As the daughter of a jewelry maker, Hampden resident Maria Wolfe grew up around art, but it wasn’t until she studied in London in 2013 that she felt the spark of street art.
The British city abounded with unique and colorful street art, and the Towson University alumna developed a new appreciation for graffiti and murals. When she returned to Baltimore that same year, it was all she could think about.
Wolfe, 29, took to the streets, driving for hours each day, scoping out new art in Station North’s Graffiti Alley, the only place in the city where graffiti is legal without a permit, and scouring city neighborhoods for the works of Justin Nethercut, better known as graffiti artist Nether, following a friend’s suggestion.
“I got pretty obsessed,” said Wolfe, who works as a server in the food and hospitality business. After compiling hundreds of pictures of street art from the area on her computer and her phone, Wolfe’s friend made another suggestion: an Instagram account.
In 2015, Wolfe launched the cleverly named Instagram account “@baltimurals,” which has since garnered more than 11,000 followers and now features nearly 1,000 posts of street art from Baltimore and beyond.
“Wherever I go, I will search for graffiti,” said Wolfe, who has ventured out to places like Detroit, New Orleans, Italy and New York, snapping shots of city street art.
Baltimore, however, remains the home base and Wolfe’s main muse. Her goal, she said, is to inspire people to get out of their comfort zones and get to know Baltimore in its entirety by visiting other neighborhoods.
“A lot of the murals are in East and West Baltimore, but people don't venture out to those places,” Wolfe said. “If I got them to go to these areas, then they can see the art but also see the surrounding areas and get to know people. … We can’t understand someone unless we get to know someone and their culture.”
The exposure from her account, she said, might also inspire people to help the neighborhoods in which the murals are painted — many which are riddled with vacant buildings. Wolfe said she also aims to bring attention to the artists, many of whom are determined to beautify Baltimore.
“I want them to get credit,” said Wolfe, who often tags or mentions the artists in her Instagram captions.
While she finds a majority of the murals and street art while driving around the city, Wolfe said select artists will contact her directly about their new works, while others will post publicly about their works-in-progress on their own accounts, which tips Wolfe off to where to go next.
But there are some responsibilities when it comes to documenting murals, Wolfe said. She rarely posts on street art and murals that are considered illegal, not only to protect the artists who created the art, but to protect potential spectators from dangerous locations or places where they might break the law by trespassing.
She’s often taken aback by the great lengths artists go through to create murals. Some venture off into tunnels or maneuver themselves atop billboards to paint — while others create some of the largest city murals in just days, she said.
As for her plans for the future Baltimurals — family has suggested monetizing it, but Wolfe said her goal is to keep the page running as long as she can.
“It’s just kind of my hobby and my love,” Wolfe said. “I’m just here to show the city off.”