Is it audacious of us to believe that a single civic action can change Baltimore?
In the 1960’s, construction of The Highway to Nowhere (The Highway, Route 40 East & West) displaced thousands of West Baltimore residents. The Highway is 1.5 miles long—a two minute ride with 3.5 miles of blank, 30-foot walls that block out the communities behind it. Thousands of riders use this highway daily, while the communities on either side of The Highway remain broken and divided.
But we can help this community move past the problems created by construction and turn The Highway into something marvelous. What if each rider who uses The Highway donated two dollars every time it was used? (An idea forwarded by Laurie Bezold of Fusion Partnerships, Inc.) One dollar would go towards the costs of painting murals on the highway and the other toward a local charity of choice. Not only would we would have the largest running mural in North America, but charitable organizations throughout the city would benefit. West Baltimore would become “a community of murals” and a tourist destination, bringing attention and resources into a culturally isolated community.
Denise Johnson, of the Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation, a former community organizer and a partner in turning the spaces along The Highway into cultural reuse said, “The Highway project provides an opportunity to give a different meaning to the past, an opportunity to give credit to the current communities that have dealt with the obstruction for many years, and an opportunity for those pasting through to create a new landscape for all to enjoy. At this time, we all can become engaged in creating ART and Culture.”
The audacious idea here is that we Baltimoreans, collectively, have the capacity to change our city.
Another audacious idea for the city, The Algebra Project, needs to find summer jobs for hundreds of youth. For more information contact Jay Gillen, the Project Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.