Lexington Market, the nation’s oldest continuously operating public market, has undergone change since its first inception. Originally, it wasn’t even called Lexington Market, but rather the Western Precincts Market. When it began in 1782, it was just a stretch of pastureland set aside for vendors. That land had been donated by John Eager Howard, a Revolutionary War general, and soon the market was renamed “Lexington” after the battle which began that war.
Since then, the market has taken many shapes. Buildings were erected in 1803 to accommodate the market’s ever-growing size. By the mid-19th century, Lexington Market had reached such a scale that Ralph Waldo Emerson called it “the gastronomic capital of the world.” In the mid-20th century, the market burned down and had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Today, Lexington Market is undergoing yet another transformation. Starting in 2018, the City of Baltimore set about a massive renovation project. Anyone who’s been to the market recently has seen the new South Market building going up alongside the old East Market. A walking plaza is also being built where the old Arcade was taken down. These projects are being carried out by Seawall Development, the Baltimore-based company responsible, among other things, for R. House in Remington.
From the beginning of the renovation project, Baltimore City and Seawall envisioned a role for art and artists. They wanted to commission and display artworks from Baltimore-based artists that would make a significant contribution to the surrounding Bromo Arts District and signal the importance of local culture to the new space. Together with the Baltimore Municipal Arts Society, Seawall issued two public calls for “permanent, site-specific, integrated artworks” open to Maryland artists and those living in nearby states.