Tatyana Fazlalizadeh recently completed a Stop Telling Women to Smile residency in Baltimore. She was here for a week at the end of April, and this weekend I headed up to Station North and check out some of the results of her public art project.
Fazlalizadeh’s project in response to street harassment is powerful, and particularly impactful because she places it in the context of the streets where so much of this subtle and not-so-subtle gender bias plays out. Her residency in Baltimore included two public meetings with women from the neighborhood in addition to the street art she created.
Interestingly, I was stopped twice while walking through Station North to see Fazlalizadeh’s pieces. Both times by women, the first of whom asked me where I got my walking shoes, and the second of whom exchanged extemporaneous banter with me about the unpredictable weather this May (Neither of us ever knows whether to wear a jacket these days).
There was something light — almost defiantly jubilant, free — in both these conversations, the second of which happened right across the street from this Fazlalizadeh mural. There’s something to the idea that Fazlalizadeh’s pieces work to reclaim these public spaces. To re-gender them. To make them spaces for women to reach out to one another on sidewalks and engage in an entirely different form of discourse.