Maryland students showcase works of art in Long Branch neighborhood

University of Maryland students took over public space in the Long Branch neighborhood and put a spotlight on an area that may soon get even more attention with the Purple Line.

“This piece is called Thirsty for Change,” says Kristen Fox, a graduate student at the University of Maryland. Her piece consists of 3,444 plastic bottles.

Hands-on work takes on new meaning for Fox. She spent the semester along with other classmates using the Long Branch community as their canvas.

“My favorite thing to do is watch the kids,” says Fox. “You’ll see as soon as they get off school they immediately run in and run around the tree here.”

The two-week public art display aims to connect the neighborhood while showcasing what the area has to offer.

“This temporary work is part of thinking about the longer term vision,” says Ronit Eisenbach, a professor at the University of Maryland.

Part of the future plans includes the highly-anticipated and controversial Purple line, a light rail system proposed to go through Long Branch.

“We’re recognizing that these development projects may take a while,” says Robert Goldman, President of the Montgomery Housing Partnership. “I think that art projects are a way to bridge that time period.”

Goldman works for a Montgomery County nonprofit group that creates affordable homes in the county and supports neighborhoods where they exist

“We’re preserving properties that we feel are at risk of becoming much higher rent,” Goldman says.

In collaboration with UMD and other stakeholders, they attracted new life and began an important conversation.

“Suddenly people are realizing, hey we can use this space and we can do something like this again,” says Eisenbach.

While the work is set to come down May 20, organizers are in discussion with the University of Maryland to keep the pieces on display on campus.

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