JR helps Baltimore students say #BlackLivesMatter

Students at the city's Morgan State University use the artist's Inside Out project to express an important truth
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Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger
Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger

The beauty of JR’s Inside Out project is that the artist doesn’t need to be present. As he told would-be participants when he launched this photography, protest and fly posting endeavour in 2011, “I want you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we can turn the world inside out.”

So far he seems to be succeeding, with groups as diverse as Russian LGBT activists, Armenian soldiers, and native American members of the Lakota Tribe in North Dakota all staging their own Inside Out shows.

 

Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger
Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger

In order to participate, groups of five or more people have to settle on a statement, and submit their portraits to Inside Out. JR’s people then print and send back the posters, for the group to post up in their community.

But when the students and staff of Morgan State University in Baltimore settled on their proposal a little over a year ago, they could not have foreseen how important their issue, #BlackLivesMatter, would become.

 

Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger
Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger

The details of their Inside Out installation, which covers the side of a building site at 1400 Greenmount Ave, were being finalised when unrest broke out across Baltimore following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man.

“That made everyone realise how important the concept really was,” the project's lead artist and recent Morgan graduate Kelli Williams told Baltimore magazine.

 

Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger
Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger

Perhaps even more poignantly, the Morgan State artists began installing their posters on the same day the 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black parishioners at a church in South Carolina.

The subjects for these 1400 Greenmount Ave portraits were shot behind a chain-link fence, to "symbolise the barriers African-Americans encounter in everyday life," says professor Christopher Metzger, who oversaw the project. Though, thanks to JR, no obstacles lie between them and this worldwide art and protest movement.

 

Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger
Morgan State University’s Inside Out project, #BlackLivesMatter, at 1400 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore. Photography by Kelli Williams and Christopher Metzger

For more on Inside Out go here; and to discover more about the brilliant contemporary artist behind Inside Out order a copy of our forthcoming JR monograph subtitled, quite fittingly, Can Art Change the World?


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