In the wake of protestors bashing in large numbers of glass storefronts in Allentown, one artist is speaking up with his paint, and his words. His name is Baron Frankenstein, and he’s the guy who, armed with paint, is beautifying Allentown’s boarded up windows, one storefront at a time.
Now, if you’re thinking that Baron all of a sudden got a bee in his bonnet, and went haywire, think again. The artist says that he has been preparing for this for years. His mother, Marika, is also a community activist, which means that this sort of thing is in his blood. “I’ve been making protest art for years,” explains Baron. “I’ve been waiting and thinking about this, even when I lived in NYC. It was only a matter of time before something was going to go wrong. I’m a black graffiti artist, so I knew that something was going to pop up.”
When the windows broke, and the boards went up, Baron went into action. He initially got permission from the owner of Holly Farms to paint a signature piece. Then he gathered together the paint in his bedroom and began to paint. Before long he was painting in front of small crowds of people, who were not only chipping in $5 donations towards the cause, they were also dropping off paint to help further the cause.
“Holly Farms said that I could paint whatever I wanted,” notes Baron. “I decided to paint non-gender faces that’s the back-flip to the movie 1984 – instead of an authoritarian face looking down at the people from a giant screen, the people are now the faces watching the street. It’s a reassuring thing.”
As Baron painted Holly Farms, more business owners approached him asking if he would paint their boarded up windows. “I live around the corner, so I really want to make this area like a street art gallery,” Baron says. “This is the overarching theme. With art galleries closed due to COVID-19, this is like a public art gallery. Once I have as many works as possible, I want to capture the moment with a slow drone pan video.”
It’s good to have Baron back in Buffalo during this time. Until this past March he was primarily based out of NYC. “I went to Europe in January,” he tells me. “But then when I got back I was essentially without a home, when COVID-19 struck. You don’t want to be homeless in NYC during COVID, so I decided to move back home, which is where I typically summer anyways. I knew that this was something that I needed to be doing right away – the Elmwood Village said ‘no’ when I asked if I could paint the boards, but Allentown was very open to the idea.”
After completing Holly Farms, Baron began to paint John Shepherd’s Antique Man, but this time he chose to add wording from the poem Invictus, by the Victorian era English poet William Ernest Henley. “No one can be mad in Invictus, because then they are blatantly racist. This is the poem that Nelson Mandela read while in prison, for inspiration.”
We have not seen the last of Barron, thankfully. Nor have we seen the last of racism. The hope is, however, that each one of us can contribute in our own ways, which will help to dilute the scourge that we are still battling on a daily basis.