Exhibition to explore Highlandtown's history with skateboarding and graffiti culture

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - According to Aaron LaCrate, he's just a kid from Highlandtown.

"Highlandtown in the early 80's was a much wilder place then it is today,” he said. “There was little groups of little outlaw kids, gang-like street kids that were skateboarding, writing graffiti, getting into hop-hop, punk rock."

And LaCrate was part of that crew.
    
But instead of the street life, he embraced the creativity. In fifth grade opened a skate shop in his parent’s basement. 

"I had a little creative space where I was selling skateboard, making my own t-shirts, making my own mix tapes, I had a little DJ set up, I was airbrushing and making beats,” LaCrate said. “So I had this little factory going at 10-years-old in Highlandtown."

After graduating college, LaCrate moved to New York City, and that's where things really took off.
    
He started streetwear brand Milkcrate Athletics, was working as a DJ and producing music.

"Which led to major label remixes from Madonna to Kanye West, to me being Lily Allen's tour DJ, to actually bringing her to America with Mark Ronson, and I practically discovered Lana Del Ray," said LaCrate.

The entire time, he says he was an unspoken ambassador for Charm City, always bringing his work back to Baltimore.

"I still love it, you know what I mean, it's a part of my DNA, my creative DNA,” said LaCrate. “I don't know if I could have done all these things if I didn't have this neighborhood, and those kids, and those first impressions creatively."

So now he's paying it forward.
    
The paint is only a few weeks old on a mural celebrating the skate culture of Highlandtown along Eastern Avenue. And next month LaCrate will debut a retrospective at the Creative Alliance showing his evolution from a basement-based entrepreneur.
    
Two workshops are also planned to show local youth they can be just a kid from Highlandtown, but also something more.

"The kids right here in the neighborhood can meet me and understand how to start a brand, why start a brand, what a trade mark is, why do you want to own that, what are the benefits of doing that,”LaCrate said. “And understanding how that can really be, can set them free."

LaCrate's exhibition at the Creative Alliance starts October 13 and runs through November 25. 

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