Eastside Stories III

Community Art Collaborative Festival

Baltimore Viewfinders is part of the Community Art Collaborative (CAC), a partnership between AmeriCorps, MICA, and non-profit arts education organizations all around Baltimore. Each year, all those arts education organizations that are part of CAC come together to curate a show that highlights all the amazing artwork done over the school year by youth from all around Baltimore city.

This year, the exhibition and festival occurred on MICA's main campus in the Pinkard Gallery in late May. For the Viewfinders, we decided to highlight our two most recent projects: Becoming and Eastside Stories III. For Becoming, we printed the magazine covers that youth had created for their superhero personas on poster-sized paper. We also put up some of capes, masks, and shields that they designed. Finally, we had the Becoming wrap up video playing on a computer, so that attendees could see all the awesome video and photo work that went into the project. For Eastside Stories III, we had a copy of the publication that was available for people peruse and look through, along with two photo prints that had previously been in our Finding Home exhibition. Oh, and we also put up the emoji cyanotype prints in a string. Check out this photo of our section of the exhibition!

Then, on Thursday, May 21st, the CAC Festival happened. Youth from all the different organizations around the city came to see the exhibition. There were games, a photo booth, face painting, pizza, and a drum line performance. We took a bunch of the Jr. Viewfinders over to MICA's main campus for the event and they had an awesome time. First, they went straight to our section of the exhibition, checked out their stuff on the wall, and watched the video. Then, they looked around at everyone else's artwork, before diving into the games, food, and face paint. It was an awesome event that highlighted all the amazing arts education work being done in Baltimore every day! Check out the Jr. Viewfinders enjoying themselves at the CAC Festival!

Eastside Stories III Release Celebration

It's here! Eastside Stories III is officially out and available for purchase. To celebrate the incredible work done by our Senior Viewfinders, we held a release celebration that also served as the opening of the second annual OVA Con, a weekend long conference of workshops and performances put on by OVA East and the Baltimore United Viewfinders Collective. 

Beyond releasing Eastside Stories III, this celebration also served as a larger recognition of the Senior Viewfinders. Many of them were part of the original group of youth who created the Baltimore Viewfinders program several years ago. They're quite literally the reason that this program exists. Many of them are also graduating from high school this year, so we wanted to recognize them for that accomplishment, as well. Eastside Stories III served as a final project that demonstrated just how skilled the Senior Viewfinders have become with graphic design, photography, and storytelling.

At the release celebration, several Senior Viewfinders spoke about the impact that Baltimore Viewfinders had on them. They'd learned a lot here, but more than anything, they were grateful for the community of friends and mentors that they'd built. Again and again, they returned to the fact that what makes Baltimore Viewfinders so special is the people who make it happen and the relationships that tie us together.

If you're interested in acquiring an edition of Eastside Stories III, please contact baltimoreviewfinders@gmail.com and we'll get you one. 

Cover Image of  Eastside Stories III

Cover Image of Eastside Stories III

Eastside Stories III Goes to Print!

We are almost there! Eastside Stories III is on the verge of being released! Just this past week, we finished our layout of the publication and sent it to print. We worked late into the night--finishing the layout of some spreads, determining the order of the sections, bundling all the files in their proper places, and ultimately putting it all together. It was a thrilling few days of intense focus and hard work. While we'd been working on the project for several months, we'd been focusing on each section as its own discrete unit. Now, we had to piece all the little stories and segments together to create a larger, cohesive representation of all that we'd learned about the role that home plays in the lives of people in East Baltimore.

And, we think we did a pretty stellar job. We got the online proof back and the publication looks amazing! The graphic design and layout is sleek and affecting. The interviews, quotes, and stories are beautifully written and captured. The photos each tell their own unique stories. Most of all, it's the way that the sections complement, enhance, and interact with one another that makes this publication so unique and special. Be sure to stay tuned to hear about our upcoming release party! Below are some photos of us finishing up layout.

And if you have any interest in getting your hands on one of these beautiful publications, e-mail baltimoreviewfinders@gmail.com. 

Eastside Stories III Update

The Senior Viewfinders have been making steady progress on Eastside Stories III. Last time we checked in, the Sr. Viewfinders had been interviewing one another and helped put on the OVA East: Finding Home event. Since then, they've been working on getting interviews with neighbors and community members. Using some of the connections they made at our Chili and Chat event earlier in the year, they interviewed a couple who are new to East Baltimore, a young woman who grew up here, and an elder who's lived here his whole life. 

Derrick, one of the Seniors, has been hard at work on a section about how high school students view home. He's been taking portraits and getting quotes from high schoolers that he knows and that represent a wide range of experiences and perspectives. In fact, he's already at work on laying out his section on InDesign. 

We're hitting the home stretch here. We have a few more interviews to do and then we'll start laying out the whole publication. Once that's done, it'll get sent to print! Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime, here are some photos of the Seniors hard at work!

OVA East: Finding Home Exhibtion

This March, Baltimore United Viewfinders Collective hosted OVA East: Finding Home, an exhibition, workshop, performance, and open mic at MICA PLACE. Let me tell you about the various elements that made up this event. 

First, as you've hopefully been reading about, the Junior Viewfinders exhibited their homes and neighborhood that they've been built over the last two months. I won't go much deeper into this since you can read a detailed account of the project on this blog. We did have some Junior Viewfinders come out to the event and perform a rap and a dance during the open mic. It was a joy to see them proud of their artwork and sharing their talents on the mic.

The Senior Viewfinders also exhibited some the photos that they'd taken while working on Eastside Stories III. They had 8 large scale prints of family members dancing, little siblings playing, friends at prom, and much more. We even had one photograph taken by Terri, an 8-year-old Junior Viewfinder.

Another part of the exhibition was a collaboration with Powell Recovery Center. Gerad Forte, our executive director, had been teaching storytelling and filmmaking at Powell for several month. However, they designed their own installation during their art class. The theme was what home meant to them, as people who were in treatment and recovering from addiction. They drew and wrote their responses to the meaning of home on urinalysis cup, which they then connected to turn into columns that dangled from the ceiling. They also brought urinalysis cups filled with soil and some flower seeds, inviting attendees to take one home. Finally, they had a zine of writings that were also available for attendees. 

We concluded the event with a performance and open mic. Black Chakra, an incredible local spoken word poet, performed several mesmerizing poems. Definitely check out his work! For the open mic, a lot of the residents from Powell shared what home meant to them--some through song, some through rap, and some simply told their stories. 

Overall, it was a really powerful event that brought together a number of different communities in Baltimore to share their stories and definitions of home. If anything, it showed just how complex and complicated the idea of home is, which is the very core of the issue we sought to explore in Finding Home. Check out these great photos from the event below!


Eastside Stories III Interviews

We want to give you a quick update on where Eastside Stories III is at. The Senior Viewfinders have been steadily working away on the project. We started this year by doing interviews with one another about home. Sr. Viewfinders interviewed Viewfinders staff, along with each other. Some of these interviews will probably make it into the publication, but the other purpose of these interviews was to get practice doing interviews. They were able to practice doing critical listening and asking follow up questions that responded directly what they interviewee was telling them. This type of improvisation is crucial in getting in-depth interviews that involve the types of stories that we hope will be featured in Eastside Stories III. 

The other aspect of this activity was coming up with a master list of questions. Through brainstorming and the questions that emerged during the interviews, we created a huge list of all types of questions about home. We also did some subdividing of the list, so that we had specific questions for people and groups we knew we'd be interviewing like lifelong residents and newcomers. We also pulled some quotes from the audio and video recordings of the interviews that can be used in the publication. Hopefully, some of these interviews will also be released digitally as we build up some hype for the release of Eastside Stories III in the coming months.


Introducing Finding Home

With a new year, we started a new project with the Jr. Viewfinders. With the Sr. Viewfinders focusing on the theme of home for Eastside Stories III, we thought it would be good for the Jr. Viewfinders to focus on home, too. However, instead of looking outward to get others' perspectives on home, Finding Home will allow the Jr. Viewfinders to focus on what home means to them. 

In this project, the Jr. Viewfinders will engage with the complicated and multifaceted concept of home through an array of artistic mediums. Using writing, photography, videography, and sculptural design, participants will explore home as more than just the place they live, but also as a feeling, a sensation, an activity, a person, or a community. They will consider questions like: Who makes me feel at home? What is a place of comfort and safety for me? What objects do I carry with me? What memories do I connect to home?

At a time when the youth in our program are experiencing change in the way they see the world, this project aims to allow youth to develop their own definition and image of home. Ultimately, this project asks the youth to forge their own path and shape the project in ways that they feel best apply to their personal experience of home. So, please follow along and see how this project progresses!

Chili and Chat

Before the winter holidays, the Sr. Viewfinders organized a gathering to help facilitate some conversations with East Baltimore residents for the Eastside Stories III project. They decided that having a meal be at the center of the gathering would create the atmosphere they wanted. So, we reached out to a range of residents: elders who'd lived in East Baltimore their whole lives, new residents who just moved here, younger folks who grew up here, people who did community work in the neighborhood, and more. Then, a few days before Christmas, we all gathered for what the Sr. Viewfinders called Chili and Chat.

At the Chili and Chat, we all ate some delicious food. Then, we went around and everyone introduced themselves, who they were, what their relationship to East Baltimore was, and some other information about themselves. As we ate, the Sr. Viewfinders talked to the residents about their experiences in East Baltimore and about what home meant to them. They arranged to do some more in-depth interviews at a later date. The goal of the gathering was to get to know one another and  begin the process of gathering testimonies about home from community members. And, it was a success on all fronts! We have a few pictures of the event below (some of which ultimately ended up in the Eastside Stories III publication).


Portraits | Exploring Home

With the Jr. Viewfinders this week, we decided to go back to photography. We had some new students join our program and the first thing they wanted to do was take photos. So, Shan Wallace, an incredible Baltimore photographer and a teacher at Viewfinders, led a workshop on how to take portraits. A lot of Shan's own work is talking to people in Baltimore and taking their portrait, so we modeled the lesson plan off that. After the workshop, we went out in small groups into the neighborhood. The Jr. Viewfinders took a ton of outstanding photos of people, who were willing to give some time to talk and have their photo taken. We not only got great photos, but also had lots of fascinating conversations. Then, Shan and the other instructors offered feedback to the youth about their photos. You can see some of the work from this day below. 

Meanwhile, the Sr. Viewfinders have been steadily working away on Eastside Stories III. They've been checking our cameras out and going all around Baltimore, taking photos. This week, they brought in their cameras and loaded them onto our computers. As a group, we looked through their photos, picking favorites and offering feedback. So far, the photos were looking awesome! Then, as a group, we started to dig into the concept of home. Guided by a bell hooks article, we discussed the different meaning and contexts of home: physical, spiritual, emotional, familial, and more. Each Sr. Viewfinder came up with their own definition of home and shared it with the group.


More Interviews | Beginning of Eastside Stories III

After our experience with interviews last week, we decided it would be best to go out again and get some more interviews. We had two very interesting interviews at the Tench Tilghman Playground. First, we talked to Ms. Eunice, who no longer lived in the area, but grew up here. She felt that the neighborhood had started to improve lately, that they were really cleaning it up. She thought a lot of the vacant housing problems tied back to negligent landlords, who never did anything to fix up the houses they owned. Then, we talked to Niles Ringold, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, who runs a small bakery business now. He felt that the city and politicians needed to do a better job of investing in communities in Baltimore. He wanted the young people growing up in the neighborhood to have more opportunities, to be able to get a good education, and to have good-paying jobs. Two portraits of them are at the bottom of this post.

Meanwhile, the Sr. Viewfinders started their work on a long-term project. Eastside Stories III is a project that will culminate in the publication of a magazine of the Sr. Viewfinders' photos, writings, graphic art, and interviews. Throughout the year, they will be focusing on the theme of home  and what it means to the people of East Baltimore. They'll talk to their fellow students, people who are new to East Baltimore, lifelong residents, and many others to create a picture of the many meanings that home holds. We'll be sure to keep you updated as this project develops.