When one thinks of neighborhoods in Baltimore, Highlandtown isn’t often top of the list. The neighborhood is certainly becoming more well-known, particularly due to its ever-evolving status as an arts district, but it remains a bit of a hidden gem in the Baltimore cityscape.
To producer/musician/fashion designer Aaron LaCrate, however, Highlandtown is the crux of culture. LaCrate, 42, grew up in the neighborhood, which he credits with launching his multi-faceted career. And now, after collaborating with celebrities, performing around the world and designing shoes for the likes of Nike and New Balance, LaCrate has returned in the form of “Just a Kid from Highlandtown,” a new exhibition at the Creative Alliance.
“It’s my story, but also the neighborhood’s and city’s story,” says LaCrate. “It connects what was happening in Highlandtown in the ’80s with what was happening nationally in skating, fashion and music.”
The exhibit has multiple parts, exhibiting both LaCrate’s life and the culture at large. One part, he says, is “basically a creation of my Highlandtown basement,” where he started the neighborhood’s first skate shop and began creating his own apparel, as well as where he began his DJing career. (“I was 8 or 9 at the time, making mixtapes,” he says.)
Other inclusions are a large collection of vintage fliers for parties and other events (often featuring artists that would become icons of the era), skate deck/grip tape art from famous grafitti artists, and other music and art paraphernalia.
LaCrate hopes that in addition to reigniting interest in Highlandtown’s cultural past, his exhibition will give hope to kids with big dreams like his.
“We have a lot of problems in this city,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of art or fashion or culture that kids think they could succeed in. My story is meant to inspire.”
“Just a Kid from Highlandtown” is on display at the Creative Alliance until Nov. 25.