PiXelation

In the world of social media in the 21st century, “Meet Your Neighbor: Building Neighborliness in Southeast Baltimore,” explores how might we encourage human interaction and build neighborliness in a time when social media interactions are the preferred method of communication? This project gives a voice and equitable intervention to an area affected by disparities of crime and safety, the 100 block of N Montford Ave in Baltimore, MD, thirty-nine rowhomes located in Patterson Place, Southeast Baltimore. This project came from a space of me personally feeling lonely and disconnected from the world of physical human interaction. My deep desire to know my neighbors and build a relationship outside of saying hello, asking a neighbor to grab your package, or seeking video footage for a crime that took place on our block. My own experiences with crime, a home invasion, package thefts, car break-ins, and instances of feeling watched or in danger in the middle of the night have made me afraid of where I live. As the 100 block of N Montford Ave gentrifies, there is a unique opportunity to unite residents who have grown up and have been living on this block their entire life alongside new young homeowners looking to settle down, grow roots, or start families in Baltimore. My goals are to create a community, building upon the five households I already knew, establish a network of good neighbors and expand beyond simply knowing neighbors to the left and right of you, and on your side of the block. Lastly, my mission is to reduce crime and increase safety for all of the neighbors on our block by amplifying lighting on our street, mobilizing neighbors to be outside more often, and addressing unity for all neighbors through gentrification. I was pretty apprehensive about moving forward in quarantine during COVID-19, but I was surprised to learn that neighbors were more open to participating in block events during this time. I threw out an idea for a “Social Distancing Stoop Night” event on 3/20/2020, a few neighbors jumped on-board, and on the day of, our musician neighbors, THOSEPEOPLE, offered to perform for the block as practice before their live-stream. It was marvelous! We engaged neighbors in music and human interaction, with each person experiencing the concert, from their stoops or six feet of distance apart from one another, on the sidewalk. This event brought a sense of closeness, growth, and a moment of hope and brightness in our community during these challenging times. Throughout this project, the entire neighborhood was able to unite on the desire to get string lights up on our block. We had all seen these lights in Butcher’s Hill and on individual blocks in Patterson Park. That became a primary focus for my thesis, “Bmore Lights,” the installation of string lights on this block, addressing issues of gentrification, crime reduction, and community engagement in a productive way. These lights have brought an increased sense of safety, improve visibility on the sidewalk, encourage neighbors to be outside more, improves camera footage, and beautifies the neighborhood. On 5/7/2020, the first set of string lights went up on the even-numbered houses on the block. I hope to get these lights installed on the odd-numbered side by 5/28/2020, with eight homes left to garner support. I have received 78.3% buy-in so far for the cost of installing “Bmore Lights” on every single house on the block. Since the inception of this project, I now know thirty-two out of the thirty-nine rowhomes on the block. Whereas, I began my thesis only knowing five households. I have created the following for my block, a Facebook group with thirty members, a Facebook messenger chat group with forty neighbors, and the Contacts information of forty-six neighbors. As artists and designers, we have the power to affect change, together, we will transform our cities, nations, and the world, block by block, and envision a better world for all. Recipient: Center for Creative Citizenship’s 2020 Community Engagement Grant. Partners: Maryland Institute College of Art, Patterson Park Neighborhood Association.