A sculpture garden and fortress a local artist created and has lived in at Druid Hill Park for over a year was torn down Thursday by Department of Public Works employees.

The artist, Colin Williams, was not present during the dismantling as small trucks clawed away at piles of items in the rain. But the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Department said in a statement that this week during a winter shelter declaration, when the temperature with wind chill reaches freezing, multiple city departments and agencies increased efforts to shelter people experiencing homelessness.

Kyana Underwood, a public information officer with the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, said coordination to shelter someone who was at Druid Hill Park began Tuesday, but could not identify the person because of client confidentiality. Clients have to give consent to have their information shared, Underwood added.

The Baltimore City Fire Department found Williams to be using potentially hazardous ways to stay warm and the Department of Housing and Community Development was alerted to provide support, according to Tierra Brown, chief of marketing communications with the parks department.

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Brown said Williams accepted support and chose to “transition out of Druid Hill Park and into temporary housing.” Williams was able to, she added, select certain pieces of art to keep in a parks department storage facility and “identified items that he wanted to discard.”

The public works department was notified to remove the remaining items, Brown said. Williams could not be reached by The Baltimore Banner to share his account of events.

Employees with Baltimore's Department of Public Works demolish Colin Williams' art exhibit in Druid Hill Park on Thursday, Dec. 15. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Williams previously told The Baltimore Banner in a story about his life in the park that he found and collected things from around the city and repurposed them. He called himself the “unofficial artist-in-residence” at the park and formed relationships with several park visitors who bought his artwork and brought him food, art supplies, clothes and toiletries.

Williams moved into the park during the pandemic after working back-to-back unfulfilling jobs and yearning for autonomy and the freedom to create artwork on his own terms. He previously told The Baltimore Banner he turned down offers for shelter in the past because he preferred the park where he could come and go, keep his own cabinet of food and sleep beneath the stars.

Park officials left him alone, he said, other than to tell him where he could put his art and belongings. Baltimore City Recreation and Parks said in a statement in November that they were working with the mayor’s office to help those experiencing homelessness within the city’s public parks.

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Thursday morning, a separate pickup truck collected metal items from Williams display, to haul to a junk yard, DPW workers said. One large dump truck filled to the brim pulled away from the grassy area next to the Rawlings Conservatory by 11 a.m. and the lawn was almost entirely cleared at noon.

Employees with Baltimore's Department of Public Works demolish Colin Williams' art exhibit in Druid Hill Park on Thursday, Dec. 15. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Earlier Thursday, Colin’s sister, Jocelyn Williams, said she did not know her brother’s display was being moved. She hasn’t seen or heard from him since finding out . If he is sheltered, she said, she’s relieved but curious about what his plans are.

“I’m glad that he’s being taken care of, but I know he had a goal in mind to create art in the park,” she said.

jasmine.vaughn@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a neighborhood and community reporter at the Baltimore Banner, covering the people, challenges, and solutions within West Baltimore. Have a tip about something happening in your community? Taco recommendations? Call or text Jasmine at 443-608-8983.

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