2021 Week 2: Community Arts Programs

YVETTE BAILEY-EMBERSON | GREATER BAYBROOK ALLIANCE

I mentioned last week that I am struggling with virtual work. This is still true and I think it will take me a while to fully adjust, perhaps right when things are more in-person again. However, this week I also got to appreciate its benefits.

My project this summer is to help develop GBA’s “Housing Developer Incentive Program,” which, like the name suggests, is incentivizing developers to renovate vacant houses on blocks in Curtis Bay, Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Park to increase homeownership and stable housing in these neighborhoods. This is entirely unfamiliar to me and although I have some experience with the topic of housing insecurity, it has solely been through research and not actual practice. I am excited to actually create something that will address this really important issue in Baltimore rather than solely talking about it, but there is so much that I just don’t know.

To prepare for the program’s development, I spent the first week researching similar programs in Baltimore and across the country. Because we are virtual, I was able to contact organizations in Texas and in Dundalk, MD to talk to them about their program to better understand how to format ours. This obviously could have happened pre-COVID, but I think working virtually has increased comfortability with cold emailing and setting up zoom calls with people you have no relationship with. My meetings with both organizations were so informative and they seemed enthusiastic about the work we are doing. It was really motivating to see how interconnected we all really are, even while we are behind screens and states away. It allowed me to begin to tap into the vast network of community organizers and people that care about these issues beyond my Baltimore community. Although I have not been able to work closely with other people at my placement yet, I didn’t feel so isolated working from home.

There have been several moments this last week where the work seemed too big for me and I would get stuck not knowing where to start. How do I know what the standards for construction should be? What even is a Memorandum of Understanding and how do I just create one? It felt like I had too much responsibility for something that I knew nothing about. Regardless, I am reminding myself that it is okay to ask questions. My meetings this week with the other organizations and from deep diving into research showed me that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel; I can share ideas with others and borrow what worked and change what didn’t. This sounds obvious, but I think I–along with many others, I’m sure—get trapped thinking that it’s almost cheating if it’s not all from me. But, this isn’t school, and community work relies so heavily on working with community members and organizations. Working virtually has been really challenging for me, but I am constantly inspired by its ability to connect with people outside of your bubble and see how far your networks can reach.

MARCUS BREED | ART WITH A HEART

The people that I’m working with at Art with a Heart are incredible. They are so talented and inspirational to me, but more than anything, they are so kind. I have never been in an environment that is so welcoming and fun. It has made settling into the workplace very easy for me, which I am so thankful for.

One of the people I am working with, Ali, who is the director of Public Arts, is an incredible mosaic artist. She used to be a weaver but then learned that mosaic art was her true medium. She designs most of the mosaics that we work on at Art with a Heart. They are so beautiful, and it is so inspirational listening to her describe all of the components that come together into making her designs. After seeing my art, she has taken me under her wing and allowed me to help her design future murals and mosaics. I am very excited to see what happens to these designs. Even if they do not end up going very far in the design process, I am so thankful that she would think that highly of me to let me work on designs.

My supervisor has let me start working on the curriculum for a class I am going to be assisting her with. It is a class on graphic design and 3D modeling/printing, which are two of my favorite things. On Thursdays, she is letting me teach for at least an hour of the class! I am extremely excited.

Overall, this internship has been incredible and I am so happy with my placement.

CAROLINE COLVIN | DEWMORE BALTIMORE

This week at DewMore Baltimore marked our final push leading up to summer programming. Concurrent with YouthWorks scheduling (a partial funder), DewMore’s Youth Artivist Apprenticeship program begins this Monday, June 28th, running through August 6th. By chance, August 6th is also the last day of CIIP, allowing me to see through the artivist program in its entirety.

DewMore’s Artivist Apprenticeship is a leading summer opportunity for Baltimore youth aged 14-24. Apprentices take on a creative ambassador role, learning writing and activism skills (for pay!) in exchange for their participation. Applications are open to all, with a select number of spots reserved for youth who live or attend school in area code 21217. This program uplifts Baltimore youth voices, using art as a tool of expression and civic engagement.

I will be actively supporting this program for the duration of my internship, engaging in both administrative and community-facing work. This past week, I was busy with program preparation– communicating with participants and guardians, filing invoices, drafting remaining intake materials, and securing off-site locations for physical (non-virtual) events. I appreciated the level of trust my supervisor, Olu, placed in me, and found a great deal of flexibility in these initiatives. Rather than dictating specific parameters for each task, Olu’s direction was goal-oriented. Within my checklist of tasks to complete, I was granted complete creative freedom in meeting these needs. As an artist myself, I thrive off of ambiguity, and could not be more pleased with this aspect of my placement.

In less than 24 hours, I will begin the core responsibility of my DewMore internship– direct engagement with our 2021 artivists. After two weeks laying administrative groundwork, it feels surreal to begin placing faces with names. Heading into this next week, I aim to keep the DewMore mission in mind at all times. In one word: “amplify.”

KATHY TIEN | WIDE ANGLE YOUTH MEDIA

This second week started off hectic – for most of the week, the programming team connected with YouthWorks to finalize the roster for our upcoming MediaWorks summer class. Students from YouthWorks are funneled into WAYM programs, but communication between our teams have been inconsistent (and we’re left frustrated). The programming team put together the class schedule, and I was tasked with reaching out to community artists who have portfolios discussing the impact and significance of mental health. During the meeting, we had a fruitful discussion about the role art serves for each of us and the tangible impact it has on WAYM students.

For everyone who interacts with some form of art (whether that be photography, multimedia, or as simple as going to art museums), art is a safe haven and an outlet for expression of self. Everyone is capable of conveying their life experience through art, and it is able to provoke similar emotions in the person admiring the art. For students at WAYM, art and multimedia is just that. That is why mental health awareness is so closely connected with artistic expression – for our students, art is a form of self-care, self-expression, and self esteem.

Friday was my very first day in the office with the rest of my team. I had a wonderful time getting to know them through casual conversation and learning more about WAYM. We have assembled backpacks for all of our students, filled with the computers donated to us by Code in the Schools, art pens in every color, and notebooks. Although class will still be virtual for the 30 students in this program, the teachers are doing their best to encourage everyone to engage with the material. I am very much looking forward to the start of class next week, and I’ll be sitting in on the first week of classes and planning Welcome Night at the end of it. I’m ready to be inspired by the students’ talents and stories!

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