Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Invasion of the Crabs!

While thinking about what my focus would be for my final commonplace entry this term I remembered a strange type of art that my city has been displaying since the summer of 2005.

Back in 2005 a project was created named The Crabtown Project which raised money for Baltimore City Schools because they are drastically underfunded and in terrible condition throughout the city. The project invited local artists to take a 5X5 foot fiberglass crab and turn it into a work of art. Over 350 artists were vying for a chance to get their hands on one of them. Out of those 350, 200 where eventually chosen. After the artists had completed their creations, the crabs were unleashed upon the unsuspecting city. In the fall, all of the crabs where auctioned off and ended up raising over a million dollars for renovations to bathrooms, replacement of exterior doors and floor tiles, carpet replacement and other needs for the schools. All of the artists received a bit of money (~$1,000) but most of them agreed that the project was fun and they would have participated without payment in order to help the schools. What I found exceptionally intriguing was some of the artists asked for input from the kids, what they wanted to see and create, not only what the artist felt like making.

Most of these crabs are no longer in Baltimore City but the few that do remain stand proudly and represent the full hearts of Baltimore artists and the people and businesses of the city. Some of the crabs are in plain sight, around tourist attractions such as the inner harbor or outside of Raven's stadium. Others are hidden only seen by the Baltimore native who knows where to look. When they first appeared I thought they were around because summer was approaching, thus crab season, a promotion tactic or maybe a college school project. But when they stuck around I was determined to find out why. When I did I was truly proud to a Baltimorean knowing how our city pulled together with a public event such as this one. And to help children no less. When I see tourists and children down in the city pointing at them, playing on them, and taking pictures of them I think about how absurd they must seem to an outsider. But if they knew the story behind them they might come to mean more then just creative and beautifully decorated glass crabs. These pieces of art have a deeper hidden meaning then simply sitting by the Washington Monument or outside of the Aquarium; they represent my city. Not only because crabs are the trademark of Maryland but also because of the goodhearted and loving people who inhabit a city that as of late is only known for it's high crime rate and subpar schooling. Creating these crabs was not something these artists did for the money or their careers necessarily. They were created by people who care about creating art for a cause and helping hundreds of schools and children. If you ever have a chance to visit Charm City make sure to keep an eye out for a crab taxi or referee and take the time to stop and explore them, find out who created them. Some of the artists even give credit to the children who helped creatively and physically build these art crabs.

I don’t usually enjoy art for causes because to me the events (as well as the art) seem forced. But in this case I found the art intuitive, unique, and creative, capturing my full attention and emotion.

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