Street Art Seen As a Ticket to Revitalization in Baltimore

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson reports on Open Walls Baltimore, the city’s first officially sanctioned street art exhibition, which seeks to bring new life to a transitional neighborhood, and presents a dilemma for its curator.
April 3, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Running through the end of May on twenty walls throughout Baltimore's Station North Arts and Entertainment District, the murals appearing during Open Walls are being curated by the artist Gaia.

Dickinson profiles the "museum for street art" being created to help revitalize a community that suffers from high vacancy, empty lots, low incomes, and crime, and the growing global trend in which "Cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, London, Barcelona, and others have appropriated what was once an illegal art form for economic revitalization purposes."

While Open Walls aims to draw new people into a district in which other investment is driving a slow, but sure, turnaround, Dickinson examines the delicate balance the project entails for participating artists, many of whose work focuses on drawing "attention to injustice or imbalance in the ecosystem of the city."

"Much of Gaia's street art in Baltimore offers a critique of a capitalistic society built on private property and the disinvestment in the American city. With Open Walls, he and his contemporaries are embracing official events that could, if successful, raise property values and price out existing residents.

Gaia recognizes this. 'If this results in the neighborhood flipping, it will be a tremendous failure and I will feel really guilty,' he says."

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Published on Friday, March 23, 2012 in Grist
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