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Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson's Posts

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Gallery walls: Cities embrace street art as a ticket to success

The artist Gaia puts up the first installation in what he calls "a museum for street art." (Photo by Martha Cooper.)

Street artists from around the world are descending on Baltimore this spring to take part in an ambitious -- and totally legal -- exhibition, producing murals for an event designed to bring new life to a transitional neighborhood.

Launched this month and running through the end of May, Open Walls Baltimore is the city’s first officially sanctioned street art exhibition. Twenty walls throughout the Station North Arts and Entertainment District will serve as backdrops for murals that will be created over the course of several weeks. The walls to be painted are a mix of both private homes and commercial buildings, and represent both occupied and vacant structures. “It’s a museum for street art,” says the artist Gaia, who is curating the event.

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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Design o’ the times: Empowering minorities to shape urban landscapes

Photo by Bridgette Wynn.

When people ask me why I write about architecture, design, and cities -- why I focus on these topics instead of all of the others -- I like to tell the story of a park bench.

I first read this story many years ago in a book of essays on urbanism. It starts auspiciously enough with the development of a new neighborhood outside of Los Angeles. The developers promoted the neighborhood as one of inclusivity, a place where community would reign supreme. They designed everything from the houses to the garbage cans and the sidewalks.

The park benches they selected were shaped like horseshoes. I assumed the design was to encourage people to face one another and strike up a conversation, but I was wrong. A person cannot sleep on a curve. The bench was designed to be “bum proof” in order to keep the “wrong” kind of person out of this “inclusive” community.

Design is everywhere and it has the power to galvanize community or to thwart it. It can empower or it can disenfranchise. Today there is a growing awareness about the role that design plays in our day-to-day lives. The profession is waking up to the idea of human-centered design, which focuses on the needs of the community as a whole and a belief that good design is that which serves the greater good.

There’s only one problem: Large swaths of our communities are not participating in the design process.

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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Re-Occupy Main Street: Entrepreneurs revive down-and-out business districts

Designer Will Phillips (pictured) and John Bolster have opened Sandtown Millworks in a former bank with help from a Operation:Storefront grant.Photo: Elizabeth Evitts DickinsonLast week kicked off that special time of year when indulgence and guilt face off in the ultimate death match, prompting headlines like this one in the "healthy living" section of the Huffington Post: "Can holiday shopping count as exercise?" (Uhm, no.) This year, small businesses across the country are harnessing the spirit of the Occupy movement in the hopes of reclaiming the spirit of the holiday season. If you plan to shop, they say, buy local, …