Created by designer and activist Melissa Moore, the Youth Learning Lab of Education and Applied Design (Y-LLEAD) in Greenmount West is a youth-led + intergenerational supported design, build, and community activation program.
A typical Y-LLEAD session begins with setting an intention and closes with similar activities. Youth participant Talayia Bowman explains, “We come and sit in a circle to keep our energy and circulation between us. We start with our meditation/contemplation practice where we ground our feet and sit in an upright position with our backs erect… It’s beneficial. We are still young and pulled in a lot of directions but this helps us be more open to what we want to be, kind and decent to other people.”
Bowman also described the benefits of being in an intentional collaborative learning environment. “I’ve been in programs where the ripple effect only lasts as long as the duration of the program, but here, this is stuff that directly deals with how we view society and how we carry ourselves.” Bowman smiled, and then continued, “I deal with regular challenges… when I leave here, it’s like taking a little ball of optimism outside into the world with me. Being young, people don’t expect us to think through stuff as much as we do. Design thinking means taking something apart layer by layer. This program has helped me learn how to unpack hard situations and I can use [these skills] as soon as I hit the sidewalk outside. Overall I would describe my experience as enlightening,” Bowman explained. “What makes [Y-LLEAD] different is how it is run. Most programs lie about wanting participants to have a voice, but this place does not.”
Using a combination of healing practices and design thinking, Y-LLEAD helps participants and facilitators work together to solve complex social problems. Y-LLEAD learning exchange facilitator Thea Ganlas said, “We spend a lot of time really listening and hearing everyone’s voice. It’s therapeutic for me and it’s almost unfair to get paid for doing it. We learn how to approach communal work. We talk about everything. We see this space as safe and whatever we bring to it, we deal with in the healthiest way possible. I have not seen this work out with other programs – other programs I’ve been a part of were focused on the business end of the work, not the healing that can come through doing arts-based practice.”
As a facilitator, Ganlas sees Y-LLEAD as a chance to be an ally in communities that are not her own. “I came to Baltimore as a student. I did not feel connected to the neighborhoods because I stayed inside of a bubble. It is really easy to do. I decided finally that I should find out what it means to live in Baltimore and not let others speak for those experiences. Being a part of Y-LLEAD helps me feel connected to the city I have decided will remain home for now.”
As a Baltimore native, youth participant Bowman offers another perspective on allyship. “I don’t live around [Greenmount West] and a few months ago I would have been like, ‘I don’t live around here, I don’t hang around here and I don’t care about what goes on around here.’ But now I realize I don’t have to live here to care about the neighborhood.”
We recently sat down with Allison Yasukawa, whose show Land Grab runs through July 4th at The Chicken Box on 1 W North Avenue. Allison is a multidisciplinary visual artist and educator. She teaches in the Foundation department at MICA, and is a co-founder of the Baltimore-based alternative art space, Lease Agreement.
The opening of Land Grab was attended by an ice-cream truck selling cones topped with chocolate cockroaches (still delicious!)
What is your name?
How old are you?
Which neighborhood do you live in and which neighborhood do you work in?
I live in Waverly, and I work in the Bolton Hill/Station North Area at MICA.
Describe your art or organization.
I have an interdisciplinary practice that primarily includes sculpture, performance, sound, video, and drawing. Often, the content that I’m concerned with is based in some way on social interactions, particularly those in which imbalances of power are the assumed norm. I play up these imbalances and identify them through the work in an effort to draw attention to the flimsy nature of social divisions.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, I have a solo exhibition up at the Station North Chicken box titled Land Grab. The work in this showfocuses on three distinct but interrelated contexts—tourism, the service industry, and the American Dream—and on different ways that people lay claim to a position of status within these contexts. Much of this work includes pieces that I commissioned from other people to bring ideas of labor and subjectivity into the exhibition in a very real way.
What social justice cause(s) are you particularly drawn to, and why?
I am especially invested in immigrant and refugee resettlement and empowerment. These populations face many challenges in the U.S. Not only have they have left their home countries, family members, and support networks, but they are negotiating a new cultural environment, frequently in a new language, and often with few resources at their disposal.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m really inspired by the people that I come into contact with through my practice. Because if the interactive component of my work, I often find myself having out-of-the-ordinary encounters with people. As I said, for the work in Land Grab, there were a lot of individuals that had a hand—directly or indirectly—in the making of the work. Making the initial approach, talking through an idea with someone I am interested in working with, and then serving as a witness to her/his own creative act is a really thrilling experience that energizes my practice.
What’s the best part about being an artist or running an arts organization in Baltimore?
I moved to Baltimore in 2012, so it’s still a very new place for me. It’s always exciting to get to know a place by making work in it, so I think that the newness of my experience here is my favorite part right now.
I also co-run an alternative exhibition space here with my husband, Adam Farcus, called Lease Agreement. This is something that the two of us have wanted to do for a while now, and being in Baltimore has given us the opportunity to make it happen. It’s been great to engage with the art community here and also stay in active contact with makers outside of Baltimore.
Who would you like to collaborate on a project with?
Dimitri Reeves—he’s the guy who does the Michael Jackson impersonation street performances. Outstanding.
What’s one social justice organization that people need to know about, and why?
One of the organizations I’ve been most active in so far here is the Refugee Youth Project (RYP). RYP is an organization that works with refugee resettlement in the Baltimore area. They do amazing and creative work, and they are always looking for more people to become involved.
I’m also constantly impressed by the work of the Druid Heights Community Development Association. They are located in the Druid Heights neighborhood, and are involved in many important community-based initiatives.
To learn more about Allison visit allisonyasukawa.com.
Photo by Adam Farcus
Join 901 Arts for its first ever KIDULT Variety Show. KIDULT is an inter-generational variety show co-created through a month long residency at 901 Arts by adult artists, musicians, and performers collaborating with youth artists and musicians to create skits, raps, songs, dances, costumes, props, and the set. Get ready to see and hear what’s happening in the enchanted forest and be prepared for sing alongs! Followed by a dance party. Food and Beverages (alcoholic and non) will be available.
When: Friday, May 30th 2014
Doors/ Reception/ Listening Stations/ Costume Photo Booth: 7PM
Show starts at 8PM! and goes till 9:30PM (with one intermission)
Dance Party 9:30-11PM
Where: 2640 Space at 2640 Saint Paul Street Baltimore, MD 21218
How: $7 – $20 sliding scale suggested donation at the door. Kids 5 and under free!
Who: performances by 901 Arts Youth and Crossroads Middle School Students in collaboration with Baltimore based adult artists and musicians!
Kid Artist: 901 Arts youth and Crossroads Middle School students
Adult Artists: Person Ablach, Mary Alessi, Benjamin Alexander, Regina Armenta, Stephanie Barber, Max Bent, Zachary Christensen, Theresa Columbus, Alex D’Agostino, Ami Dang, Marquisha Davis, Pilar Diaz, Robert Dietrich, Vanessa Ferguson, Maggie Fitzpatrick, Sarah Frank, Lee Heinemann, Wayne Johnson, Jessica Keyes, John Alex Lind, Julie Little, Sophia Mak, Lisa Murphy-Mitchell, Cassidy Regan, Alexa Richardson, Ann Russell, Aaron Smith, Kali Stull, Kayla Thomas, Sarah Tooley, Emily Uchytil, Dan Zink
About 901 Arts: 901 Arts is a grassroots community art center that provides free year round art and music programs to the children and teens of the Better Waverly neighborhood in Baltimore City. 901 Arts serves over 100 youth a year with the help of over 100 volunteers. Founded in 2006 by parent and adult community members as a community-strengthening tool, 901 Arts is a project of the Better Waverly Community Organization.
In our next Action video, we focus on the work of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. Hannah Brancato describes how FORCE has used large media campaigns to draw in large audiences and get them engaged on the topic of rape culture. By using very public and internet based media they have been able to motivate many more people to participate in fighting rape culture then using other methods may have allowed.
To view the rest of the Continuum of Impact videos please visit the Baltimore Art + Justice Project YouTube channel
Don’t miss our last video next week……. Policies!
The Continuum of Impact Video Series is based on the Continuum of Impact created by Animating Democracy, the videos each highlight specific ways that social justice and art collaboration create an impact.
The Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance has begun collecting submissions for their new grant: The Rubys. The Rubys was created this year with start-up funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation to provide project-based funding for new and established artists in the Baltimore area. Performing, visual, media, and literary artists who are doing work intended to impact their community are encouraged to apply for The Rubys Grant. The program will award up to $10,000 to an artist in each of the four grant categories: Performing Arts, Media Arts, Visual Arts, and Literary Arts.
To be eligible for the grant, an artist must be:
- A resident of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, or Howard County at the time of application and when the grant is awarded.
- A U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.
- At least 21 years old.
- An active practicing artist who has pursued their profession in their chosen discipline for more than three years
Applications are currently being accepted and the application deadline is February 2, 2014. For more information on the application process, to apply, or for further information about the grant please visit here.