When artists survey downtown Baltimore’s gritty facades and boarded-up windows, they don’t see blight — they see a canvas. A street art festival aims to change the look of a city known for its struggling neighborhoods by literally painting the town.
Open Walls Baltimore is bringing in internationally known artists to create public murals in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. More than 20 artists will paint facades as a quick pick-me-up for a transitional neighborhood that houses both young artists who attend the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art and economically challenged older residents. Some of the renowned street artists participating in the fair include Gaia (who is also curating the festival), Swoon, Overunder and Momo, among others. The festival has attracted big sponsors in PNC Bank and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The mural project will be akin to one in Miami’s Wynwood district, going beyond the typical spray paint or wheatpaste to create an art destination. Baltimore Brew notes that one artist will be utilizing human body casts in a wall, while another will be chipping away at plaster to create a bas relief. They will not be political (but for those interested in some street art with a message, a Trayvon Martin mural, separate from the festival, has popped up nearby).
Gaia, in an interview for Grist, said that the project isn’t aiming to “flip” the neighborhood to make it upscale, but rather to consider its existing population.
“We’re so burdened in America by the real estate holdings of people, we’re so burdened by this presence of difficult properties sitting inert and then suddenly all of the invisible forces come together and they can literally transform it overnight,” Gaia said. “This neighborhood has sat idly with more than 150 abandoned properties. It is primed and ready for change.”