Baltimore is one of the best cities to check out street art and graffiti in the U.S. with many murals by talented local artists telling stories about the city’s past and present. Photos by Buenos Aires Street Art.
Ukranian artists Interesni Kazki painted this mural for Open Walls Baltimore in 2012. The duo, who are now working separately, like to fuse elements of science, religion, mythology, nature and the cosmos in their art.
Station North Arts District is one of the best areas to check out large-scale murals, largely thanks to Gaia who is perhaps the best known street artist in Baltimore. Gaia is the brains behind Open Walls Baltimore – a mural project organised together with Station North Arts & Entertainment and with financial support from from PNC Bank and the National Endowment for the Arts – inviting local and international street artists to paint walls around the city. This mural (above) was painted in 2014 for the second editions of Open Walls and is entitled ‘Frontiers’.
Peruvian artist Decertor painted this mural in at Open Walls in 2014 and it’s entitled ‘Migracion’.
Spanish street artist Escif was invited to take part in Open Walls in 2014 and produced this smiley face. We were told Escif was upset that what he wanted to paint wasn’t approved by the festival organisers. Hence the rather sarcastic message “Looks much better now!”
Baltimore street artist Nanook is another well-known local street artist and painted this mural (above) entitled ‘Crown of Bees’ in 2014 for Open Walls 2.
German street artist ECB also visited Baltimore in 2014 for Open Walls and painted this six-storey mural with the portrait of the father of Korean Jae Won Kim, the owner of local store Seoul Rice Cake.
Richard Best is a local artist and founder of Section1 Project, an organisation that curates art projects, and he has painted some huge walls around the city, also for important brands including a 100-ft mural for Under Armour with Billy Mode at their factory located at City Garage.
Hampden is a neighbourhood known for its coffee shops, bars and restaurants and some small art galleries along The Avenue.
Fell’s Point is now one of Baltimore’s most trendy neighbourhoods with cafes, seafood restaurants, boutique shops and a maritime museum.
On the corner of Fleet St and Broadway on the Bank of America building is an eye-catching mural commemorating Baltimore’s maritime history. Fell’s Point was a once maritime community founded in 1726 by William Fell, a shipbuilder from Lancashire, England. More than 600 ships were built in the area.
Argentine muralist Alfredo Segatori teamed up with Uruguayan street artist Pablo Machioli to paint a huge mural of a prehistoric man at 1790 Union Avenue in the Woodberry neighbourhood. The mural was related to a gallery show called ‘Roots’ organised by Section1 Project and Buenos Aires Street Art featuring paintings by Argentine and Baltimore-based street artists. More photos of the making of the mural here
Remington is a neighbourhood that is being regenerated with industrial parks, warehouses and studios. Along West 28th street in front of Baltimore Body Shop is a long wall with a mural featuring three big aligators.
Carrollton Ridge is a low income neighbourhood in southwest Baltimore that has fallen upon hard times. This mural below features a kid playing with a marble and was painted by Mary Carfagno Ferguson.
African American icons
Baltimore has a proud African American history. And portraits of civil rights campaigners and black cultural icons can be found on walls in different parts of the city. Following the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992, Pontella and Deborah Mason painted what’s become known as the Baltimore Wall of Pride in Sandtown that has also become a site for protest meetings.
The mural celebrates the heroes of black history, and includes portraits of Fannie Lou Hamer, James Baldwin, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Kwame Nkrumah, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Langston Hughes, Bob Marley and the anti-slavery figures Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.
This mural by renowned street artist Ernest Shaw depicts Malcolm X, singer Nina Simone and novelist James Baldwin.
Another striking mural by Shaw at Station North pays tribute to jazz icon Billie Holiday who lived and performed in Baltimore. The artwork also includes Shaw’s daughter, and author Ta-Nehisi Coates and his son.
While in Baltimore for the gallery show and organising mural projects for Alfredo Segatori, I had the fortune to to see Ernest Shaw painting a new mural in Sandtown.
This mural at Mount and Prestbury streets features the face of Freddie Gray and was painted by Baltimore street artist artist Nether. Freddie Gray Jr. was arrested on April 12th 2015 and died seven days later from injuries sustained while in police custody. His death sparked widespread protests in Baltimore and sparked a national debate about race and criminal justice.
This mural by local artist Sorta on North Avenue features a protester outside Western District police station during the riots following Gray’s death.
Protest art and murals in Sandtown
Gray’s death sparked a wave of protest and politically-themed art. Many of these murals have been painted in the Sandtown area close to where he was arrested.
The mural (above) depicts 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was followed, shot and killed by neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26th 2012.
More than six weeks later, Zimmerman was arrested and, eventually, tried for second-degree murder in a case that would be as racially polarising as the O.J. Simpson trial.
This mural painted on the side of Hardware Plus store organised with non-profit arts organisation Beats, Rhymes & Relief is entitled ‘My America’ and shows the U.S. flag covering certain communities while passing over others. A powerful message calls for people to fight for justice and equality with the phrase: “Many immigrated to this new land seeking freedom but instead found more oppression… some have been embraced while others are still seen as the enemy.”
Around Sandtown, Gaia has also painted a series of murals depicting arabbers – street vendors using horse-drawn carts to sell fruit and vegetables around the neighbourhood.
All photos © Matt Fox-Tucker/Buenos Aires Street Art