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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: 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 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 artplusjustice.org and put yourself on the map!**

Profile of the Week: Mosno Al-Moseeki

Mosno Al-Moseeki is an international singer/songwriter and a native of Sudan. Mosno uses his music to bring a positive image of Sudan to the United States, and a positive image of the U.S. to Sudan. Mosno’s music is a pentatonic blend of acoustic rock known as Desert Electric mixed with his own Arab-poetic lyrics.

He is currently working on a full length album entitled “Novella” which is in part inspired by his cultural migration. His song “System Down (#SudanRevolts)” caused his websites to be banned in his home country. Mosno donates the proceeds from the song to Girifna (we are fed up), a non-violent protest movement based in Sudan.

He will be performing at Artscape this weekend on Friday AND Saturday!

Friday July 19th, 2013 performance with Sahffi Lynne of goatfish for the Musicians of Mercy’s Conscious Cabaret at Falvey Hall at 5:30pm

Saturday July 20th, 2013 performance with Spyros as part of the Greek Nubian Collective performance at Falvey Hall at 7pm

**Want to be featured in our profile of the week? Go to artplusjustice.org and put yourself on the map!**

Profile of the Week: Art with a Heart

Art with a Heart is a Baltimore organization that has been working since 2000 to provide visual art programs to underserved children, youth, and adults. This summer marks the 8th year of Art with a Heart’s Summer Job Program which creates opportunities for youth to learn valuable job skills while making marketable art. The art students in the program create is available to purchase at HeARTwares and will be displayed at the August 2nd event Shop & Bop.

job

Art with a Heart continues to provide community based programming, recently holding art programs at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, McDonogh School, the Edgecombe Circle Elementary/Middle School, and Bristol House.edge

Art with a Heart’s HeARTwares is a retail store where the public can purchase items made through their different programs. The proceeds from the sale of art is shared by Art with a Heart and the artist or community partner. Additionally HeARTwares works in alignment with the Summer Job Program, providing real job experience, such as money handling and working with the public. HeARTwares is located at 623 W. 34th Street, and has an entrance at 3355 Keswick Road as well. HeARTwares is currently open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday from 12 to 6 pm, and Sunday from 12 to 5 pm.

Upcoming Art with a Heart events:

August 2nd, 2013: Shop & Bop: See and purchase artwork created by students in the Summer Job Program

August 2nd, 2013, 5:00-10:00pm : Partnership with The Gathering, support students and shop their artwork

**Would you like to be featured as our Profile of the Week? Go to artplusjustice.org and put yourself on the map!**

Profile of the Week: Alyscia Cunningham

Alyscia is an author and gifted photographer whose recent publication Feminine Transitions is a full-color photography book that explores the topic of natural female beauty. The book features photographs of women ranging in age from just 7 weeks old to 103 years.

Feminine-Transitions-cover-revised

Alyscia’s work has been published in The Best of Photography 2011, Beauty Around Us, Endless Journeys and Homes of Color Magazine. She has also provided photography for the Smithsonian Institution, America Online, National Geographic and the Discover Channel.

More information on Alyscia, her work, and to order a copy of Feminine Transitions please visit her website at alyscia.com

You can also check out her BA+JP profile at http://artplusjustice.org/members/alysciac/

**If you would like to be featured in our profile of the week go to http://www.artplusjustice.org and put yourself on the map!**

Young at Art: Wide Angle Youth Media and The 8th Annual Youth Media Festival

Since 2000, Wide Angle Youth Media has been providing opportunities for Baltimore City youth to develop leadership skills, gain media education, and access to media resources and tools. Each year the organization works with hundreds of Baltimore youth who learn techniques that range from design to photography to film and more. Wide Angle provides these resources and education through a variety of different after school and summer programs: Wide Angle’s Attendance and Design Team, Baltimore Speaks Out!, Mentoring Video Project, Youth Speaks Out!, Summer Media Camp, Special Programs, and their Youth Media Festival. While each of these programs provide a different topic focus, the content is guided by and the end outcome is controlled by the youth involved. Running through all of Wide Angle’s programs is a consistent and clear intent to assist Baltimore City Youth in telling their own story through their own words… or images.

Wide Angle Youth Media_Brandon 636px             Wide Angle works to go beyond just providing the education and the resources, but creates platforms for youth to share their art with the rest of the city. The 8th Annual Wide Angle Youth Media Festival will be holding its Opening Reception next Wednesday May 15th, 2013 from 5:00-8:00pm at the Creative Alliance. The Youth Media Festival showcases the art of over 200 youth from over 40 schools and 10 after school programs across Baltimore City. Using photography and film, this year’s Youth Media Festival features pieces created to challenge negative stereotypes of young people in Baltimore. During the Opening Reception, Wide Angle is collaborating with The Gandhi Brigade’s Just Us Youth Media Festival to screen videos by youth from across Maryland addressing the difficulties they experience and the positive things young people are doing in response. From 3:00pm-5:00pm on the 15th Wide Angle will be hosting free art activities at the Creative Alliance prior to the official Opening Reception. While the Festival’s Opening Reception is next Wednesday the Exhibition will run from May 15th until May 24th.

Individual Tickets for the festival are $10 and can be purchased here.

Wide Angle Youth Media Festival
Wednesday May 15, 2013
Opening Reception 5:00-8:00 PM
Where:
The Creative Alliance
Amalie Rothschild Gallery
3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore MD 21224Final-Festival-Postcard

Ashley Milburn: Flipping What We See

As Ashley Milburn was beginning his work as an artist he struggled to find meaning or purpose in the creation of art while in the studio. It was when he began to do art that was community based that he felt that his work was truly “valuable.” Milburn describes community based art as impactful because of the engagement and sharing that the artist experiences with community. Essential to community based art he feels is the ability for the artist to give up ownership of the art making process and allow themselves to come into the project with a blank slate that is capable of being inspired from within the community itself.  Driven by his passion for community art last year Milburn helped organize ROOTS Fest 2011, an outdoor festival and gathering of community-based art-makers and practitioners who engaged in community dialogues, held performances,  visual art installations, films, and more in West Baltimore.

Milburn has drawn his inspiration from the community and topics that have proven timely and personal. Through his work The Hoodie Diaries, he draws attention to the way in which our society attributes entire realities to inanimate objects. His work focuses on the hoodie, which has been invented from a simple piece of clothing into a threatening and dangerous symbol profoundly embedded in racist anxiety. The construction of this false reality is used as a tool to oppress people of color and maintain the created image of a menace to society. Milburn challenges the societal perceptions of the hoodie by transforming the stigmatized clothing into three dimensional works of art whose beauty expose the false reality behind the constructed image.

In Milburn’s new project Flipped: The Art of Visualizing Racism, he continues his work focused on “flipping” and changing negative images into something transformative. “Flipped” works to highlight the deep seeded roots of racist imagery embedded in American culture by drawing examples of these images and using them in his art. Milburn’s new pieces take the images intended to dehumanize and oppress a race of people and creates a new message that works to dismantle the old. The use of the racist imagery assures that the viewer does not forget the extensive history of racism or the impact that such imagery has on manipulating societal attitudes. At the same time the way in which the images are used and flipped challenges the power behind the images by changing not only the way the images are viewed, but who is creating them.

Throughout his work Milburn consistently shows how art can be used as a tool to expose the problematic aspects of society. In his different projects he is able to take images and objects that are immersed in racism and transform them into wholly new works of art that disarm the original power and intent all the while ensuring that its history is still visible. The Hoodie Diaries can be seen at the upcoming Facing Race conference in Baltimore from November 15-17th, please visit arc.org/faceingrace for more information. For more information on The Hoodie Diaries please click here. For more information on Flipped: The Art of Visualizing Racism please click here.

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