The Block Beautification Project: Three Years Later.

Author:Clemons, Kenneth C.
 
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The Block Beautification Project: Three Years Later

Three years ago, I was commissioned to be the lead artist of the Anchor Grant Beautification project, which I wrote about in 2017 for the International Social Science Review. Since then, there have been even more opportunities to partake in creating community (or public) artwork, from painting murals in different communities in Baltimore City alongside well-known muralists to creating plywood dancing sculptures for an annual ball. Even though I had been producing artwork elsewhere, my thoughts returned to the original artwork that I created with the youth and I wondered if it was still standing. I visit West Baltimore to spend time with relatives and friends and attend community meetings at Bon Secours Community Works. I took these visits as opportunities to revisit the community and see the original artwork alongside the latest amazing artworks that bloomed within the Shipley Hills community.

As I revisited the plywood artwork in those neighborhoods, the conditions within some areas in these communities were pretty much the same as they were before--trash-ridden properties, rat-infected alleyways, and rows of vacant houses. Although it was not a pleasant sight to see occasional blight that plagues most poor communities, it was awesome to see familiar faces in the community that take pride in maintaining the neighborhood. Before each visit, I recognize there are three possible statuses of our artwork. It was most likely that the artwork was still there, but the artwork may had disappeared (or worse, been vandalized), and some brand-new installations of public artwork may have appeared in the neighborhood, which I knew had occurred in at least a few places, as I also had a hand in the recent installment of newer public artwork. However, there was a fourth possibility I had not accounted for...

The Tour Begins...

The plywood doors and windowpanes on the 1500 block of West Lexington Street are still intact. I was pleasantly surprised that the paint was still fresh and vibrant with the Bon Secours Hospital logo still clearly visible. Even though the bright navy blue and white painted images were present on the plywood boards, the vacant homes remain a reminder of the bleak outlook of the block. On one side of the block, there are residents in the homes but the homes are vacant on the other side. I do recall one resident was quite pleased when we were painting these images the first time.

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