2022 Week 4: Arts

Photo of Liesel Arauz Vallecillo, smilingLiesel Arauz Vallecillo | Art With A Heart

I think I’m fairly on track for my summer goals of exploring the city although I could do a bit more. There’s still a number of places that I haven’t really checked out as much because I’ve mostly been focusing on places that are mostly within walking distance it seems. As for my goal of connecting with community members through my placement, I’m really feeling like I’m making more progress there than I was before. July 5th marked the start of Art with a Heart’s HeARTwares joint YouthWorks programming and I’ve been transferred across sites which has really given me the opportunity to connect with students from all over Baltimore. Working with youth has certainly been an interesting experience. For starters, something that has really intrigued me is that the one common trait that I’ve noticed when working both at the main office and at Cecil Kirk recreation center is that both groups of students at some point questioned of where I was from and what my business was here. “Why Baltimore? Why’d you come here?” was such a frequently heard question for me this week.

The first time I heard it was my first day working at the main office. The teenagers weren’t really wanting to talk, and my supervisor was wanting us to ask them questions, so I asked about basic stuff like zodiac signs and favorite foods and restaurants. This led to them wondering why I was asking for recommendations to which I responded that I’m still new to the area and wanted to know where to eat. Once I revealed I was from LA, they instantly blurted out “Why’d you come here? Why did you choose to come to Baltimore?” No matter what I said, they would not believe anything I said about liking Baltimore. I mentioned how common it was for people from California to move here and they were downright shocked! I felt like I was on the hot seat with all their questions. When I was a high schooler, I came here at first because I wanted to study public health, received good financial aid, and was in love with the east coast. To the kids, this truth just prompted statements like “Oh, so you came here for the school, huh.” To which I quickly responded with the truth which is these three things in no way really reflected what I really thought about why I am staying here now. When I first came to Baltimore and really spent time here, I fell in love with the advocacy and art scene. This seemed like a very general response to them and was unsatisfactory. They thought this was just like any other city. I disagreed. The community and the way the people advocate and celebrate what they believe in is unlike any other city I’ve been in. The moment how I explained that in this way I liked Baltimore more all the students understood what I meant. The people, that is the something that no one can refute when someone is talking about this place. It was great seeing how all of the students seemed really happy with where they were after that.

Another really interesting conversation that came up this week too in response to me being from California and saying that I was enjoying exploring Baltimore was started when a student responded with “Oh, that’s because you’ve only been to certain parts in Baltimore.” Every person at that table nodded their head and went on about the glamour of Hollywood. “And, you say that when you’ve only heard of certain parts of Los Angeles.” I think that in that moment there was like a “huh” moment that went across all of us in a way. People started talking about the ways media told a different narrative for both cities and the ways they might be accurate or inaccurate after that.
The last other conversation that I will mention here took place at Cecil Kirk. I was wearing a periodic table shirt. The students were like “Oh, that makes sense [in response to Klaus saying I’m an intern from California]. You don’t dress like you’re from here. You just don’t look like it.” This then led to a whole other conversation with this group about “Why Baltimore?” similar to the ones above. I think all this just stood out to me because it really emphasized just how important community pride and empowerment is. Inaccurate and hurtful media representation eat away at that pride and can hinder community development.

Photo of Lubna Azmi, smilingLubna Azmi | Wide Angle Youth Media

My goals have shifted a little bit. I don’t have much understanding of the business side of nonprofits, but I learned I want to better understand that area of the field. I attended one of the financial meetings recently, and got to learn a lot from just sitting in about the break of non profit funding/spending, foundations, donations, and methods to reach goals for each. Gaining skills in these areas is important, and would be very useful to me going forward. I spoke with my supervisor about this interest, and I’ll be attending the audit meeting next week for my organization. I’ll get to learn more about all the updates necessary for the audit, who wide angle reports to, as well as the internal documents and processing within the organization. Heart and passion are necessary to do this work but so are administrative and financial skills. Having some background in these has been and will continue to widen my scope.
Another goal that has changed is community engagement. I’ve gotten a decent amount of engagement with partners and students, but I’d like to get more, and interact with more people both within and outside of the organization. My love for this engaging work has come through in my conversations with my supervisor, and he found a task for me that would take me across the city to do flyering outreach for wide angle programming. I’m really excited to get to start on this, and will soon! Meeting the orgs needs always comes first, and I’m really glad I can do this while helping increase their engagement and partnerships.
One thing I didn’t expect to work on the administrative side is hiring. I’ve been a part of interviews, and have given my perspectives on different candidates, which has been a heavier weight. I appreciate that my supervisor trusts my perspectives and opinions, and I’m glad to get more experience with it. This was something that I originally wasn’t expecting that I am grateful to have.

Photo of Shantika Bhat, smilingShantika Bhat | Jubilee Arts

This week is the first week of Alumni mentors of Youth in Business training. We plan on trying to train them so that they are prepared to handle the youth in various situations. I interviewed most of the Alumni and I felt that they were very equipped to handle the job because they were so professional. However, training did worry me a bit because they had a more playful but after talking to the director I realized that is normal here. I learned that the way I was taught to be professional doesn’t work in every social situation. This was a program to serve kids in a specific community and in order to relate to them and have them feel comfortable my approach would not work well. I started to feel a lot better once I had that conversation because I realized a lot of the worrisome feelings I had was because I am out of my comfort zone. This makes me realize that I am achieving my goal this summer to try something completely new. Sometimes I worry if I made a mistake by having this new goal because I often feel unsteady but I need to learn to be okay with those feelings. My life and career wouldn’t always be comfortable and professional so I need to push myself to loosen up and become flexible.

The other goal that I have was to create art pieces and make new friends this summer. During my time preparing for Youth in Business, I realized that I might not be able to engage with creating art like I would like to. I think I would have to seek outside of the space to try to make stuff or I can go out of my way and shadow some art classes. I talked to my director to remind them that I had these goals since the beginning and I wanted to see how they could support me with that. I didn’t feel great after our conversations because there wasn’t a clear answer to how I can create a piece. I guess this comes with being a support role in a nonprofit because they need me to do whatever needs the most help. I hope that maybe I can revisit the conversation and see what new classes I can shadow to fill that art void. For the past 3 weeks, I was shadowing beginner sewing and it was the happiest time I had here. I’m sad it’s over but I hope to stay connected with the teacher who goes to MICA. (I attached a picture of the team which was so much fun). I am proud of myself for at least trying to advocate for myself and having check-ins with the director and supervisor. Another goal was to hang out and meet more CIIP folks. I feel like it’s super difficult to connect with people during the day because everyone has a different schedule. If anyone has tips for that please let me know!

Caroline Colvin | Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past two summers, it is that flexibility is imperative for arts nonprofit work. This is certainly true – and to some degree expected – as an intern, but I’ve come to recognize the same trends even in upper-level positions. My supervisors – Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s education leads – have been incredibly overloaded this summer, and I’ve observed other full-time staff supporting multiple departments (e.g., development AND marketing).

The arts undeniably took a hit during the pandemic’s height. Live performance could not occur for months (all 41 Broadway theaters were dark for a year and a half), unemployment in the arts doubled the national average during the pandemic (SMU DataArts), and live theatre is still struggling to reach pre-pandemic numbers. While I don’t know Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s current financial state, a recent study conducted by a group of L.A. arts organizations found that “both operating capacity and audience attendance are down to almost 50% of pre-pandemic levels and ticket revenue is about one-third of what it was before COVID-19 struck. Expenses, in the form of COVID safety, as well as general inflation and rent increases, are also way up,” (LA Times).

Knowing this, I have tried my best to be gracious and understanding throughout my summer internship period. At times, my supervisors have been too busy for regular check-ins. This is okay! I am here to support them, not add additional stress. As an artist myself, I have experienced overwhelming production seasons firsthand and can empathize with covering multiple areas of an organization.

Keeping flexibility in mind, I will actually be pivoting this coming week to a more education-focused internship! I will be working hands-on with CSC’s summer Shakespeare camp, inspiring a love of classic theatre in rising second through ninth graders. While completely different from my first four weeks, I am excited for a change and look forward to the second half of my internship!

Photo of Christian Paulisich, smilingChristian Paulisich | DewMore

Coming in, I thought the participants in the Maya Baraka Writer’s Institute would all love poetry and genuinely want to learn more about it. However, our students are really here as a “summer job” and the majority came in with no real experience or interest in poetry. This was disheartening and led to frustration when students would be on their phones or just refuse to write. I really wanted to connect with the students and help give them the tools to express themselves through poetry. And just before I had reached a mental breaking point, a meeting reminding the students that this was a job was instrumental in increasing students’ participation. The high schoolers started to open up more on Friday and as one of the teachers for the poetry cohort, I was able to see that some of the students could write. They spoke more and paid attention to the prompt and the poems were going over. I felt content going into the weekend, and I believe I’m starting to make a positive influence on the high schoolers, which is one of my biggest goals for the summer.


Photo of Jocelyn Shan, smilingJocelyn Shan | Baltimore Youth Arts

First week of YouthWorks, done! To be honest, I cannot believe that it has only been a week since we started, it feels like it has been a month. On Tuesday, the young people that are working with us for YouthWorks arrived! They come in from 9:30 to 3:30pm, with the 23-some youth split into photography and graphic design groups. The two groups are led by two staff here at BYA, Nathan (photo) and Ahmad (graphic design). This week was honestly hectic but in a calm sort of way. There was just constantly something to be done, even though I wasn’t teaching any classes, I found my entire time from 9am to 4pm completely full of things to do.

I learned a few things this week. 1) Taking attendance is a pain and grant funders love to track things. Most of my week was entering data on the youth, including their school IDs and parent information. 2) High schoolers are less scary than I thought. I was nervous to be working with 14-22 year olds, but the youth were much quieter than I anticipated. I got to play games with some of them and accompanied a few on a walk to the McDonald’s on North Ave. for lunch one day and it honestly felt like I was just hanging out with some friends. I hope to be able to spend more time just having fun with the youth to become friends with them. 3) I realized that I will need to be a lot more intentional to form relationships with these youth and to be involved in the activities they are doing. Technically, my work is to support Leisha, the deputy director. She is amazing and does all of the behind-the-scenes data collection and management. I saw firsthand this week that it is extremely easy to get swept up in all these numbers and tracking and forget that there are full humans in the room with you that you can connect with. Leisha has been gracious and has been reminding me that I can go play games with them when they’re taking a break.

I hope that this coming week, I will get more into a routine and be able to plan how to connect more with the youth and be more involved in the photo and graphic design classes going on!