Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia Art
by Ann Erskine
The Washington Village/Federal Hill Windowboard Project, Baltimore, Maryland
This project is a continuation and an expansion on a project coordinated by Mary Ferguson during the 1998-1999 school year. Mary is a local community artist who was sponsored by a fellowship from the Open Society, a foundation started by a Baltimore philanthropist. She worked with a group of elementary school students in the Washington Village neighborhood to paint images on plywood board. The boards were then installed in the window spaces of vacant buildings in that neighborhood, a low socioeconomic area.
This year, the project is being coordinated by Ann Erskine and expanded to include an exhibition of the windowboards in a gallery in Federal Hill, a higher socioeconomic area. Ann has been working with Shawn James, the elementary school's art teacher, and with Kenlynn Schroeder, the owner of Lucinda Gallery. The students are painting images on boards which will then be exhibited along with stories about the boards written by the students. The exhibition will include photographs of the children at work and of the windowboards themselves and will take place during the month of May. The framed photographs and some postcards of the work will be on sale at the gallery and proceeds will be returned to the school for use by the children. Local businesses are donating food for the opening reception. Senior citizens from a local church center will volunteer as gallery staff.
After the exhibition, the boards will be installed in vacant buildings in Washington Village. The installation will include cleaning up the vacant lot and painting any boards that are already in place. The selected vacant rowhomes back up to the football stadium so the windowboards can be viewed by visitors to the stadium.
This project directly serves the citizens of Baltimore by teaching young children that their creations have a value beyond their own community, by teaching two communities about the commonalities between them, by helping to change two communities' "images" of one another and by adding aesthetic appeal to some vacant buildings in one community. This project does not seek to solve the problem of vacant buildings; only to add some visual appeal on a temporary basis.
The objective of this project is to create a bridge between the children, businesses, neighborhood activists and volunteers of two communities. This project will bring together people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, different races, different generations and different social backgrounds. It is truly a comprehensive program that will unite a school, a church, neighborhood centers and businesses.
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