Baltimore United Viewfinders

Sadeeq Biggers on a photo excursion during the Campaign for Change project, Fall 2016

Sadeeq Biggers on a photo excursion during the Campaign for Change project, Fall 2016

Baltimore United Viewfinders is a youth driven organization using the arts to explore their own definition of self and place.


To foster the leadership potential of young people as social entrepreneurs producing multimedia arts for community action and income.


The Viewfinders are housed at MICA PLACE: 814 North Collington Ave, Baltimore 



  • Build a strong sense of personal/communal awareness and identity.

  • Investigate and combat intrinsic and extrinsic cultural biases by developing new perspectives about themselves and their community.

  • Peer-to-peer skill-sharing between and amongst the Senior and Junior Viewfinders provides facilitation, teaching and mentorship experience and leadership development.


  • Community “voice” through public dialogue and exchange.

  • Action initiatives designed and implemented utilizing art as a tool for creative change.

  • Public events in which all partner organizations celebrate their work, thereby instilling pride and accomplishment.


  • Photography: schools, styles and strategies for conveying ideas, information and feelings, including aperture settings, shutter speed, white balance, etc.

  • Videography: short format editing, directing/managing shots, writing, story-boarding, etc.

  • Stop animation and motion graphics, Adobe Photoshop and other digital and graphic design applications.


  • Investigate larger benefits of a community arts program as they relate to economic demands of their neighborhood.

  • Acquire and practice business skills sets via mentorship by local business leaders.

  • Develop business plans supporting earned income strategies and related initiatives. 

Past Projects:


Jane Cottis has been a video instructor for more than two decades and is currently a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Ms. Jane has been teaching the Viewfinders basic college level narrative and documentary video skills: writing story-boards, filming, directing, and editing. This is a continuation of their photography skills into the moving picture. The Viewfinders and Junior Viewfinders are working on a narrative films that showcase their neighborhood in a positive way.



Community Artist, Edgar Reyes, is facilitated a project in partnership with the Viewfinders and CASA de Maryland’s youth program, Mi Espacio. The African-American and Latino teenagers have been using art as the lens to address issues of race and violence in our shared East Baltimore community.  This project is designed to promote positive discussion around cultural differences, combat “othering”, and the creation of public art displays bridging two communities and working towards building understand and unity. 



Junior Viewfinders is currently comprised of upper elementary and middle school students, mostly from Tench Tilghman, Henderson-Hopkins and Commodore John Rodgers schools. Junior Viewfinders explore a variety of visual and performance arts including  photography, videography, printmaking, and poetry as a foundation for further artistic exploration. Additionally, participating youth use the arts to augment their in-school learning by integrating reading comprehension, math and science skills. Older Viewfinder members serve as peer-to-peer mentors, occasionally creating the lesson plans, and guiding the youth to their own potential as future members of the Senior Viewfinders.



Viewfinder youth are trained to create professional, high quality products, while learning advanced technical skills in photography, video and graphic design. The Rent-A-Viewfinder initiative promotes an increased focus on production and services. Since early 2013, Viewfinders have regularly video/photo documented several conferences and community gatherings. When possible, youth have been financially compensated for their time and artistic outcomes. Organizations, individuals, community associations, and/or institutions can “hire” the Viewfinders to photograph and/or create the marketing media for an event. This program is designed to not only strengthen the Viewfindersʼ as young artists and entrepreneurs, but allow others access to affordable, high quality images.


  • Fifteen members between the ages of 13-18 hailing from 10 Baltimore City Schools

  • Junior Viewfinders after-school programs at two local elementary schools, Dr. Rayner Academy and Tench Tilghman Elementary School. 

  • Junior Viewfinders Summer Camp co-facilitated by  “Senior” Viewfinder interns.

  • Taken over 8,000 photos and created 12 videos.

  • Published two photobooks, Eastside Stories Volume I & II

  • Retail products including note cards and Viewfinders photographs.

  • Participated in five solo and seven community group exhibitions.

  • Created international friendship program with the young people from the Azerbaijan Childrenʼs Union Shelter, utilizing visual images as a common language.

  • Presented at the National Convening of Community Arts and Research Project, Baltimore, Spring 2011.

  • Published in the Community Arts Journal, Baltimore United Viewfinders: A Long History in a Short Time.

  • Partnered with Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute and Johns Hopkins East Baltimore Community Affairs to exhibit Viewfinder artwork in permanent collection at Johns Hopkins Hospital.