By: Annette Leahy-Maggitti, Homesharing Housing Counselor
Seventeen forgotten planters line Belair road through the community of Belair-Edison. These non-descript planters blend into the sidewalk and many of them haven’t housed a thriving plant for the last few seasons. As part of a greater movement of public art, community engagement, and beautification in Belair-Edison, the neighborhood is reclaiming these long forgotten planters through the craft of mosaic art.
Monday night mosaic art workshops held at the local public charter school, AFYA, are attended by community members of all ages and led by Maman Rikin, a professor of fine arts at Baltimore County Community College. To begin a series that showcases some of the exciting developments in Belair-Edison, we talked to a few new-found mosaic artists who have been participating in the workshops.
Joyce and Pat are members of a senior group called the Silver Angels that meets twice a month at the library. Joyce has been a resident of Belair-Edison since 1997 and her favorite thing about her neighborhood are the parks and the trees. She likes that the community is small enough that people recognize each other and look out for each other, even if they don’t know everyone’s names. If she could change one thing about Belair-Edison, it would be to encourage local landlords to be more accountable for their properties to help keep the neighborhood clean. This is her first time doing mosaic art, and she’s enjoying trying something new!
Pat has been a resident of Belair-Edison since 1994 and she still remembers the first person to stop by her home and welcome her to the neighborhood. Pat is a former Belair Road business owner and she is full of neighborhood stories. In her stories of Belair-Edison, neighbors work together to advocate on behalf of the youth, collaborate to create a culture of cleaning up the block, or come together like a family to support each other. Mosaic art is a new interest for her, but for Pat, it seems that anything for the betterment of the neighborhood is something she’s happy to be a part of.
Abby has been a math teacher at AFYA for 7 years and she is the school’s host for the workshops. She coordinated with Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. to get her students involved in a community clean-up on September 11th this year and has plans to get her students involved in decorating more planters with mosaic art this spring. What Abby likes best about Belair-Edison is that AFYA is right in the middle of the community, and it’s important to Abby that her students are involved in service activities that are central to the community. This is her first time doing art in a public way and she’s enjoying the mosaic process because of its inexact nature. As a math teacher she’s so often focused on accuracy, so it’s been a good outlet to create something that is never exact.
Abby runs a student club with the art teacher Noel, a fellow mosaic art workshop participant, and they will be leading the next wave of mosaic art planters as a project for their students. The goal is that by creating their own mosaic planter designs and contributing something special to the community the middle school aged students will feel a sense of ownership for their community and pride for their contribution. She loves the potential a community art project like this could have for her students to learn about community development, urban renewal, and art!
Each community artist shared their unique vision for what a better Belair-Edison could look like, but one thing that Joyce, Pat, and Abby all shared, was that Belair-Edison is a community that cares, and this is certainly something that is evident at the mosaic art workshops. Each mosaic artist shares a sense of responsibility for the task at hand, and is committed to working towards something rejuvenated and beautiful to share with the neighborhood.
10+ workshops and many hours later…..
“Learning about how the city got to the point it’s at today helped me better appreciate the kinds of challenges faced by the clients that St. Ambrose serves, especially in its foreclosure department.”
We talked to five NTI attendants from organizations around Baltimore about their experiences at the institute and the impact of those experiences on their everyday work in supporting strong communities in Baltimore. Funders in Baltimore and beyond made this opportunity possible for our community leaders by providing scholarships to cover conference costs for participants. The five NTI participants interviewed received support from Wells Fargo, Goldseker Foundation, The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, and NeighborWorks. Here’s what they have to say about their experience in Philly:
Jackie’s main takeaway? “It was great to be around people who truly have a heart- we are committed to making a positive change in our community…I learned that I am not alone when it comes to the need for operating support and positive collaborations.”
Judy exchanged numbers with some of her collegues that she made strong connections with from around the country and enjoyed learning alongside others with similar goals from places as far away as California and Alaska. She commented that she was able to learn a lot about the affordable housing industry by listening to and comparing the everyday practices of rental agencies from around the country.