Earlier this year, a group of artists (led by Nether) working under the Wall Hunters banner teamed up Carol Ott of Baltimore Slumlord Watch for the Slumlord Project, an effort to draw attention to “dilapidated vacant houses” in Baltimore that the project organizers determined were owned by peopled they considered “negligent property owners.” One of those property owners, Stanley Rochkind, is now suing Ott through two of the shell companies through which Rochkind owns property. The lawsuits demand that Ott remove two murals from buildings that were painted by the Wall Hunters artists. The lawsuits are particularly ironic because Rochkind initially claimed not to own these buildings and the Wall Hunters artists painted these buildings specifically because Rochkind has not bothered to maintain them.
So… Rochkind is suing for “repairs,” on dilapidated buildings that he has not bothered to actually repair in any way and which, in an effort to discredit the Wall Hunters, he initially claimed not to own. Sounds like a stand-up guy.
One of the most pivotal aspects of street art is the democratization of public space. Whether people choose to engage or not, graffiti and street art are a way of reminding the everyday pedestrian that they have the power to manipulate their environment (sometimes at a price). Many residents of Balitmore have had to accept dilapidated neighborhoods as their everyday quality of life. The structures around them are literally falling apart due to neglect from city government property owners and has resulted in a massive property-vacancy problem. If Broken Window Theory has anything to do with it, that “If the city doesn’t care, why should I?” mentality has fostered one of the highest crime rates for any city in the country.
What does street art have to do with Baltimore’s structural issues and decline in living standards? Over a dozen street artists have taken on the task of bringing attention to these issues in a grassroots effort, through installing large pieces on some of the city’s dilapidated, vacant houses. Nether, Gaia, LNY, Noh J Coely, Mata Ruda, Nanook, Harlequinade and others have joined their forces as a non-profit organization called Wall Hunters have teamed up with Baltimore Slumlord Watch to put up large-scale murals on these eye-sore structures with QR codes alongside which informs viewers of who owns the vacant property. Simultaneously, they are creating a documentary with Nether and Carol Ott at the forefront, showing this massive issue corroding Baltimore and their relatively small effort to combat it. They’ve received a bit of funding to make their project possible but not enough, so they’ve created this Indiegogo campaign to bring it to fruition.