This past weekend, Greater Homewood Community Corporation (GHCC) held its fifth annual Neighborhood Institute, a full day of workshops led by community leaders for interested and active community members and aspiring activists. After the workshops (listed below), Baltimore City Housing Commissioner, Paul T. Graziano; Executive Assistant of the City Schools Office of Engagement, Courtney Conner Bettle; and Director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Doreen Bolger discussed community growth and vibrance in Baltimore.
Workshops available included:
I attended Energy Efficiency, Advocating for Your Neighborhood, Community Greening, and Creating Community Art.
In the Energy Efficiency workshop, a Ben Jakubowski of the Neighborhood Design Center told us about the cost-reducing services available to city residents through BGE Smart Energy Savers Program, Neighborhood Design Center, and Retrofit Baltimore, a Civic Works project on energy efficiency. In addition to saving money as individual homeowners, Jakubowski advocated having events that would bring neighbors together with the dual benefit of making their homes more energy efficient as well as uniting the community.
Charles Village resident Sharon Guida, an attorney, led the next workshop I attended. In Advocating for Your Neighborhood, Guida walked us through the process of keeping up to date with the most current zoning issues and how to respond to them if there is an issue (very useful information for individuals and community associations). Additionally, Guida provided some useful tips for navigating the (fairly confusing) city government website and gave us contact information for pertinent officials.
Community Greening was led by Miriam Avins of Baltimore Green Space and Master Gardener Jenny Kaurinki. Both discussed their successful endeavors in establishing community gardens, as well as methods for those interested in starting their own.
Ben Stone of Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc. and Julie Lin from MICA talked about community art in Baltimore. Lin, who works for the Office of Community Engagement, talked about MICA’s history of working with community partners to strengthen neighborhoods and enhance educational opportunities. MICA currently works with Guilford Elementary School to provide after school arts education to students. Stone talked about the Station North neighborhood and let us know that it was the first area in Baltimore to receive the state designation as an arts and entertainment district. He talked enthusiastically about Station North’s most recent project, Open Walls Baltimore, an exciting and innovative street art project that brings renowned local, national, and international artists to Baltimore. And don’t forget- Station North is hosting the first ever National Symposium on Arts/Entertainment/Cultural Districts April 4-5.
All in all, it was a great way to spend a day learning about opportunities and resources available in Baltimore.