If you make a safe zone for guerrilla designers and marketers to create art, you can make Baltimore more beautiful. But it will take a lot of coordination.
Sitting in a breakout session during the fourth annual community unconference Create Baltimore led by Jessie James, the cofounder of street marketing firm 1AD, he spoke about his latest project he wanted to get off the ground for the students of Maryland Institute College of Art.
“Creating a safe space for students where they don’t risk arrest, death or expulsion is really why we are pushing for Section One,” said James of a proposed space in which artists would be allowed to experiment near the Penn Station corridor. “MTA police are tired of arresting children for doing something they love to do…and we want to change that.”
Section One consists of a concerned group of members of the art community, MICA staff and community members who want to place a safe space for students to create artwork. Right now, students take risks by crossing over train tracks behind The Fitzgerald to meet and if caught by MTA police will be expelled from the institution.
They won’t be stopped, said James, so why not find a way to make it legal, safe and good for Baltimore.
That’s the kind of creative thinking organizers say they want at the annual CreateBaltimore, which welcomed more than 40 and was held this weekend at City Neighbors Hamilton, a progressive k-8 school. They aim to blend the creative, innovative and educational communities together, as coorganizer Sarah Jones has said. In addition to Jones, the event is organized by artist Scott Burkholder, Lindsey Davis, Jonathan Erwin, Andrew Hazlett, Anne Marie Jasinowski and Dennis McIver.
In unconference style, the event was aimed at being accessible and encouraged attendees to organize and participate in sessions.
After introductions and breakfast, attendees broke off into groups and ideas soon followed on what issues affected us, our interests, and the future of Baltimore. The unconference model truly allows people to share experiences and ask a lot of important question on topics relevant to them. The question that steered the path for the day was “What is your passion?”
Breaking silos was a common theme throughout the culmination of the break out rooms and groups. Conversation was geared around the blending of art, politics, technology, civic engagement and networking. Proposed ideas included: Connecting STEM with STEAM (adding arts to the science, technology, engineering and math conversation), fixing the natives vs. transplant debate and getting people to move to Baltimore.
After lunch, ideas were put into action as teams paired up around a topic and the CreateBaltimore “Action Labs” were formed, where people could start putting their ideas and inspiration to work. These action labs were designated workspaces that allowed members to occupy anywhere in the City Neighbors building.
At the end of the day, the groups came back together for Shareback, a time to pitch to the entire unconference on their proposed ideal. With detailed pitches and promises to regroup after the day’s events, the unconference ended on a positive note with attendees participating in a drum circle.