Explore Washington D.C.

My Baltimore: A Chat With Artist Michael Owen

The muralist on why Baltimore loves art, his many murals (including the nation’s longest) and more

Michael Owen is probably best known for his Baltimore Love Project, a mural series of hands spelling “love” painted throughout the city, and the nation’s longest mural located in Highlandtown. He talks to us about his work, Baltimore’s thriving art scene, and his next trip (Spoiler alert! It involves painting).

Your Baltimore Love Project was completed a few years ago, yet it continues to make an impact. Why was the project important to you?
I still need every reminder I can get to love others; that it’s the answer to the impossible; that it’s the most powerful. Remarkably, seeing these murals still does that for me.

Baltimore Love Project mural in Highlandtown
Baltimore Love Project wall #3, Highlandtown by Michael Owen (Sean Scheidt, courtesy the artist)

How did this spring’s unrest affect your feelings about the murals?
During and after the unrest, people seemed to gravitate to them as a source of hope or possibly as the beginning of a solution. It confirms that the work with this project is not done. There’s still a need for this message.

You’re also known for painting the longest mural on Eastern Ave. in Baltimore. How did you come up with that idea?
My proposal revolved around celebration, partying and the ways that the neighborhoods the mural ran through came together. It's important to focus on commonalities, especially in a city that is full of so many different cultures.

Why do you think Baltimore is such a great city for art?
This town is thirsty for crazy ideas, for artists to ask, what if?, and then do it. For an artist, that presents an amazing opportunity.

What’s it like to be an artist here?
There are so many creative people packed into this small town, which can be a lot of healthy competition and inspiration at the same time.

Michael Owen's "One Day at a Time" mural
“One Day at A Time” by Michael Owen (Sean Scheidt, courtesy the artist)

What kind of art can visitors expect to find in Baltimore?
If they allow themselves to visit an unorthodox venue, they might find a new art form.

Where do you go to see great local art?
I love walking through town and seeing new art popping up on walls. The work evolves just like any gallery might change shows and, in a sense, it’s a lot less curated.

What are you working on now?
I’m starting a residency program in southeast Baltimore called HOME. It brings in artists from different backgrounds and countries to make art with and for our neighborhoods.

What do you like to do when you’re not painting?
Escaping with Netflix or to a beach with my son.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I still need to hit Rio. I’m a sucker for cities that crash up against an ocean.

Where are you going next?
Florida for painting walls, visiting family, running some art workshops and surfing with friends!

Michael Owen with one of his paintings
The artist (Sean Scheidt, courtesy Michael Owen)