Walking around in the abandoned areas of Baltimore gave me a peace of mind that the NYPD would never allow in New York. However, engaging life-long citizens of Baltimore about the graffiti surrounding them in the streets came with its own merits. The blending of New York and Baltimore-based artists that I saw in the the city’s innards was mirrored in its streets. With the, then recent, invasion of international artists for Open Walls Baltimore, the city had become a hub for any east coast street artist to visit. As long as you had friends in the area or on the roster, chances are you ended up there.
The most positive community reaction I saw during the mural program was from one of these visiting artists, LNY. I was busy rubbing up against poison ivy and stepping over mattresses when he put this piece up in Martha Cooper’s neighborhood. Recently, artists such as Gaia, Stikman, and now LNY have been activating the blank walls in her part of the city. I came by the day after LNY had pasted up two pieces in the neighborhood, which were based on imagery specific to the area. The people living in the surrounding area knew nothing of me or my relationship to the street art scene, making their honest reaction all the more valuable. When they saw me taking pictures of the newly placed pieces they didn’t ask me if I knew the artist, instead they told me of this amazing guy, LNY, who had come to put work across from their houses. They now sit across from the murals every day on their lawns and wanted everyone to know how much the neighborhood appreciated this work.
During the time of Open Walls, New York’s visiting artists had a direct impact on Baltimore’s citizens. Since visiting the area months ago, the city has also impacted me and the way I see graffiti in the city. I have started to notice Baltimore artists such as Avoid, MTN and Fisho NGC on my daily walks around the city. Whether it is the playful character of MTN or a simply a tagged name, the synergy between Baltimore and NYC artists is reflected in both cities.
Photos by Rhiannon Platt