Archive by Author | D Hagen

Guest Blogger: Devlon Waddell Art is Important?

You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.~James Baldwin, Conversations with James Baldwin

I submit that life is justice, and the pursuit thereof. The correlation of life and art can be made in any number of trite, uninspired ways. I imagine that my movement toward my own artistic self was, directly, a byproduct of life–living. I would always find myself experiencing a special sort of alone. Suffering through a oppressively mundane existence; struggling to announce a me that is indeed alive and present. Beyond the platitudes of elders and encouragement of contemporaries there was a void left. The irony seems always to be that one is, too often, unaware of the missing piece.

I’ve only adopted the “artist” moniker to offer society the opportunity to frame what it is that I do to survive. And, I was so inclined only because I read something that I thought only happened to me, and discovered it happened 61 years ago, to someone else.

Where does art and justice intersect? In a full-on, speed limit be damned, unapologetic, unashamedly reckless attempt at experiencing the most rewarding life possible. This approach is predicated on the notion that one’s success, happiness, validation, affirmation and joy are all, at once, utterly dependent on those things being equitably experienced by his/her community. Without regard to religious leanings, certain truths remain:”For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”  So what of the fullness of life, if it is experienced in a vacuum?

I am alive. I am living. I am art. I am justice.

Devlon E Waddell
Co Founder/Director

Guest Blogger: Camilla Roberson Just Kids

October 23, the Just Kids Partnership will be hosting its second annual “Art with a Story” at the Creative Alliance, from 6-8 pm.  This event features visual and performance art as part of Youth Justice Awareness month in an effort to raise awareness about the practice of automatically charging youth as adults.  Art with a Story includes a gallery showcasing artwork by youth who have been in the adult system, an installation simulating a solitary confinement cell, and live performances by poets and musicians, including the nationally traveled spoken-word poetry meets hip-hop soul group, the 5th L.

But what is the Just Kids Partnership?  Consisting of organizers and youth leaders at Community Law in Action and lawyers from the Public Justice Center, we are a collaboration seeking to end the practice of automatically prosecuting youth as adults.  We use public education, community organizing, and legislative advocacy as we work towards this goal.  Art is integral to our advocacy.

Youth 14 and up, charged with any of 33 enumerated offenses will be automatically sent to the adult criminal justice system, based solely on age and charge.  Once there, youth are subject to adult jail, adult process, and adult sentences.

This policy is fundamentally flawed.   The practice casts far too wide a net; almost 70% of the youth direct- filed to the adult system are eventually sent back to the juvenile system upon judicial review or are released outright, but this often occurs months after the initial charge.  Youth charged as adults are usually held in adult jails where they are at serious risk of abuse, harassment and suicide.  A youth prosecuted in the adult system is more likely to re-offend upon release, and offend more violently, than comparable youth processed in the juvenile system.  In addition, this practice has a severely disproportionate impact on minority youth.  Finally, youth charged as adults face all the collateral consequences associated with an adult criminal record upon release, including problems getting a job, housing, financial supports, and higher education.  The practice doesn’t work to keep our youth safe or to make our communities safer.  We can do better.

These statistics come to life with the stories and art that illustrate how truly harmful this practice is for our youth and our communities.  Thus, Just Kids integrates art throughout our campaign in order to bring these stories to the public and the legislature.  The artwork – from poems, to stories, to photographs and multimedia visual art – is how we reach the hearts and minds of the only ones who can push our representatives to change the laws that mandate automatic prosecution.  One can see or hear the individual stories of youth caught in the adult system, who lose months if not years of their life to adult jail, before trial or transfer, and then must spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome the trauma of the experience and the barriers created by the charge alone.

This art, created by youth organizers and leaders, will be showcased at our October 23 Art with a Story event.  So check us out – at the end you will have seen experiences great art, will understand why we are fighting so hard to end this practice, and learn how to take action!  For tickets go to or

Health Care for the Creative Class

As an artist or organizer you may be wondering how the changes under the Affordable Care Act will impact you. If so you are in luck! The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance has collaborated with Healthcare Access Maryland to answer your questions at a free event on October 16th. At the forum representatives from Healthcare Access Maryland will explain what the Maryland Health Connection is, how you can shop, compare rates and coverage options, and enroll in health coverage right for you.

While the event is FREE, you do need to register. Click here to register.

For more information on the forum please contact Melanie Robey at

When: October 16th, 2013 @ 6:30PM-8:00PM


                Baltimore Theatre Project
                45 W. Preston St.
                Baltimore, MD 21202

Move This World 4th Global Summit

Looking for a way to get moving and develop strategies for social change this weekend? The Move This World 4th Global Summit is taking place is Baltimore this weekend on Saturday, September 21st through Sunday, September 22nd. The Summit brings together activists, artists, students and educators to learn Move this World’s evidence-based curriculum using creative movements to spark social change.  Those in attendance will collaborate in a variety of activities led by MTW’s PeaceMover Facilitators and global staff, engage in group dialogues, self-reflection, and direct action planning.

Move this World uses creative movement to inspire empathy, viewing movement as an embodiment of cultural knowledge. Through creative movement sessions attendees will practice active listening, conflict resolution, civic engagement, appreciating differences, and social awareness. The skills offered by the Move this World summit are both personal and political, providing techniques toward creating larger social change, as well as help for you while traveling that often stressful road.

For more information on the Move the World summit, email MTW’s Program Coordinator and Global Summit aficionado, Alejandra Paucar at

To register for the summit visit:

Saturday, Sept. 21st-Sunday, Sept. 22nd

National Academy Foundation School of Baltimore
601 N. Central Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201

Guest Blogger: Peter Bruun

Is it art?

Is it art?

Using art to advocate creatively is rich with potential, and riddled with challenges. Not least among these is grappling with what we mean by “art”; regardless of how one may feel about feminism, globalism, or multiculturalism, there is no avoiding these phenomena have contributed to eviscerating shared understandings of art as a concept.

I believe the notion of art is itself a construct; a cultural invention to imply certain shared understandings on value, meaning, and status. Objects of any kind are never inherently art or not, but rather objects are understood to be art because we make decisions to anoint them as such. Art is (indeed) in the eye of the beholder.

For me, a key criterion on whether or not something ought to be thought of as art is its standing as an emblem of cultural or personal identity: if notions, qualities, and/or meanings of identity are embodied or conveyed or elucidated for the attentive observer by an object, that object most likely qualifies as art (at least to my eyes).

I accept that something may be art for me but not for someone else. In this regard, I stand in agreement with Arthur C. Danto, who wrote about art as an object plus a context—the context being to my mind the subjective perspective of a viewer.

Given an “art” world of ambiguity and uncertainty, I believe using art to advocate creatively begins with persuading others that what you put in front of them is not only art, but also art worth paying attention to. My presumption here is art carries an aura of authority and authenticity, so if a targeted audience can be convinced on the art-hood of what they perceive, then one is well on the way to achieving advocacy goals.

I have been involved in numerous art projects intended to challenge predominant (and predominantly negative) stereotypes of one social group or another. In project after project, engaging artists and non-artist community members alike, we sought to build and promote inventories of positive identity image.

These art projects have been nothing less than campaigns to change perceptions, only often with divergent value systems in tension with one another: one privileged a more esoteric and elite attitude toward art (i.e. art is the domain of practiced experts), while the other favors a more democratic, vernacular notion on art and imagery (i.e. art works by the unpracticed ought to be considered on equal footing with that of well-established artists).

The solution these projects sought to strike became not so much “this” or “that” kind of art to emphasize but rather “this” and “that”—project leaders spent time cultivating the involvement of well-established artists and including traditionally art-centric exhibitions and events, and also organizing widespread community participation via art workshops and partnerships with non-art, social-minded organizations.

The range of activities was inevitably rich—but at times divided. That is, from time to time, works by the art folks appealed to the art folks, and works by the community folks appealed to the community folks, with little bridging betwixt the two. In such instances, projects fell short of intended goals because the “art” successfully spoke only to the already converted, perhaps fortifying attitudes but carrying little sway in changing them.

Ironically, this proves true most often not with community-made art, but rather with the art made by so-called professionals—art by highly practiced artists frequently does not appear relevant to non-art-centric audiences. In such instances, there is a gap—and need for translation—between art that subtly expressed meaningful content, and a lay audience ill-equipped to find merit on their own.

Such art’s worth is too often thought to be implicit, leaving the art-centrically inclined feeling little need to put energy into convincing the public that their art matters. The art’s efficacy as an advocacy tool is then limited.

(A similar shortcoming could be said to be true for the efforts around the community-made art: if it fails to speak to the art-centric, whose notions on “quality” often inhibit accepting such work’s “art” status, then it too suffers from diminished efficacy.)

I suspect one’s biases on what art matters always informs assumptions about audience response: if one is convinced of the inherent value of the art one favors, one does not take pains to render that value transparent to others. Put plainly, art neither persuasively explained nor adequately presented leaves it under-appreciated as art among those it could have reached, and therefore less effective as creative advocacy than ought to have been the case.

Advocating creatively sounds good, but to do it well is hard and humbling work, demanding of practitioners a combination of self-confidence and reserve, diffidence and insistence, and attention to what speaks to those around you as well as those you want to reach with your message.

Peter Bruun

Guest Blogger: Devlon Waddell Credentialization: A Social Construct

I am Devlon E Waddell; author of three published works (and contributor to others), publisher of a dozen, founder of an organization that has sent youth across the country and shifted the operating budget of a high school by well over a million dollars, developer and implementer of high school creative writing curriculum, founding member of a BCPS middle/high school, public speaker, mentor, coach, husband, father and the grinch that stole poetry…

What does this mean, toward the end of Social Justice? Absolutely nothing. In the realm of employment, a resume offers key indicators as to skill, will and fit, in terms of performing a specific task. Beyond a practical application of a certain skill-set, past experience serves only as a historical context for the work that lies ahead. However, with issues of equity, we are faced with “the fierce urgency of now”. There is no room for the revisiting of days gone by. And, by virtue of our humanity, we are all equal contributors in the building of a larger community.  It is with that in mind that I choose to engage. I find no hierarchy in interpersonal relationships. Regardless of credentials, we are equal; in voice, contribution and authority. The manifestation of such principles is simple. How is it done? At your next convening:

1. Don’t ask the folk you meet about their organizational affiliation. It doesn’t matter.

2. Do genuinely ask the folk you meet about their day. You may learn something meaningful.

3. Don’t present your agenda as if it is everyone’s top priority. It isn’t.

4. Do listen intently AND respond appropriately. Validation of voice does matter.

This notion of inherent authority beyond that which comes along with experience is laughable. Even as ‘do-gooders’ we cannot seem to escape such divisive constructs.

Profile of the Week: Make Studio

Make Studio works to create an inclusive, supportive space for adults with disabilities to explore their artistic talents and create their own work. The artists that attend Make Studio’s programming are able to experiment with diverse techniques and mediums alongside the studio’s staff. Additionally Make Studio’s artists are able to earn income through the sale of their art via Make Studio’s online shop where the artists receive 70% of the price of their sold work. Make Studio is striving for their artists to receive recognition for their art and talent by not only promoting the sale of their work but creating exhibit opportunities for their artists to share their creative works with the public. Through their exhibitions artists are able to not only display their talent but can help destigmatize how our society views individuals with disabilities.

Make Studio has a new exhibit coming up entitled Take A Look: Mine Ours Yours. The exhibit will run from September 9th-October 17th, 2013 at The Julio Fine Arts Gallery in the College Center of Loyola University, 4501 North Charles St. An Artists Talk and Reception will be held on Thursday September 12th from 5pm-7pm. For more information on the Exhibit and the featured artists, view the event flyer


**If you would like to be featured as our Profile of the Week, go to and put yourself on the map!**

The Art of Justice

Bringing together the artwork of over 40 local and national artists is an exhibit to honor the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington is “The Art of justice.” The exhibit is organized by Michael Anthony Brown, Toni George, and Greg Scott and features works from a range of different genres. The Art of Justice reflects the artists’ perspectives of the historical and current state of justice in the U.S, as well as the continuing fight for racial equality. The Art of Justice is striving to encourage a “new generation of social awareness” to shape future activism for social justice.

Organizers of the exhibit are currently raising funds for the exhibit to further expand in size and continue spreading its message by traveling nationally. The opening reception for The Art of Justice will be held on Friday, August 23, 2013 from 5-8pm at the Mount Rainier Artists Loft Gallery. There will be a pre-march celebration featuring performances by Ayanna Gregory from her play, “Daughter of the Struggle.”  The gallery itself will be open daily from 12 noon to 7pm and the exhibit will run through Sunday, September 8th 2013.


For more information on the exhibit please visit

Profile of the Week: Amorous Ebony

Amorous Ebony, is a homegrown Baltimore artist and a current theater major at Coppin State University. As a singer, songwriter, poet and actress, Ebony has combined her art and talent with her dedication to serving the community, working with youth, and spreading love.

Ebony is a youth cultural organizer for the Youth Resiliency Institute and aids in the coordination of the annual Youth Arts Harvest Festival.

Ebony leading a march for the Youth Resiliency Institute

Ebony leading a march for the Youth Resiliency Institute

Ebony has performed as a part of CrE3sol, Sunshine’s Models on Wheels, KIPP academy, and throughout Baltimore.

Check out Ebony’s Art+Justice profile!



**If you would like to be featured as our profile of the week just go to and put yourself on the map!**

Profile of the Week: Cycles: Women’s Health Project

Cycles: Women’s Health Project is a project lead by community artist Whitney Frazier that is focused on addressing women’s health concerns in East Baltimore neighborhoods. Frazier is collaborating with women and girls to create an illustrated resource book about women’s health topics. Cycles uses art and social justice to educate about women’s health concerns and the issues with the western medical system’s treatment of women’s health. Once the book has been created, the female participants of Cycles will distribute the book within their communities and host their own visual storytelling workshops addressing the books topics.

Additionally, Frazier has used public bathrooms as a research tool by posting drawings and written prompts to spark responses by those using the public bathrooms. These stories and concerns collected from public restrooms are added to the different ways that Frazier has been doing research and collecting the stories of women and girls in Baltimore. Cycle’s Tumblr also encourages anyone interested in participating in the Cycles Project to contact Whitney Frazier.


**If you would like to be highlighted in our Profile of the Week please visit and put yourself on the map!**

%d bloggers like this: