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Yvonne Hardy-Phillips

January 10, 2017
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curated by Yvonne Hardy-Phillips 
April 2016-ongoing

Nicole Fall
Deb Jenson
Megan Lewis
Christ Metzger
New Edition Marching Band
Tiffany Small
Joyce J. Scott
& works by congregation members from Nazarene Baptist Church

You Are Here, a socially engaged public art project, will host its official opening on Sunday October 9th, 2016 from 3:00 -5:00pm at 1137-1139 Harford Ave., Baltimore, MD 21202. You are Here is a project on the corner of Hartford and Biddle Streets that transforms two iconic properties, using images based on East Baltimore’s history. These murals serve as visual expressions of the resilience of the community and self-determination of its residents. 

Exhibition curator and MICA 2017 MFA candidate, Yvonne Hardy-Phillips likens this project to the act of wrapping the site with art and serving as a present and future place marker, commemorating the unfolding history of East Baltimore. You Are Here punctuates the use of art as activism and as a tool to promote community development by engaging its creative class.

In the You Are Here project, two muralists and works by five artists transform the exterior wall surfaces of two buildings, creating cultural sign posts that herald a community on the rise once again—phoenix-like—in beauty and truth. The photographer Chris Metzger wheat-pasted largescale black and white photographs of community residents on the south wall of the two-story building at Hartford and Biddle Streets. Entitled I Am That I Am, this mural pays tribute to the image of striking Memphis sanitation workers by Ernest Withers.

International Baltimore-based artist Gaia created a mural on the north side of the site. His mural serves as a memorial to Mrs. Henrietta Lacks; an African American woman whose blood cells were sampled and tested without her knowledge and/or consent at Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH). It was discovered that her cells were able to survive and multiply outside of the human body. As a result of the harvesting of her cells, medical research was revolutionized, making it possible to find vaccines and lifesaving medications the world over. Neither, JHH or the international medical research and pharmaceutical communities ever compensated Mrs. Lacks or her family. Rendered in brilliant seas of blues, this mural contains bold portraits of central characters in the Lacks’ story, including Henrietta Lacks and Johns Hopkins, highlighting a terse unruly history. These murals are intended to foster discussion as it relates to race, history and a sense of place.

In addition, works by the artists Joyce J. Scott, glass and mixed media artist; sculptor, Nicole Fall; fiber artist, Deb Jenson; designer, Tiffany Small and muralist, Megan Lewis will be added to the murals already on display. These artists bring additional context to the dialogue generated by the I Am That I Am mural, which addresses issues of empowerment, and the Lacks mural that graphically expounds on her special story, in which she surfaces as a heroine within the medical sphere. Scott, Fall, Jenson, Small and Lewis have mined the Oliver community creating works that specifically relate its African American constituency and the histories they embody.

The curator, Yvonne Hardy-Phillips, envisioned this project as a way to physically map the rich cultural story of historic central East Baltimore through portrait photography, oral interviews and site-specific public art. The idea grew out of the realization that the neighborhoods of Oliver and Johnston Square (on the eastside of the city) were not included in the Baltimore City Heritage Area map, a National Park Service certified designation as of 2001. The ultimate objective of You Are Here is to foster the development and historic recognition of the Oliver community through creative interventions. Through the use of art and creative uses, it is anticipated that the community with be designated as a Baltimore City Heritage Area in the near future.