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Baltimore, Maryland

Graffiti Alley

A hidden alley in urban Baltimore is a haven for graffiti artists. 

Spraying graffiti in the state of Maryland can land you in up to three years of prison and a $2,500 fine. This risk can be found in every corner of the entire state - except for the one hotspot in Maryland where spraying graffiti is legal: Graffiti Alley.

While graffiti artists normally have to hang off fences and look over their shoulders for cops to place their tag, Graffiti Alley allows street artists to relieve stress and create colorful art without fear of being locked up. Located in the States North Arts and Entertainment District of Baltimore, this L-shaped alley is owned by the Graffiti Warehouse, and you can never predict what designs you’re going to see, considering how frequently it’s repainted throughout the year.

Graffiti Alley didn’t used to be so colorful. According to local resident Mark Sherwin, “the alley was a heroin shooting alley and a blow job spot for people who didn’t want to rent a room at the motel next door.” But that all changed when the “Graffiti Warehouse”, a studio filled with street art, decided to locate its headquarters adjacent to the the alley in 2005 with the hope of converting the criminal backstreet into a painted haven for graffiti sprayers.

Nowadays, every square inch of wall space in graffiti alley is filled with flamboyant color - even the trash cans are painted over. As you enter, you’re met by the image of a Muslim woman with a bandolier and a gun with the words, “NO RULES.” Every week, street artists spend hours at the site, perfecting their craft.

Now a hidden gem of Baltimore’s urban atmosphere, Graffiti Alley brings communities together through the lens of creative self-expression, and is often the site of breakdance parties and even school field trips. It reminds all visitors that although graffiti may be seen as uncivil vandalism to some, it is an art filled with heart and soul for those whose lives are shaped around it.

If you want to help protect Graffiti Alley from being paved over by new developments, you can sign the petition by clicking here.

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