The Baltimore Art + Justice Project assisted yesterday with the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance’s “Map it Now” Brown Bag. BA+JP’s Kalima Young and Rebecca Yenawine from New Lens co-facilitated the packed event where many individuals presented their organizations’ maps and data collection experiences. Public Laboratory, Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, Baltimore Jazz Alliance, Story of Place Project, Arts Everyday, Power In Dirt, Baltimore Green Space were some of the groups whose efforts were shared and discussed at the event.
Throughout the conversation the importance of art in the community was continually referenced and the effect that research and visual tools, such as maps, can have on showing the positive impact art and cultural programs have on communities. Some of the issues and challenges that were raised related to collaborating and bringing in new people. The Greater Baltimore Tech Council and the Tech and Social Change Baltimore Meet up Group were discussed as two good ways that arts, cultural, and justice based workers could reach out to individuals in the tech community looking to collaborate.
Continuing the Conversation: What have been some of your challenges and experiences collecting data and mapping Baltimore’s cultural, arts, and justice based communities? What have you found?
by Brie Hagen and John Massad
On December 13, 2012, the BA+JP held a community dialogue, Merging Art and Activism. The event included an exercise where attendees discussed four Baltimore art/activism projects: Baltimore Storm Drain Project, Schools Not Jails, Baltimore Graffiti Warehouse, and Baltimore LOVE Project. Throughout the discussion, those in attendance were grappling with the concept of the intersection between art and activism. Participants unpacked what constitutes art as “activism.” This distinction began to be defined by evaluating whether or not a piece should be understood within the context of active engagement with communities to foster change.
The Schools Not Jails example was discussed as low on the dimension of “art” and quite high along the dimension of “activism,” while many felt that the Baltimore Graffiti Warehouse was the reverse. The Baltimore Storm Drain Project, as well as the Baltimore LOVE Project were viewed largely by participants as somewhere in the middle, though it is vitally important to note that there was not consensus on either. It was clear in the conversation that not all art in the public sphere is inherently considered “activism.”
An underlying theme emerged in the conversation about what people looked for in defining art and activism. What was not discussed, but was woven through each of the conversations, and lies at the intersection, is intentionality. What is the intention of the person who produced each project and the artists associated with it? Is it intended to motivate change? Is it intended to speak truth to power? Can we really know, and does it even matter?
So, as we are considering the intersection of art and social justice activism, we are grappling with definitions of what constitutes “art” and “activism,” with an overlay of what the intention of the artist/producer really is. And what about a work of art that is not in any way “intended” by the artist to produce change and yet is so provocative that it redefines discourse about both?
What do you think?
We want to hear what you have to say on the topic of intentionality, art and activism in Baltimore.
If you are interested in submitting a blog post on the topic, please email your post by this Friday Feb. 8th to email@example.com to be featured next Monday Feb. 11th.
Have you ever walked past a community garden in the city and thought to yourself that you would like to be part of creating one? Or perhaps you’ve been riding by and saw a bright, green open space and appreciated the beauty it adds to any street? For anyone interested in becoming involved, already involved, or a seasoned eco-vet an event is being held this Thursday January 31st that is perfect for you! The CGRN Summit is an open summit in it’s 3rd year being held to discuss all things related to creating a green and sustainable Baltimore. It’s a great place to make your concerns heard and learn how to get (more) involved.
January 31, 2013 — 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Location: 2640 Space, 2640 St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD 21218
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us for our second community dialogue: Merging Art + Activism: The Highs and the Lows, December 13, 2012 at Jubilee Arts! Lets talk about art and agitation. Lets explore what we love about arts-based activism. Lets unpack the things that make us cringe! All are welcome to this wonderful, interactive dialogue at Jubilee Arts. You’ll also be able to get yourself on the Baltimore Art + Justice Project map!
Please RSVP by December 10, 2012 and spread the word!
Light fare will be provided and parking is available.
Are you an artist, designer, creator, community organizer, or advocate working at the intersection of art and social justice within Baltimore?
The Baltimore Art + Justice Project is collecting data for an interactive map of art and social justice activity in Baltimore.
Put yourself on the map by going to www.mica.edu/bajp and complete the BA+JP questionnaire!
Please Note: If you work in Baltimore City but live in the surrounding counties, please use your Baltimore City address and zip code when creating your Animating Democracy account!
If you have any questions while completing the survey please contact Kalima Young at email@example.com
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.
What’s your name?
How old are you?
Which neighborhood do you live in?
Describe your art.
When I lived in Philadelphia from 2001- 2009, I was choreographing and performing modern dance. During that time, I also performed as a theatre clown with Clowns Without Borders traveling internationally to make children laugh. When I moved to Baltimore, I worked at Wholly Terra in Hampden, welding and making stained glass sculptures. Traveling in Haiti with Clowns Without Borders, I became increasingly interested in sustainability and self-sufficiency, after being awestruck by the implications/connections between deforestation, lack of healthy drinking water, and poverty. I began pursuing sustainable agriculture in my quest for personal self-sufficiency and wanting to help others grow their own food.
What are you currently working on?
I’m the Farm Manager of Whitelock Community Farm, a resident-run urban farm in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood of
Baltimore. In 2010 we began building a neighborhood-supported agriculture project growing healthy, sustainable, and affordable produce for the residents in our neighborhood.
In addition to growing food for the community, the farm implements its mission through farm-based learning programs such as gardening and cooking classes for children and adults. We believe that everyone has a right to affordable, healthy, quality food accessed in a way that is environmentally sustainable and socially just.
We have a CSA and a market stand open on Saturdays where residents can buy fresh produce grown at the farm. Residents can also work at the farm in exchange for produce. In August of 2012, the Linden Market, a neighborhood corner store, will start carrying our produce as well.
What social justice cause(s) are you particularly drawn to, and why?
I was drawn to sustainable agriculture because the impact is not only environmental but also social, economic and healthful. I also just really love the company of other farmers!
Who or what inspires you?
Weeds! They are so prolific and will grow even in the poorest conditions. They are relentless and unapologetic.
What’s the best part about being an artist in Baltimore?
It seems like there’s a lot of possibility in Baltimore, because there’s so many neglected spaces just waiting for artistic, social projects. There is also a supportive community of likeminded artists and activists who are willing share their resources and ideas.
What’s the worst part about being an artist in Baltimore?
I can’t think of any.
What sort of and/or social justice projects would you love to take on?
I would love to create more events that cross-pollinate performance, food, and education. Like the STEW events, I love those! I also want the farm to be a launch pad for beginning gardeners, helping people in the city grow their own food.
Who would you like to collaborate on a project with?
I would love to collaborate with artists and educators on creating events around the celebration and education of healthy eating and growing food.
What’s one social justice organization that people need to know about, and why?
I just learned about City Slicker Farms in Oakland, CA. In addition to having a productive urban farm, they also have a backyard garden program. They help train new gardeners, test their soil for them, and hook them up with a garden mentor who works with them for a year. Then, in a year, the new gardener becomes the mentor, educating other backyard gardeners. Providing fresh produce to neighbors is one thing, but helping growing new gardeners that can produce their own food is where the real revolution is.
How do you think artists are changing Baltimore?
Artists are visionaries that help us see our world and the way we live in new ways. They help connect the intellectual with the emotional, which is a catalyst for change. At its best art moves us to take action.
Are you an artist working for social justice? Do you have something to say?
Leave a comment below if you’d like to fill out the Baltimore A + J artist profile questionnaire!
The Baltimore Art + Justice Project
What’s the Word? Click to read!
- Artists Within Spotlight: Y-LLEAD – Healing the Self to Heal the Community
- Artists Within Spotlight: Single Carrot Theatre Arts Integration in an Uprising
- Baltimore Uprising Art Archive Series 4: North and Penn Visual Artists and More
- Baltimore Uprising Art Archive: Series 3 – Youth Voices
- Baltimore Uprising Art Archive: Series 2
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