in the country; and Ella Fitzgerald, one of many popular African-American musicians who performed on Pine Street.
“Several of the people in mural are looking out, engaging you, inviting you to learn more about them,” Rosato explained. “To me, it’s a very upbeat, positive look at this vibrant community and its accomplishments over the decades.”
Rosato, who has lived in Dorchester County since 2002, said that living here and being able to create this mural added extra meaning for him. “Living here makes a difference,” he said. “You know there have been tensions and struggles, and dialogue is going on and it’s getting stronger. In a sense, I’m painting a part of that dialogue. It’s a dialogue with a very positive vibe to it.”
“The City of Cambridge is excited to have this mural,” said City Planner Pat Escher. “It’s an interim display representing Cambridge’s rich African American heritage. We anticipate a full community outreach process for the final design of the gateway project once more funds are available.”
Greg Meekins, a Cambridge native, 50-year graduate of Mace’s Lane High School, and long-time member of the Elks Lodge #223 on Pine Street, said that 2017 was the perfect time to create the mural. “This mural and its celebration of local African-American heritage ties in perfectly with other big events this year, particularly the opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center and the 50-year commemoration of the civil rights unrest in Cambridge,” he said. “We see the mural as a powerful way to share our history with everyone passing by on Route 50.”
The mural dedication is part of the “Reflections on Pine” series of events scheduled for July 20-23, which will commemorate 50 years of “civil rights, change, and community” in Cambridge. The events include a community conversation, church service, dinner, and more – all designed to encourage dialogue and healing in the community.
“The mural is an opportunity for us to share yet another chapter in the unique evolution of Cambridge that makes our city historically rich,” said Dion Banks, co-founder of Eastern Shore Network for Change, the organization planning the Reflections on Pine events.“It makes us proud to live here. Our visitors can continue their experience of learning by picking up our Pine Street Walking Tour Guide, schedule to be unveiled on July 20.”
For more information on the Reflections on Pine events, visit ReflectionsOnPine.org.
The mural was funded through a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority and the Federal Highway Administration, and is one of a series of murals throughout Dorchester County that are part of the Chesapeake Country Mural Trail. Find out more about all the murals at bit.ly/MuralTrail.