In 2011, street artist JR made a call to art and a call to action -- a call he hoped would reach people around the world. "I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project," he said. "And together, we'll turn the world inside out."
"Inside Out" is the name of the project, which challenges people around the globe to share their portrait and a message they believe in. Thus far, the project has attracted over 200,000 people from 112 countries, from Ecuador to Nepal to Palestine. Issues addressed range from climate change to gender-based violence, all communicated through the simple yet striking image of a large, black-and-white pasted portrait.
Now, the students of Morgan State University’s Visual Arts Department are taking a hint from JR and collaborating, along with Computer Graphics II and Computers in Art Design professor Chris Metzger, on an "Inside Out" Group Action project, a visual response to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.
"For me, Black Lives Matter -- way before it became this social media movement, before it became a hashtag -- it’s always been a part of my work," artist Sheldon Scott explained in a previous interview with The Huffington Post. "We’ve been saying these things for years about … mistreatment and injustices."
From June 17 to June 19, students teamed up to take on the facade of the future home of Open Works in Baltimore City, a space meant to serve as an incubator for Baltimore's creative economy.
"Research shows that Baltimore City ranks 100th out of 100 cities nationally in terms of income mobility," program manager Will Holman explained in a statement. "We view Open Works as a ladder for youth, unemployed, and underemployed workers looking for better opportunities." The facility will offer advanced tools and technologies for ordinary citizens, transforming Baltimore into a grounds for burgeoning tech and art scenes.
"These facilities, such as TechShop, FabLab and other homegrown maker spaces, are emerging as a new kind of civic institution, similar to schools or libraries," BARCO Managing Director, Mac MacLure added. "Maker communities are springing up around the world as places that inspire and teach, provide access to tools and mentorship, and connect individuals with financing and customers."
Given its potential for the creative and economic future of Baltimore, Open Works is an ideal canvas for the young faces of Baltimore's artists and activists. The project comes at as an apt a time as ever, following the horrific events of last week's shooting in Charleston, in which 21-year-old white gunman Dylann Roof murdered nine individuals at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a Bible study meeting.
"The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate," Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said at a news conference following the massacre. "It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine."
In the wake of such tragedy, projects like "Inside Out" restore some sense of hope. The strong faces of the men and women of Baltimore's "Inside Out" installation emanate a sense of strength, togetherness and peaceful defiance.