Everyday Utopias exhumes the promises of a once-segregated pool with contemporary artworks that dignify identity and cultivate hope over despair. Pool No. 2 (1921-1956) operated as a segregated pool in the historically black section of Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. It is known as the Colored Pool among long time residents, Pool No. 2 by city officials and Memorial Pool (1999) among contemporary artists.
After the 1953 accidental drowning of a young African American boy in the Patapsco River, the local NAACP chapter built up a successful campaign that resulted in the integration of Baltimore’s public pools. The city subsequently filled in the pool with grass sometime during 1980s.
In 1999, Baltimore based artist Joyce J. Scott was commissioned by Baltimore City Recreation and Parks to create an on site public art installation at Pool No. 2. Scott decidedly made the filled in lawn, original metal diving board, life guard chair, ladders and boys changing rooms part of the installation as a way to pay homage to the pool’s patrons and commemorate the desegregation of Baltimore’s public pools.
From the initial campaign to construct the city’s first public pool for black people to the resolute activism that led to its eventual closure, Pool No. 2 reflects the quotidian pragmatism of an “everyday utopia”—a term coined specifically to define those creative practices that we engage in daily to find new and better ways to improve our lives and the world around us. Thus, an everyday utopia embraces all aspects of civic participation from the personal to the political.
Artworks on display invite viewers to consider the promise of both real and imagined aspects of civic participation as they navigate their way through physical structures and spiritual spaces of the pool’s remains. Pool No.2 was a local flashpoint for the discourse on race that was happening nationally in American society during the mid-1950s and is a physical reminder that the failures and struggles of our efforts at civic repair are just as important as the successes.
The exhibition brings together ten contemporary artists who respond to the palpable history of Pool No. 2 with imaginative wit, humor, and compassion. Artists include Billy Colbert, Sutton Demlong, Andrew Keiper, Fluid Movement, Tiffany Jones, Lauren R. Lyde, Antonio McAfee, Edward-Victor Sanchez, Michael Trueblood and MacArthur Genius Fellow Joyce J. Scott.