Arabbers throwing a party to showcase murals, horses and high hopes
A Moon Bounce, marching bands, street artists and pony rides for the public at the arabbers’ stable in West Baltimore Sunday.
Above: Baltimore’s arabbers, an old city tradition – and maybe a part of solving its food desert problem?
Baltimore’s arabbers – the city’s traditional fruit and vegetable sellers who hawk their wares on colorful horse-drawn carts – want the city to see what’s been happening at their West Baltimore stable, so they’re inviting the public to come in on Sunday (July 14) and check it out.
There will be carriage and pony rides, along with food, a Moon Bounce, live music and marching bands. But also on display will be art – big, striking murals painted and pasted onto the stable buildings by internationally known artists and street artists.
The event is meant to showcase an artist-arabber collaboration aimed at drawing more attention to the endangered tradition and making the iconic food-sellers part of positive food-related change in Baltimore.
“We’re hoping to turn the stable into a Museum of Industry kind of thing – make it a stop on the cultural map,” said M. Holden Warren, vice president of the Arabber Preservation Society.
“We realized the arabbers are a great access point to real change in Baltimore, especially around the food desert issue, which afflicts huge parts of the city,” said Warren, also a Baltimore Free Farm member, noting that the urban farm collective has already done some projects with the arabbers.
“Art Scene Meets West Baltimore”
Crowd-funding the resources for the project, the arabbers’ supporters in recent months have turned the stable buildings at 1102 N. Fremont Avenue into a giant canvas, with pieces by gaia, nanook, mataruda, Sorta, Nether, Niututolu and Rudolfo Diaz.
Their press release for this event – to be held from 3-9 p.m. – promises a pop-up art gallery and lists others (artists, photographers and videographers) whose work also will be in display, including Martha Cooper, Michael Faulkner, Thom Stromer, Dan Van Allen and Janessa Wells.
Warren says the idea of the party is to “create awareness about the arabbers. . . and change the way people think about them,” he said. To prepare for Sunday, they’ve been working to spiff up the stables, among the last in a city that once had them all over town.
The Brew discussed the arabbers’ history here, and the Arabber Preservation Society has background as well. Meanwhile here’s the quick information from Warren’s email today:
Arabbing as a practice began in the 19th century in Baltimore when easy access to stables and the shipyards of the inner harbor made selling fruit with horse drawn carriages an attainable entrepreneurial enterprise for African Americans in Baltimore.
During the war effort and after WWII, arabbing became an almost entirely African American trade. Competition from supermarkets and restrictions from modern zoning laws have endangered this heritage.
Today there are only a couple sites left that serve as arabbing stables, with the Fremont Avenue location being one of the most prominent in the city.
Currently, arabbing serves as a viable living for a handful of men and their families while also serving a variety of communities including neighborhoods that do not have easy access to produce and whole foods.