Art Cohen and “The Road Building Blues”

Art Cohen then (1969) and now (2019). 

At right, Art Cohen, the Movement Against Destruction’s (MAD) second president, holding up a 45 of his self-penned song, the Baltimore Road-building Blues. He performed the song at several hearings, as well as at the Baltimore Board of Estimates.

Where other anti-highway activists might be remembered for sledgehammer-type tactics, Art’s weapon of choice was the lampoon. 

In a 2019 interview he recounted MAD’s 1972 City Fair stunt, an attention-getter that brought the wrong kind of attention, but led to a creative solution:

“That summer I was in Fells Point staying with some people… I got a bunch of sheets and stitched them together on the cobblestone street out there in front of the Horse You Can Came In On. I stitched these together—it was the width of the expressway as if it had gone across the harbor. It was like 200 feet long, and it said “Stop Mayor Schaefer’s road.” Then I got 11 sticks, and we got a group of people to join. We walked into the City Fair and unfurled this thing. It took them 20 minutes to see what we had done; and then they threw us out. OK. But the next year [we came up with an alternative plan]… (no spoilers here)



Photo credit: Innovation Magazine, “The Battle Lines of Baltimore,” No. 3, Spring, 1969