Last night my beautiful friend and fashionista Sandra Marie (link!) and my boyfriend went to two art openings, both which centered around community storytelling and youth empowerment.
The first was the Arts Every Day 10×10 Exhibit’s opening reception, a show put-on in conjunction with over 200 Baltimore City Schools, Baltimore Ceasefire, Access Art, and Art with a Heart and more at the Motor House. The works’ theme centered around the Baltimore Ceasefire movement of working together to build empathy and compassion, while teaching direct tactics of peace such as:
- non-violent conflict resolutions,
- respect for oneself, others, and our community, and
- celebrating life through embodying and sharing life-affirming experiences.
The work was powerful, blunt, and raw in the way that only kids can do in putting color and emotion into a 10×10 square. Some squares were collages, others were paintings – one high school even did a ceramic mosaic. Still others included words like, “Black is beautiful; embrace yourself,” and “They ball hands in fists they shoot, we put our hands up they shoot.” The trauma some of these children experience – gun violence, police murder, and racism – are shocking. Rather than deny their experience, this art project helped the students form their own visual language and express themselves as a way to move through the pain to promote creativity and healing.
We got there late so we weren’t able to talk to the curators or teachers, but I did get to talk to two students whose artwork was on the wall. They were with their family and proudly pointed out their pieces on the wall to me. One of them launched into a detailed description of her choices behind her piece – the color purple, the last minute stitching additions, and the choice to frame just her photo and not the entire square. What was clear about both these students was they were proud of their work and their ability to display it to the larger community. For an aspiring art educator, this is *exactly* the type of art and community engagement that can encourage kids to enjoy art, heal themselves, and reaffirm their futures and see art as valuable peacemaking and community making tool. Bravo!
The exhibit is up at the Motor House until February 28rd. There is another “coffee talk” event on Feb 6h – Click for Eventbrite event link
For more information on the Baltimore Ceasefire project, visit: https://baltimoreceasefire.com/
Next was Beyond Beautiful: One Thousand Love Letters at the the Maryland Art Place (MAP). We caught the tail-end of the opening reception, with speakers and performers, curated by Peter Brunn. Back in July 2018, Peter put out an open call to all Baltimoreans requesting a love letter. He then lovingly illustrated and selected verses from the letters he received.
The great thing about attending opening receptions is that you get to hear directly from the artists – their intention, their emotion, their experience. The MAP has a stage, and folks from Access Art and Baltimore Clubhouse who had written letters were at the mic sharing their stories. A common theme of familial love emerged: one woman explained her love story as her family grew to 9 people; another described the loss and revelation of her mother’s constant love even after death; another spoke about choosing family by extending her love to those who suffered similar loss. The program concluded with a performance by Cherry Hill’s Youth Resiliency Institute. It included a larger-than-life, paper maché black grandmother and birds carried by a line of students whose preformed a call and response song on the power of love and family.
The performance and the stories shared helped bring the exhibit to life in a way that viewing it alone could not do it justice. From start to end, it was incredibly heart-warming, humbling, and inspiring, both challenging the audience to love more deeply, and to extend that love out to the rest of Baltimore. There will be other performances through the spring focusing on different themes – I definitely encourage you to check it out!
The exhibit is located at MAP – 218 West Saratoga Street, and will be on display through March 10, 2019.