Tag Archive | race

Continuum of Impact: Capacity

Capacity involves the efforts to build strategies for organizing along with raising the status marginalized and disenfranchised communities. Our Capacity video features the Youth Resiliency Institute who provide cultural arts programming and training to youth and their families in Baltimore City. Navasha Daya and Fanon Hill describe the organizations’ methods of using multiple forms of art from dance to poetry to provide an outlet for agency building. Using the creative skills developed through YRI, youth have become become engaged politically, culturally, and locally engaged.

To view the complete interview with Youth Resiliency Institute: Click Here Part 1 | Part 2

To view the rest of the Continuum of Impact videos please visit the Baltimore Art + Justice Project YouTube channel.

Coming up next week……. Action Part 2!

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.

Continuum of Impact: Attitudes

Changing the way people feel about an issue is a difficult task to undertake but art can be a helpful medium to do so. Using art, organizers and activists can generate feelings of hope, pride, and respect in both those who engage  in the creation of art and those who view or experience it. Our Attitudes video highlights the work of DewMore Baltimore and 901 Arts who use art to change people’s thought’s and attitudes towards specific issues. Devlon Waddell from DewMore Baltimore describes how they use literary arts to encourage individuals to explore their understanding of themselves to then develop a stronger connection with their community.

To view the complete interview with DewMore Baltimore: Click Here

To view the complete interview with 901 Arts: Click Here

To view the rest of the Continuum of Impact videos please visit the Baltimore Art + Justice Project YouTube channel.

Stay tuned next week for……. Capacity!

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.

Star-Crossed in Station North: A 400-year play sheds light on today’s Baltimore

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Juliet (Annie Unger) and Romeo (Michelle Antoinette Nelson)

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared at mobtownblues.com in June 2013.

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Last June’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by Baltimore Performance Kitchen used a centuries-old story to explore very contemporary social issues. In presenting the Bard’s venerable tale (itself based on an earlier Italian novella) of feuding families and ill-fated lovers, director J. Buck Jabaily’s site-specific play exposed fault lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, and generation relevant to today’s Baltimore. [Full disclosure: I was a member of the cast.]

For the play’s setting, Jabaily chose Area 405, a multi-use arts space on the site of a former brewery and fan factory in Greenmount West, one of the neighborhoods that comprise what is now called the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. The building’s transition, from an anchor of the local industrial economy a century ago, to a cultural venue in what is currently an economically distressed area, allowed Jabaily to allude to the tensions that occasionally spring up between Baltimore’s emerging arts community and longstanding residents of the Station North neighborhoods.

In BPK’s retelling, the Capulets represented Baltimore of 1913: staid, conservative, wealthy, and white. The Montagues, by contrast, reflected contemporary Station North residents: younger, less affluent, less formal, more diverse. These distinctions were manifest in the casting of the titular lovers. Juliet was played by Annie Unger, a blonde, hazel-eyed teen just out of high school, while Romeo was played — as a woman — by Michelle Antoinette “LOVE the Poet” Nelson, an African-American spoken-word artist in her early thirties.

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Area 405 courtyard

The venue and casting decisions had a profound impact on the interpretation of the play. Without altering Shakespeare’s text (beyond trimming passages for time and changing the gender pronouns that refer to Romeo), Jabaily crafted a production that touched on themes of racism, sexual orientation, gentrification, and cross-generational friction.

For example, the contempt and outrage that Tybalt (Paul Diem) displays toward Romeo took on topical undertones, given the latter’s interracial, intergenerational, same-sex romance with Juliet. Similarly the street brawls that result in the deaths of Tybalt, Mercutio (Aldo Pantoja), and Paris (Richard Goldberg) were sobering echoes of the violence that continues to plague Baltimore. The production even shed new light on the source of the feud between the two families, which is unexplained in Shakespeare’s text. Since the Capulets and the Montagues represent different periods in the city’s history, their conflict can be attributed to an existential clash of epochs and cultures: the struggle between “old” Baltimore and “new” Baltimore to occupy the same place at the same time.

Just as those boundaries of time and space were peeled back in this rendition, the walls between actors and audience were similarly malleable. The play sbegan in an alley, then moved out onto Oliver Street for Mercutio’s ‘Queen Mab’ speech, before finally proceeding into the Area 405 courtyard for the masquerade ball and the ensuing chain of unfortunate events. The chairs were shuffled and reconfigured according to the demands of different scenes. At times, the audience found themselves leaning in to catch the dialogue above the ambient urban noises of train whistles, police helicopters, bass-heavy car stereos, and talkative pedestrians. Jabaily even reserved a handful of roles — Romeo’s ex-girlfriend Rosaline, Lady Montague, and the fateful apothecary — for adventurous audience members who felt inspired to become part of the show.

In keeping with BPK’s ethos of inclusiveness and reducing boundaries among Baltimore artists and audiences, tickets to ‘Romeo and Juliet’ were free. In the weeks leading up to the show’s opening, Jabaily reached out to members of the Greenmount West community and encouraged neighbors to drop in and check out the play. Each performance began with brief presentations by cast members about the history of Station North and the background of the play.

The result was a Romeo and Juliet that was as far removed from the Shakespeare of floppy hats and flowery accents as Station North is from 16th-century Verona. Like Baltimore itself, Jabaily’s production was earthy, unpretentious, and diverse, by turns absurdly funny and shockingly violent.

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Juliet in her bedroom

The closing scene carried a particularly potent lesson for those of us who love this city. Though the lovers’ suicide marks the climax of the piece, the final action in the play is the reconciliation between the Capulets and the Montagues. Through poetry written centuries ago, Shakespeare reminds us that hope awaits us even on the far side of tragedy, and that we can overcome the bitterest of lines that divide us, so long as we are willing to reach across them and clasp each other’s hands.

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 theartofjustice.org

What Do You Think Baltimore?: Baltimore Think-A-Thon

On Friday May 24th an event is bringing together Baltimore artists, social activists, researchers, medical professionals, scientists, humanists, political representatives, and foundations to do some thinking. The Baltimore Think-A-Thon is an all day brainstorming event being held by the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Focusing on addressing both black infant mortality and rising AIDS/HIV rates in the city, along with other possible issues raised by participants, those in attendance will be coming together across occupations and communities to discuss past, present, and future ways to address these issues.

The Think-A-Thon comes out of recent studies that have found the collaboration between arts and science practitioners in problem solving can create innovative and effective interventions. The varying backgrounds of the thinkers involved from art to science, to politics encourages that they will bring different skills, perspectives, and thinking styles to the discussion. During the day artists will be working to create preliminary sketches of the ideas thought up by the group. The works created throughout the day will be used later in the “Baltimore Stories Project,” a larger community based project.

The intense day of problem solving, thinking and discussing will be taking place on Friday, May 24, 2013 from 9:00am-3:00pm and will be followed by a reception and a poster session. The Think-A-Thon is being held in the Westminster Hall, located at 519 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

For more information and to register please visit http://www.arhu.umd.edu/thinkathon

Addressing Race and Gender at THIRTY

Maryland Art Place’s event series THIRTY: 30 Creative Minds Under 30 features artists under the age of thirty who are making a name for themselves in Baltimore. The next THIRTY on April 10th, 2013 features two artists that address issues around race and gender.

Nora Howell, a MICA graduate, uses her art as a way of addressing systemic racism and opening dialogues on whiteness. Howell uses popular images in her work, such as Oreos and media advertisements, to spark conversations surrounding race. Many of Howell’s projects have focused specifically on raising visibility to the pervasiveness of whiteness in society. Her “Cracker Dress” is one example of her use of head turning images.

"Oblivia around town. Consumed by her own musings, Oblivia seems unaware of the impact of her “cracker-ness” on those around her."

Nora Howell in her Cracker dress
“Oblivia consumed by her own musings, Oblivia seems unaware of the impact of her “cracker-ness” on those around her.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alicia Ciambrone, a current MICA student, addresses the portrayal of women and girls in the media/television through her Girls Series. Ciambrone’s “Mean Girls” series showcases the hyper-sexualized and aggressive portrayals of women in many current reality television shows. Similarly, in her “Naperville Girls” series Ciambrone remarks on the images of young women often seen across social media sites were they are often stripped of any individual self.

Alicia Ciambrone's "Biter"

Alicia Ciambrone’s “Biter”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can check out more of Nora Howell and Alicia Ciambrone’s art at:

 THIRTY: 30 Creative Minds Under 30

Wednesday April 10th
6:00pm
Maryland Art Place
8 Market Place, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

World AIDS Day Cabaret Benefiting AIDS Action Baltimore

The Creative Alliance will be honoring World AIDS Day this upcoming Friday, November 30th, 2012 by holding a musical celebration. A cabaret starring Mink Stole, Sunrize Highway, Quae Simpson, Alexis Holzer, Tenley Spatz, and more, will be hosted by Adam Cooley. The evening will include Broadway, pop, rock’n’roll, and original songs performed by the Baltimore cast. Following the performances AIDS Action Baltimore’s Lynda Dee and John Hopkins Hospital’s Dr. Dick Chaisson will hold an interactive dialogue with the audience and present new research developments. Proceeds for the event benefit AIDS Action Baltimore. Tickets are $20 for general public and $15 for members. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Creative Alliance website or calling 410-276-1651. The show begins at 8pm on November 30th.

“For All the World to See” Opens this week at UMBC

For All the World to See, the new exhibit at UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, explores the critical role of visual images in impacting the fight for civil rights in the United States. The exhibit contains over 250 images from posters, graphic art, magazines, photographs, newspapers, books, pamphlets, political buttons, comic books, newsreels, postcards, toys, television, and clips from films. The exhibit chronicles the historic role of visual imagery in shaping peoples’ attitudes, beliefs, and inspiring activism and eventual legislation. For All the World to See showcases the importance of visual images in invoking emotional responses in individuals, communities, and the country at large. As the world continues to become increasingly more reliant on visual media and camera phone videos are common place amongst the 5 o’clock news, the message of the exhibit remains timely. The exhibit is co-organized by the Center for the Art, Design and Visual Culture, UMBC and the Smithsonian Nation Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington D.C. It has been touring New York and Tennessee and will be at UMBC on November 15th until March 10, 2013.

UMBC has been working on a project to expand the exhibit that opens as well on Nov. 15th entitled For All the World to Hear. Organized by the Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture, UMBC, the project involved a dozen senior-citizens from the Baltimore area to write and perform their own personal stories regarding their experiences being involved in the fight for civil rights. After their live performances there will be mediated discussions with audience members. The first performance will be at noon on Thursday November 15th at UMBC in The Commons.

For more information on For all the World to See visit the website and view the online exhibit.

For more information and future performances of For All the World to Hear visit the UMBC website.

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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