Baltimore Uprising Art Archive Series 4: North and Penn Visual Artists and More

“Know justice. Know Peace.”

Prior to Mariyln Mosby’s announcment that the six officers involved in Freddie Gray’s murder would be arrested, local artist had already taken over the corner of North Avenue and Pennsylvania to make art.  When the news came down – solemnity turned into a party. Here are some photos of the artists working, reclaimed street art and protests t-shirts.

More images and video to come!

Baltimore Uprising Art Archive: Series 3 – Youth Voices

“Be a voice – not an echo.”

Check out some great video of youth voices from Baltimore’s artists, activists and provocateurs.

Check out this collaboration between Wide Angle Youth Media and  Youth Radio International: Baltimore Youth Voices!

Tomorrow Get Involved!  1:30pm-3:30 pm Hold the Police Accountable March with the Gray Family! For more information visit BmoreUnited.

Baltimore Uprising Art Archive: Series 2

“When the water is boiling, its foolish to take it off the heat.” – Nelson Mandela This is a living archive designed to highlight the cultural production efforts of Baltimore’s citizens in response to the Baltimore Uprising.  Please contribute your images of protests signs, homemade t-shirts, clothing, photos of art making, stencil images — anything reflective of […]

Baltimore Uprising Art Archive: Series 1

Originally posted on Baltimore Art + Justice Project Blog:
“Art is not the handmaid of politics. It is its own remedy! And its healing is sacral.” – William Everson Today begins a series we are dubbing the Baltimore Uprising Art Archive. It is a living archive designed to highlight the cultural production efforts of Baltimore’s citizens…

Baltimore Uprising Art Archive: Series 1

“Art is not the handmaid of politics. It is its own remedy! And its healing is sacral.” – William Everson Today begins a series we are dubbing the Baltimore Uprising Art Archive. It is a living archive designed to highlight the cultural production efforts of Baltimore’s citizens in response to the Baltimore Uprising.  Please contribute […]

A Chance to Think Outside of the Box With Y-LLEAD, An Artists Within Spotlight

The Baltimore Design School sits nestled in the heart of Greenmount West, a neighborhood in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.  Down the street from the City Arts Building and across from Area 405, young people in the Baltimore Design School are surrounded by a growing cultural community of low, middle and high income families, artists, commuters and laborers.

A program that is helping to expand the cultural impact of youth in the neighborhood is the Youth Learning Lab of Education and Applied Design (Y-LLEAD) created by designer and activist, Melissa Moore.  A member of the Artists Within coalition, Y-LLEAD is a youth led design program that uses architecture, product and graphic design as a tool for social justice and self-actualization.

On a winter visit to Y-LLEAD’s after school program in the Baltimore Neighborhood Design School, two youth participants, Kirsten German (19), and Monica Dickens (13), spoke of having an opportunity few youth in Baltimore are given – the chance to think outside of the box.

When my mother told me about the chance to become involved in graphic design and architecture, I thought, I’d never done it before but why not take a chance?  It’s like a very versatile skill- designing. You can do anything. I haven’t had a lot of chances to just…do what I want.  

Kirsten’s quiet statement was seconded by Monica, who spoke of Y-LLEAD as her chance to have her ideas taken seriously.

I became involved this summer because it was different. You get to say your ideas and then, try them out.

Y-LLEAD’s participants describe their experience as a chance to move away from after school programming which regularly involves top down instruction. Instead, hands on design opportunities are helping them grapple with big ideas and turn them into practical objects.

It’s a very enlightening experience.  It takes you out of your comfort zone – you don’t have anybody dictating what is right or wrong.  It’s like you are given a blank canvas you can mark on all you want.  It’s something new to me, not having direction.

The blank canvas framework also allows them to think about obstacles as opportunities.

We get to share ideas.  The objects we make don’t always end up being used for their original intent.  We have to learn how to work with each other and be flexible. You can share your ideas openly.  When we run into a problem, it’s like what you think- just try it out. It’s like the way the real world is- you don’t get directions, you just stumble through it.

Not only are Y-LLEAD participants learning how to turn challenges into opportunities, they are also learning how to be responsive to the community around them.

We work with the community to find out what they need and give them what they need. It’s not hard. It’s engaging and gives me something to do that I have not been able to do.  It makes feel like I’m a part of a collective vision. It makes me feel useful.  I don’t have many other chances in my life where I feel really useful.

In the end, Y-LLEAD is not only helping participants feel valuable and connected to one another, it is also helping them to appreciate their own minds.

As teens, we are always told what to do, but with Y-LLEAD, every day is a learning experience- I have learned to think for myself. Thinking for yourself is hard work but it’s worth it.

Artists Within Spotlight: A Common Thread, Generational Healing Through Quilt Making

“My experience today has been one of being with strangers who aren’t strangers.  There is a common thread that has us all in the room.”

In late November, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture (FORCE) invited community members, organizers and artists to their 1400 N. Greenmount Avenue warehouse to create a quilt square in solidarity with Marissa Alexander. Marissa was being threatened with 60 years in prison in Florida for firing a warning shot to protect herself from her abusive husband and the quilt square, joined by a banner, was being created to be displayed in Florida at her pending trial.

FORCE is organized by artist-duo Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle. The project is a creative activist collaboration to upset the culture of rape and promote a culture of consent by creating art actions to generate media attention and get millions of people talking.  As members of the Artists Within coalition, FORCE collaborates with local artists and community groups to host a series of healing art events and quilt making workshops in their Station North studio to engage survivors and local residents.

On this sunny, blustery afternoon, participants of all races, ages and genders spent their day painting in collaboration, sewing, and quietly crafting their own stories of survivorship.  One workshop participant, a self-described African American “elder” named Olu, brought her six year old grandson, Eric to the studio to create his own quilt square.

“I Vow To Be A Safe ManBlog

This straight forward and powerful statement was crafted by Eric.  As a caring grandmother, Olu sees this statement as the beginning steps on the path to addressing and healing generations of hurt.

He [Eric] is the offspring of multigenerational survivors. His being here, his having thought about and wrote those words, means everything. I teach that no matter what the thought is, if you don’t say it, you don’t have to own it. Once you say it, the vibration of your body has produced the words and you are responsible for it. He said and wrote – “I vow to be a safe man”. That seed planted will be a tree that grows.”

Olu became interested in the November workshop after participating in a FORCE “Take Back the Night” event earlier in 2014 where she shared her own story of survivorship. When given the opportunity to reconnect with the project, she caught a taxi across town. She was moved to bring her grandson because, as she said on that late November afternoon, “if patterns are going to change we are the ones to do it”.

Olu sees it is paramount to have a physical space to acknowledge and support survivors of sexual assault.

[At the workshop] we all know something about each other. We don’t have to speak it, we just know. I watched folks painting. I watched them gripping of the brush, I watched their struggle. I knew more than maybe I wanted to know about them but that is why we are doing this. Does that quilt not say, “You are not alone”? There are people who have not said hello to me and I have not said hello to them, but we have a collective pain that we are supporting each other through in this space. There is something to be said about that. What is valuable is knowing that this kind of thing helps, little by little by little. Statistics may not fall off because we do this, but every time we do, someone is made more aware of it.”

By opening its doors in Station North to the community for quilt making and healing workshops, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, is helping entire families confront generations of silence around sexual assault.

As Olu describes,

[Eric] is the offspring of multi-generational survivors. What we didn’t know, what we didn’t teach, whatever we missed – I’m not carrying that pattern forward. He is not too young to know that there are people who can cause pain beyond shooting or stabbing people. He is not too young to know that, just as he has the right to have his body safe, he is never to violate someone else’s. He’s not too young to know that.   We can’t talk about the protection of little girls without talking about the re-education and protection of little boys. 

Artists Within Spotlight: Coming Out – Dance, Memory and Hope at J. Van Story Branch

“We have seniors here that have been here for years and they don’t want to come out and mix with DAB_LOGOthe new population.”

This sentiment was met with approval from other residents and visitors of the J. Van Story Branch apartment following an interactive workshop developed by Dance and B’More for Artists Within. Dance & B’More provides biweekly movement classes and multi-disciplinary workshops with the residents of the J. Van Story Branch Senior apartments. Dancers and residents collaborate to create new memory based works in movement and spoken word intended to increase activities for the residents, improve memory and increase residents’ mobility.

Artists Within is a coalition of award-winning arts and activist organizations engaged with social practice. Working with Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., the Central Baltimore Partnership, and MICA’s Baltimore Art + Justice Project, the Artists Within coalitions seeks to bring new energy to the community development efforts underway in the Station North Arts & Entertainment District.  The coalition includes Dance & B’More, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, Single Carrot Theatre, and Youth Learning Lab of Education and Applied Design.  Working with local residents ranging from middle school students to senior citizens, the coalition activates and cultivates the artists, designers, and performers within these residents with the intention of increasing local participation in the arts and in community development efforts.

On this brisk October day, five senior residents and one visitor participated in the hour-long Dance and B’More workshop led by CJay Phillip.  Participants told stories of their favorite concerts and childhood memories. These stories were set to music and movement led by the musicians, therapists and dancers.  Ranging from ages 62 to 80, participants completed warm up activities, sang Motown and moved their bodies to African drum and keyboard.  After the workshop, residents sat down to talk about their experience, their hopes and their challenges living in J. Van Story Branch. More importantly, the seniors talked about coming out. 

“Sometimes, some people do [come out] and some people don’t.  Some people don’t even speak.” 

Coming out at J. Van Story Branch has multiple layers of meaning here.  Coming out is not just about leaving one’s apartment; coming out also means feeling safe, being heard and having a sense of kinship with other residents and visitors in the building.

“Older people used to come out more but then other people was being nasty to them.  They don’t have no security or nothing so the older people just stay in their rooms now.”

Eight years ago, the population at J. Van Story branch changed from seniors only to a mixed population of ages and abilities.   As the population has shifted, the number of activities designed to engage residents has decreased, while fears, insecurity and isolation has increased.  But things may be changing for the good.

“It’s a good thing, this is something we need. When they [Dance and B’More] come out, I always come out.”

Through Artists Within, Dance and B’More is bringing in activities residents enjoy and helping residents feel connected across population through movement, memory and community building.   Over the next year, Artist Within and Dance and B’More will be able to see if by consistently coming in, residents will feel safe coming out.


Profile Spotlight: Jeff Brunell

What’s your name and organization?Jeff Burell Image
My name is Jeff Brunell, and I work on a project called The Revolution Within at the Center for Grace-Full Living.

How old are you?
I am 31 and 3/4 years old.

Which neighborhood do you live in and which neighborhood do you work in?
I live in Charles Village and work in McElderry Park.

Describe your art or organization?
The CGL is a community wellness center. TRW is about engaging in healing practices (from storytelling to martial arts; acupuncture to quilting) as a way of working through trauma on both individual and community levels. The idea is that working on this kind of urgent but difficult material helps free up our energy – which we can then apply to social action, arts, and all the good stuff.

I also write songs and poems in fits and starts.

What are you currently working on?
TRW just hosted its first session, and we’re going to be having these events every Tuesday evening for the rest of 2014. They’re happening here, at 2424 McElderry St (21205), between 6:30-8pm. I’m trying to balance my time between coordinating our facilitators, building a case for what we’re doing through the literature on trauma informed community work, doing outreach and connecting with other folks working on similar issues, hunting for grant support, and preparing for a kickoff workshop that we’re hosting at the end of this month.

What social justice cause(s) are you particularly drawn to, and why?
It’s hard to pick just one, but I’m particularly interested in any effort that expands access and participation for people whose hours and mojo are too often chewed up with the day-to-day of survival against an inhumane economic backdrop – stuff like stable housing, free and relevant education, community ownership in development processes, minimizing barriers to health care, etc. I hope that TRW – with free one-on-one counseling and specialized holistic courses – can contribute in a small way to a larger movement toward actualization and power building for both individuals and communities. Why – because I’ve watched myself and people I love put real passions and justice work on the backburner in the pursuit of survival and too often, distraction. So I get excited about anything that brings more voices into the conversation – not just politicians, academics, and foundation folks – particularly voices which might have lost faith in themselves or the use in trying somewhere along the way.

Who or what inspires you?
For starters – time in nature, peoples’ movements, music, and my excellent cat. Enough sleep, good food, and walking a lot help, too.

What’s the best part about being an artist or running an arts organization in Baltimore?
There’s enthusiasm and a wide-openness – it feels like being part of a very large and organic thing which hasn’t yet been co-opted and sold back to its participants.

What’s the worst part about being an artist or running an arts organization in Baltimore?
Part-time jobs on the weekends help make ends meet, but mean missing some great happenings.

What sort of and/or social justice projects would you love to take on?
When I have a little bit more bandwidth – by November, maybe? – I want to get more involved in housing issues. Connecting people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore to some of the city’s extensive vacant housing seems obvious and urgent.

Who would you like to collaborate on a project with?
So many people in so many arenas – for now, I’m focusing on all the different ways that TRW is linking up with other projects and amazing folks.

What’s one social justice organization that people need to know about, and why?
I think that YES (Youth Empowered Society) is really awesome. I was homeless on and off as a teenager and wish that there’d been such a place at that time – but living in the suburbs, I might not have heard about it even had it existed. So I hope that the word has gotten out to young people who are in a similar position now.

What type of ways do you see artists addressing social justice issues in Baltimore?
Countless ways – from the subtle and coded to the really representational and documentarian. And not just in artwork but, perhaps more importantly, in personal practices and values – communities that are engaged in the trial and error process of modeling a more just society on a small scale, day-to-day, in hundreds of different ways throughout the city.

How do you think artists or arts organizations are changing Baltimore?
Again – countless ways, and some have their downsides. But I think that Baltimore’s becoming known as a center of energy and artistic freedom, and that’s both great and true. And I think that there’s a reverberating effect there – that tone and mood become infectious, and more and more people claim the space for art in their own lives.

Stop by the Center for Grace-Full Living (2424 McElderry St.) to participate in The Revolution Within:
Upcoming Schedule
9/16 – Physical Fitness and Nutrition
9/-23  Martial Arts for Mind, Body, and Soul

Profile Spotlight: The Quilt Story Exchange

Quilt Exchange Image

The Baltimore Art + Justice Project recently sat down with  artists, Ashton Page and Claire Fredrick to talk about their new exciting project,  The Quilt Story Exchange.  The Quilt Story Exchange will bring together groups of people, specifically groups of women, to create quilts that represent stories of trauma, hope, survival, and joy.

Not only does the project give individuals a platform to share their stories, but the project promotes the independence of those who are or once were victims of trauma, by providing an in-depth experience with quilting and fiber art in emotionally supportive environments.  As of now, The Quilt Story Exchange will work with four different non-profits in a year long timespan. Each different group of people will be given the opportunity to make one large scale quilt that represents their collective story of survival. The fifth quilt, our traveling quilt, will move between all four organizations, as well as our studio, and be added to. This collective quilt will become a narrative for many different survivors of trauma, which in turn will be displayed to the larger Baltimore community to offer spaces of healing and sharing.

The Quilt Story Exchange is already at 11% of their funding goal of $10,000 but are currently fundraising for the rest. Donate, follow them on Facebook, and check out their profile on BA+ JP!

What’s your name and organization?
Ashton Page & Claire Fredrick and we are the creators of the Quilt Story Exchange.

How old are you? 
We are both 24.

Which neighborhood do you live in and which neighborhood do you work in? 
Ashton: I live in Harwood.
Claire: I live in Fells Point.
Both of us work in many different neighborhoods in the City. We work in Remington, McElderry Park, Sandtown-Winchester and Upton, as well as East Baltimore Midway.

Describe your art or organization?
We are both fiber artists seeking to use our craft as a conduit for strengthening communities. We use quilting as a method of storytelling, as well as a process for healing from trauma.

What social justice cause(s) are you particularly drawn to, and why?
Both of us came together with the intention of working with survivors of trauma on multiple levels. Here in Baltimore, this usually means folks coming out of recovery, specifically addiction, sexual slavery, street violence, living in poverty or coping from homicide.  We wanted to address these issues that are ramped  in Baltimore City and effect virtually all neighborhoods here. Both of us have had our fair share of traumatic experiences. We have lost friends and family. We both mutually agreed that to combat our grief and despair, we immersed ourself in the arts as a therapeutic process. Because it has been such a successful outlet for the both of us individually, we wanted to focus on healing arts as part of our collaborative project, in hopes of giving aid and relief to those effected by Baltimore crime and poverty.

Who or what inspires you?
Dr. Joan Gaither and The Advocacy Project’s Advocacy Quilts. Joan uses quilting to share African American lineages of people and places, and has cultivated a large following of people excited about her work. To watch her run a workshop is truly a gift. In our journey to create the Quilt Story Exchange Project, Joan has acted as a mentor and teacher to us in this process. She has truly mastered the art of community quilting and we hold her in the highest regards. As for the Advocacy Quilts, they give groups of women in impoverished parts of the world the ability to share their story which is so often lost. We have found inspiration to do similar work, but instead of going out of the country, we want to stay in our own community and share the outlet that we have found works for us.

What’s the best part about being an artist or running an arts organization in Baltimore?
The best part is that there is a great spirit of celebrating the arts here through local and grassroots levels. Whatever project you want to do to, there is someone out there to support you, and if you keep going in the same general direction more doors keep opening up.

What’s the worst part about being an artist or running an arts organization in Baltimore?
There is very limited funding, because there are so many people with so many ideas. It doesn’t help either that the population is saturated with artists. This saturation allows for a wonderful dialogue about artistic practices, but means there are more people wanting the same funds that you want.

Who would you like to collaborate on a project with?
Womb Works. Definitely. There is just such a good vibe that comes from that group of people. It would be interesting to see if they would be interested in quilting a backdrop or something for a performance.

What’s one social justice organization that people need to know about, and why?
Mother Made is definitely an inspiration. It is a true co-op based in Baltimore. We look forward to some day being able to use this method of social enterprise with our textiles as well. It would be amazing if the works we produce in this next year through The Quilt Story Exchange could also give the people we work with some financial gain.

What type of ways do you see artists addressing social justice issues in Baltimore?
As two students coming out of the Maryland Institute College of Art’s MFA in Community Arts Program, we have both been exposed to a multitude of ways of     introducing social justice topics into the arts /community arts realm. It seems that the best      way to  begin a dialogue with the community about social justice topics that are effecting neighborhoods is to integrate arts and creativity as ways of promoting safe spaces and   open, honest discussion.

How do you think artists or arts organizations are changing Baltimore?
From our perspective, it seems that organizations are becoming more understanding of the dire need for art enrichment and integration in their programming. Artists on the other hand are operating on multiple levels; as curators, authors, activists, organizers and businesses. In Baltimore, it seems that the dynamic of “artist” is shifting into a more complicated and multidimensional personality. You have to be more than just one thing–a painter or a sculptor–to be successful. Artists are becoming more community oriented are are operating on a amore local level, it seems we are all becoming more aware of social justice issues around us and rethinking how that shapes us and how it effects our work.

To learn more, visit them on the BA+JP. And remember to donate to their awesome work!


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