This week my studies in Civic Media were centered around one of my favorite topics – street art and activism.
Since Baltimore is my hometown, I especially loved the article we read for class this week. This article talked about “The Slumlord Project” in Baltimore, an initiative aimed at improving the neglected and abandoned buildings throughout Baltimore city through street art (murals, wheat pasting, etc).
I loved the concept behind this project, as well as the visual style of this article. It breaks down each mural with a description, allowing the reader to gain insight into the meaning and background of each mural project.
One of my favorite murals from “The Slumlord Project” is that of Sorta, which features a young boy, the son of a friend of the artist. He is holding a Baltimore City Schools report card with failing grades while standing in a bucket of Dutch Boy lead paint. The building that this mural is posted on is one of the many lead paint infested dwellings throughout the city. Lead paint can lead to learning disabilities and is the cause of many health issues among children.
The article further touched on many other murals throughout the city and the deeper societal issues that they point to. One young artist, Gaia, was featured in this project. His mural depicts the crown of King Tut with the visage replaced by a cotton field that fades into a row home. This piece also includes a normal suburban home with eagle wings that floats above the word “Exodus” in Hebrew and English. Visualizing the connection between the Jewish and African American experience with migration, Gaia points to new beginnings and freedom in his work. I found this piece especially interesting because of my brother’s connection with Gaia. For my brother’s senior project in high school, he had the opportunity to work with Gaia on a wheat pasting in downtown Baltimore.
Despite their differences in composition and appearance, the murals and wheat pastings of “The Slumlord Project” attempt to create change throughout the communities of Baltimore. Many of these walls feature a QR code. When scanned, the QR code reveals the landlord information of the abandoned building, thus holding the property owners more accountable for their neglect of these buildings. This project creates more engagement among community members and advocates for justice in the community.
Similar to “The Slumlord Project,” Journey2home creates change in the community of Philadelphia by engaging with individuals who have experienced housing insecurity or homelessness. Housing insecurity, a term that I had not heard of before, is defined as spending more than 1/3 of your monthly housing income on housing costs. Minimum wage virtually assures housing insecurity.
Journey2home brings the stories of young people who have been affected by housing insecurity to light and generates a dialogue around the topic. Without Journey2home, I think that this dialogue would otherwise not be touched upon.
Home Safe, one of Journey2home’s past mural projects, was created in order to incorporate the ideas, words, and images from their youth participants and members of the community. This beautiful mural, located at the corner of 42nd and Brown, attracts visitors and sparks a dialogue centered around homelessness and housing insecurity. Through this mural, community members were able to reflect on their journey. Regardless of their current situation, each person was able to contribute to this narrative and add an element from their life to this ongoing story.
I am so excited to head home this weekend for fall break and rest before my midterm exams next week! Stay tuned to hear about my Civic Media midterm – we will have the opportunity to photograph and write a visual analysis essay on one of Philadelphia’s murals.
thanks for reading