Defining and Understanding Street Art as it Relates to the Black Lives Matter Movement in Baltimore

Authors: Meredith Stone*, Association of American Geographers
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: street art, race, urban geography
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: Download

Baltimore gained national attention in the spring of 2014 after Freddie Gray, a young black man, died while in police custody. This event sparked protests in Baltimore and other cities in the U.S. and soon became associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. One way to bring communities together, give voice to disenfranchised residents, and broadcast political and social justice messages is through street art. While it is difficult to define street art, let alone assess its impact, it is clear that many of the messages it communicates resonate with host communities. This paper investigates how street art is used in Baltimore neighborhoods to resist oppression, how Black Lives Matter is influencing street art in Baltimore, and how the City of Baltimore is defining and promoting this form of art. Using qualitative research methods, including interviews and newspaper analysis, I explore the opinions and views of Baltimoreans with respect to street art and provide insight into the conjunction of racial tension and artistic expression. This study brings to light important aspects of urban governance, social justice, community development and public space through investigation of activism through community-based street art.

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