I have been thinking a lot about public memorials lately, large and small. If you have spent any time hanging out with us you probably know that I love public art – I loved a prompt on the Radical Creativity blog recently about small memorials in trees. I loved Eleanor’s Monday post about her experience at the 9/11 memorial in New York. I love murals and graffiti. I am fascinated by how these spaces bring us together, connect us to a common experience, and strive to create something so powerful out of something so painful. I am drawn to every type of public memorial – huge, tiny, formal, informal, whatever. My phone is filled with pictures of random memorials I have stopped to take photos of (including the first ghost bike I ever saw in person, that Eleanor and I risked life and limb to get a picture of). I have no idea why I feel this need to always stop, to take time, to take a photo. But I do. Every time.
I am from Baltimore, a city filled with so much pain and loss. I can’t help but wonder if being from this city is part of the reason I am so drawn to memorials – seeing the ways that a city is always trying to remember, to mourn, and to transform. Baltimore is this incredible place where drugs and violence intertwine with art, creativity, beauty, music, and history. It is a city constantly trying to remember its history while reinventing its future. It is a city watching the devastation of drugs, trying to grieve the loss of people, neighborhoods, and culture, while trying to transform into something stronger.
The grief of New York from 9/11 and the grief of Baltimore on the surface seem to have little in common, and yet Eleanor’s words about New York seem to ring true to my own experience in Baltimore, “I was also struck by how strongly the memorial and the city growing around it parallel individual grief. At the heart of everything lie the scars and the pain; the sacredness and sorrow of a life ended before we’re ready to let go. These are things we will never forget, nor never really wish to. But from this, through this, and around this, we learn to move forward.” There is no one central memorial for the grief of Baltimore. Instead our memorials are in every neighborhood: on abandoned lots, on empty walls, on telephone poles, and in small formal statues and plaques. Reminders of the pain that will always be with the city and the hope that grief can transform.
What do you do with a phone full of low-quality photos of random Baltimore memorials? You create a backspac.es story, of course!! Because there is something in any type of creation that seems to make us just a little bit stronger.