Focus on Social Justice: The Baltimore Art + Justice Project

In conjunction with the preparation and launch of our Winter 2012 Social Justice issue, LPR is looking at other literary and arts organizations that have relevant initiatives. We found one practically on our doorstep at the Maryland Institute College of Art, better known as MICAKaren Stults, Director of Community Engagement, describes it:

What if data could talk? What if a map could create change?

MICA Community Outreach

MA in Community Arts (MACA) students work with community residents.

The Baltimore Art + Justice Project, a new initiative launching in Baltimore City, seeks to identify, amplify and connect arts-based advocates and practitioners working toward social justice and social change. The aim of the initiative is to increase visibility and support for arts-based practitioners doing this work, increase collaboration among artists and advocates and create new opportunities for place-based organizing that engages and supports the work of visual and performing artists within Baltimore.

Anyone who has watched The Wire knows that Baltimore has a hardcore reputation as a city with persistent, entrenched problems that include addiction and crime, failing schools and vacant housing. What many people don’t know is that there are tremendous positive forces at play in Charm City. There is a depth of creative talent that is thriving here despite—and, in some cases, because of–the city’s inherent challenges. A diverse group of creative individuals—from visual artists to theater producers to musicians—are using their talents as tools for community transformation.

It is generally understood that creative individuals throughout Baltimore are making an important difference in the current life and future of this city. But who are these critically important players? Where are they working? And with whom? What issues are they striving to address? Using what tools? And toward what ends? What sustains them? And what else do they need to be successful? Answers to these and other questions are critical to a broader understanding of the relationship between art and social change.

Over a two-year period, the Baltimore Art + Justice Project will engage local stakeholders in participatory research and community dialogue to generate an inventory of arts-based assets. Findings will be visually mapped to highlight areas of strength and opportunity. In addition, video clips, case studies and a database of practitioners will be used to help locate and define where and how this work is occurring and making an impact. One of the project’s key goals is to stimulate dialogue about and investment in arts-based organizing strategies and enable artists to connect more powerfully with others using mapped data to work toward greater equity and justice within Baltimore.

Karen Stults

Karen Stults

The project will be launched by MICA in late November, when Kalima Young will assume the position of Project Coordinator. It will be conducted in partnership with Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, with support from Open Society Foundations. Animating Democracy’s Arts and Social Change Mapping Initiative seeks answers to similar questions on a national scale. The project’s Advisory Committee includes community artists and designers as well as representatives from Baltimore’s nonprofit, cultural, municipal and philanthropic communities.

Karen Stults is Director of Community Engagement at Maryland Institute College of Art. She previously worked at the Center for Community Change and YouthAction, Inc., where she served as Executive Director. She sits on the boards both of Fluid Movement and the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore.

LPR will follow the progress of the MICA social justice project and tell you about others over the coming months as part of our “Focus on Social Justice” series.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s