Arabbers; A Dying Baltimore Tradition Brought to Life By Street Artist Gaia

By Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington, BrooklynStreetArt.com (Huffington Post, 10/16/2012)

Gaia “The Arabbers” Sandtown, Baltimore. 2012 (photo © Gaia)

Street Artist Gaia regularly highlights people from whichever community that he’s painting or wheatpasting in. Passersby commonly stop to talk while he’s working, often adding layers of history, knowledge, opinion, and nuance to his piece while he works. With his newest wall in Sandtown, a neighborhood of Baltimore, Gaia draws attention to a dying local profession that is hanging on, but barely.

Arabbers — pronounced locally with a long A (“A-rab”) — were salespeople who had as many as 400 commercial carts offering fresh produce and other items rolling daily through the streets of Baltimore at one time, according to some accounts. Horse-drawn carts were a normal part of the early 20th century street life and amazingly B-Town still supports a few of these small business people on the streets in the 21st.

Because of new zoning and bylaws enacted during a period of urban renewal, the city restricted where horse stables existed, and many were put out of business. But during our travels through Baltimore with photographer Martha Cooper, who grew up there, we have had occasion to meet a number of the people who still carry this trade forward — some for many generations. Their small fenced off plots of land and stables appear suddenly like an oasis of farm life from another era in the middle of otherwise urban blocks. Once able to provide a good living to a family, Arabbers still brings fresh food to underserved communities at reasonable prices. Unfortunately the proud profession is now endangered by the economic pressures of rising fees, the costs of animal care, and stable upkeep.

Continue reading and view gallery at Huffington Post.

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