Can Artists Help Preserve Baltimore’s Arabbing Tradition?

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Gaia's a-rab mural. Photo by M. Holden Warren, via Vandalog.com
Gaia’s a-rab mural. Photo by M. Holden Warren, via Vandalog.com

Baltimore’s a-rabs, who sell fresh fruit and vegetables from brightly painted horse-drawn carts, have long been on the decline — the Arabber Preservation Society was founded nearly 20 years ago. Current APS vice-president and filmmaker M. Holden Warren has devised a plan for their continued survival that utilizes the talents of well-known street artists to turn an a-rab stable into¬†“a stop on the city’s cultural map.

A-rabs are a uniquely Baltimorean phenomenon and a pleasant sight on city streets, but there’s more at stake than that. Not only do they bring fresh food to neighborhoods where it is otherwise scarce, but the trade is very much a family tradition — the Gaia mural above depicts four generations of an a-rabbing family.

The street art murals are the first move toward turning the stable into a “living museum,” according to the Baltimore Sun. If artists can play a role in attracting investors for such a project, it would be a coup and a counterargument to the persistent fear that artists are always unwitting agents of gentrification.



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