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Art in Unexpected Places: Public Art in Ocean City

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Simply look at Ocean City’s gorgeous landscape, and it appears as a masterful work of art itself. In addition to the natural beauty of the resort, there is plenty of manmade artwork all across the town. While you can find creativity in many traditional locations around Ocean City, there is a growing and noticeable trend of art in unexpected places.

For paintings and drawings galore, many residents and visitors head to the world-class Art League of Ocean City on 94th Street. However, the efforts of the Art League team, as well as partners at the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC), and beyond have helped to enshrine art in the resort’s identity.

Some of the most recognized OCDC projects include the White Marlin Sculpture at the downtown entrance to the resort and the Dolphin Sculpture at the foot of the Route 90 bridge. Over $450,000 in private contributions have made these projects and others possible.

Widespread across the town are over 38 repurposed and painted utility boxes, brightening up the otherwise bland power sources. OCDC often collaborates with the Art League to design the boxes and commissions local artists to work their magic.

This utility box is located on North Division Street, just west of the Boardwalk. The box was painted by Erica DeHart of the Art League of Ocean City.

“These painted boxes are found at most intersections in the downtown area. OCDC has completed a variety of public art projects, including sculptures, murals, and decorative bricks, but it is this utility box program that many visitors and residents contact OCDC about,” explained Glenn Irwin, executive director of OCDC. “They love these simple art pieces that quickly transform a bland utility box into a piece of artwork.”

Delmarva Power grants use of the boxes and PPG Paints on 8th Street donates supplies.

A utility box by Carole Gentes located Northside of Talbot Street between Boardwalk and South Baltimore Avenue. Can you decode the message using the QR code?

“The utility boxes bring art to places where you wouldn’t expect it,” said Aubrey Sizemore, Volunteer Coordinator at the Art League of Ocean City. “You can turn the corner and see them on the walk to breakfast or the beach. It’s such a pleasant surprise.”

A new walking guide produced by OCDC in 2021 allows visitors to explore the many boxes located throughout downtown Ocean City, as well as in other locations further north. Click here to view the guide. 

Inside the Art League, artists are finding even more ways to showcase their talents. In early July, the Arts Center opened the “Staircase Gallery,” lauded as a new exhibition with a permanent ocean-themed mural curated by locals Francisco Rivera of Lincoln, Delaware, and Ian Postley of Bishopville, Maryland. In addition to the mural, Rivera has many of his works hanging from the walls of the stairwell, adding creativity to a space never before thought of as a gallery.

Francisco Rivera hard at work in the new Staircase Gallery.

If the staircase was not enough, there is now a mural in another spot where you would have never expected it – the tennis court. Hoisted across the fence of the courts located next to the Arts Center, the mural, titled Seaside Recollections, by Jeanne Anderton of Hebron, Maryland, lights up 94th Street and features photograms. The solar prints are made of trash and treasures scooped up on the beach and Ocean City Boardwalk.

“The mural is cyanotype photograms of items collected at various locations on the Ocean City Boardwalk,” Anderton said. “Collected items — food, wrappers, cigarettes, clothing tags, napkins, and natural elements including sand, feathers, leaves, and broken shells — are collected and placed on coated, light-sensitive paper and exposed to the sun.”

Anderton, as well as the Town of Ocean City, a partner in the project, hope that the mural influences people to view everyday objects and trash in a different light.

There is certainly art all across Ocean City, but where it may pop up next is anyone’s guess. Still, there is no question that the resort is home to endless creativity and that public art is a public service for all.

Logan Dubel
Logan Dubel is a contributor for OceanCity.com. You can catch his newscast, This Week in Ocean City, on our YouTube channel, SeeOC. He is a Baltimore County native, recent Franklin High School graduate, and will begin college in fall 2022 at the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the OceanCity.com team in June 2020. In addition, he serves as a freelance writer and intern for the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum. Logan has a strong passion for covering the news and its impact on Marylanders. Since arriving at OceanCity.com, he has covered the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, interviewed newsmakers such as First Lady Yumi Hogan, Mayor Rick Meehan, and members of the City Council, featured local businesses, and covered local events. In high school, he served as public address announcer, welcoming fans for soccer, football, basketball, field hockey, and lacrosse games. Logan was also the news and managing editor for The Gazette. Additionally, Logan was involved with Franklin's internationally recognized mock trial team and previously studied in a legal reasoning mentorship at Vanderbilt University. In March 2021, Logan was a finalist for Student Member of the Baltimore County Board of Education.

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