2017 Week Six: Arts
Artscape is my favorite weekend of the year. It also happened that this weekend marked the launch of our mini golf project.
Aside from the sunburn and mild dehydration inherent in partaking in Artscape festivities, I’d consider the mini golf launch to be a success. During the past week, the holes were completed, painted, transported, and installed on site. We installed storage, signage, paint, and decorations, and we had a launch party for friends, volunteers, and supporters of the project the night before the public opening.
I was at the site on Friday morning, and before we were even scheduled to open, there were groups of kids visiting Artscape who were playing mini golf. I checked in throughout the weekend, and there seemed to be a generally positive reaction to the project.
It was satisfying to see kids having fun with something that I helped see through to completion, and I hope that this can continue. The mini golf installation will remain open until October, and I’m interested to see the number of people that come to play in the coming weeks. Artscape was an opportunity to take advantage of the thousands of people that would already be passing by the corner of Charles and Lafayette, but I’m hesitant to assume that we will see any sizable number of visitors for the remainder of the summer. One thing that is for certain is that the project is successfully in operation, and I’m feeling good about my work in this internship.
The Perks of Global Warming
I would call myself an optimist, so despite the impending demise of our planet due to human’s lack of respect for the earth, I have compiled a list of things I tell the campers when they moan, groan and complain about the extreme heat we have been experiencing these past few days.
1. We get to play with water balloons, not just on water day but on multiple days!
2. We get to eat freeze pops every day!
3. At arts cape, we got to eat snowballs!
4. You can cut the sleeves off of your t-shirts without getting in trouble, since everyone understands the need to keep cool down!
5. You get super tan!
6. If it’s code red hot, we get to go inside and play board games and maybe even make bracelets!
7. You get to drink more water and eat more fruit!
Hmmm, not really sure if that last one is seen as a positive thing for all the kids, but hopefully over time all the kids will warm up to the idea of water and fruit being the healthiest and most hydrating options for you. And at least when we did go inside for indoor games and the kids asked why it was so hot outside, I got to open up the conversation to talk to them about global warming and climate change at large. To my surprise though, most of the children already knew about climate change in regards to the pollution that is in the air. Some of the kids even using air pollution as their excuse, as to why they would not want to participate in our breathing exercises. The world may be coming to an end in 150 years if we don’t get our act together, but at least the kids at 901 arts know ways to not contribute to it, AND we get to enjoy the lovely perks of sweltering heat.
I originally came in to this internship with a lot of fear as to whether or not I would be able to build a strong relationship with the youth in the program. I didn’t know if I would be able to relate or if I would be able to handle emotional outbursts and tantrums. I also didn’t know how I would handle community canvassing or harassment by community members.
However, after watching how my site supervisor works with them, it turns out it’s not so much knowing what to do if XYZ happens. It’s really about making a consistent effort to reach out, see how people are doing, listening to their concerns, establishing lines of communication, and being a positive source of love and encouragement.
Not to say that any of that is easy. For example, last week we had a very difficult community member who came to one of the mural sites and started harassing the mural team, denouncing the mural and refusing to listen to any attempts to converse. She was backed up by a second long-time community elder. The situation eventually escalated to my site supervisor and the lead artist visiting the community elder’s home and attempting to hear her out. They had an incredibly difficult time, but were able to finally resolve the situation by reaching out to the elder through another longtime community elder member who supported the program. This was an incredibly taxing situation, yet it was resolved not by “saying the right thing at the right time” but rather with consistent efforts at establishing communication.
It can be very frustrating when the other person doesn’t cooperate, but I’ve seen the enormous positive benefits it can bring. My site supervisor spent every day communicating with as many youth as possible, reaching out to see how they were doing. As a result, we have 12 youth voluntarily signing up to do performances at the upcoming community presentation. We also have some potentially difficult conflicts resolved quickly because of her outreach.
What I’ve learned is that it’s incredibly important to take personal responsibility for reaching out. People aren’t just going to reach out to you all or even most of the time. It’s something I realize that I don’t do nearly enough in my own life, but it can lead to some very strong positive results.
OSIRIS MANCERA | THE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY CENTER OF BALTIMORE AND CENTRAL MARYLAND (GLCCB)
“Take a breath.”
“I wonder why he brought brownies to our staff meeting… Isn’t that a European custom?”
“Why does he feel the need to validate my work if I know it’s good? Is it because I’m feminine-presenting? Or because I’m young? Maybe it’s because I’m wearing a headwrap and that “foreign” or “exotic” which could be synonymous to “dangerous” for him? He did make a comment about it.”
These were the thoughts I was having when we had our staff meeting this week, to which an outside self-identified “white gay man” came in to offer suggestions to our website-in-progress which I’ve been working on throughout my internship. I’m a big believer in the truth of first impressions. And not meaning what a person looks like or talks like, but the feeling you get when they walk in the room. Anyways, he was here and we were all sitting around the conference table (except him of course, who was standing, which could have been for a number of medical reasons but it presented badly… but I digress) discussing the website mockup’s progress. I’ve stopped taking work and projects that I do personally because that does no good for anyone, especially me. I’m well aware that the work I do is a reflection of who I am, what I value, etc but it is not me. I said that too. Which is why I thought it was weird that each time he would speak, he would start out saying, “I love the website, it’s great but…” then proceeding to give his input. His input was valuable because I re-created a new website that I think looks a million times better, using color psychology and intentional aesthetics- which can become a shady venture if you let it (especially when he started talking about our need to use the color green more to get more money. That kind of shady). But anyways, I learned a lot in that meeting. Namely, that some people don’t really know how to speak to people properly without being condescending and non-offensive, but also how the love and support between staff is impeccable. I also learned a lot about marketing which I loved. But I think the biggest thing I learned was mindfulness and detachment and being thoughtful with the words we use because it is important, regardless of what the man said. Words speak to our values. They speak to the future we wish to see. They speak to hope.Tags: 2017, 901 Arts, CIIP, CIIP 2017, GLCCB, Jubilee Arts, LGBT, Station North Arts, Week Six