Curated by Yvonne Hardy-Phillips as her thesis project in the MFA program at Maryland ICA in 2017, “You Are Here” is a project that was born out of a desire to tell the story of neighborhoods in East Baltimore.
From the Explore Baltimore website:
“Baltimore’s concentration of historic, cultural, and natural resources makes the city a truly unique place. The city has been witness to events that have dramatically altered the course of the nation’s history. Over the centuries it has also been witness to more subtle changes in the way Americans work, play, and live. With heritage area designation, both the state of Maryland and the U.S. Congress have acknowledged Baltimore for its capacity to tell these important stories.”
The neighborhoods of Johnston Square and Oliver are just outside of the boundaries of the heritage area. The heritage area is defined as a place “…where historic structures, landscapes, cultural traditions, and other resources work together to tell patterns of history unique to the location.” A National Heritage Site also brings resources to businesses and residents within its boundaries, such as grants and tourism related programming. Hardy-Phillips argues that Oliver and Johnston Square should be included in the designated heritage area, as the history of these neighborhoods and people have rich cultural histories. “You Are Here” creates a sense of pride in these often overlooked African American neighborhoods and recognizes that there are many untold stories of immigrants and people of color who have lived in this area over the years. While the narrative of these neighborhoods has generally made them seem undesirable to visit, “You Are Here” emphasizes the opposite – there are many important cultural assets unique to these neighborhoods, and they should be celebrated.
In this project, Hardy-Phillips creates a physical map of the untold stories and cultural assets within these East Baltimore neighborhoods through the use of art and creative practice. Hardy-Phillips has been connected to these neighborhoods since the 1970’s, when her parents invested in buildings in the area and ran successful businesses out of them. Yvonne inherited these buildings and has been a longtime advocate for including these neighborhoods in the Heritage Site. “You Are Here” is a continuation of this work.
“You Are Here” is centered on the corner of Hartford and Biddle Streets, and takes the form of murals which include images based on East Baltimore’s history. The two historic buildings on which the murals exist are the same buildings that Yvonne’s parents once owned, and are now under her ownership. The murals are one of several artistic interventions meant to bring attention to this area and tell the stories of the community legacy and resiliency of its residents. Yvonne curated eight artists to collaboratively reimagine the facades of these buildings and tell community stories.
All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.