Graffiti artists are used to working under the cover of darkness, looking over their shoulders to keep watch for cops. Getting caught spraying graffiti can land a tagger up to three years in prison and a $2,500 fine, except in Graffiti Alley, where artists are granted amnesty and allowed to express themselves and perfect their craft. Graffiti Alley has a gritty past. It used to be the site of drug deals and illicit sexual activity until Graffiti Warehouse bought the lot across the way in 2005. Suddenly, the street was alive with street artists, breakdancers, and people who wanted to be a part of the action. The alley is covered from top to bottom with bright color and layers upon layers of art.
New works emerge every day, so visitors never know what they might find. A portrait of Tupac with the words Keep Ya Head Up is the work of Will The Artist, a recent graduate from The Maryland Institute College of Art’s M.F.A. program. Will recently completed “Dedication, Hard Work, and Patience,” a tribute to rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle after his death earlier in 2019. Will has been featured in numerous galleries, including the Curtis Jacobs Gallery in Harlem, NY, Pepco Edison Place Gallery in D.C., and others throughout Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Baltimore.
Multi-disciplinary illustrator Megan Lewis’s portraits have also been found in Graffiti Alley. Lewis is best known for artwork that reflects critical views of social, historical, and cultural issues inspired by black women. She has been translating her work into public murals since 2015 through her partnership with Art@Work, an award-winning partnership between Baltimore Office of Public Art and Jubilee Arts. Megan was also the first black female artist to be commissioned to produce artwork for Maryland’s Public transit system. Her portrait of Billie Holiday in Graffiti Alley is an iconic and long-standing piece of art in the ever-changing gallery. Her signature style can also be seen in an illustration of a colored woman wearing hoop earrings. Many more famous and burgeoning artists make their mark on Graffiti Alley, making it a city hotspot for tourists, field trips, aspiring artists, and local art-lovers.
Special thanks to Baltimurals for providing images and information about Graffiti Alley. Baltimurals is the brainchild of Maria Wolfe, street art lover extraordinaire who has been capturing Baltimore's art since 2013.