BALTIMORE — Upton is looking a little more “artsy” these days, thanks to the hard work and creativity of students from Youthworks, the Baltimore City Summer Employment program.
This summer, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) and Jubilee Arts sponsored Art @ Work: Upton, a five-week mural apprenticeship program that gave dozens of neighborhood youth enrolled in YouthWorks the opportunity to beautify the Upton community.
A community celebration was held on Friday, July 29, 2016 to unveil the new public art projects created as a result of the program. Along with live performances and entertainment, the celebration featured youth-led guided trolley tours of each of the completed murals.
The youth artists did a lot more than simply paint the stunning murals that can be seen along the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, Eutaw and Division Streets. Each team worked alongside a professional artist, while engaging residents of community who live near the mural sites to ensure the murals represented the history and vision of the community.
Terrance Pervis, 15, didn’t know he would spend his summer painting murals, but said the experience has given him a vision for what he can do with art.
“I didn’t choose to work on this project when I got accepted to YouthWorks, but I guess it was meant to be. I will use the skills I learned to go further in art,” Pervis said.
This year’s mural projects are located at the Shake & Bake Family Fun Center; The Avenue Market; Sissy’s Seafood; Lafayette Market; Crazy Beauty Mart; Etting & Wilson Park; Eutaw Marshburn Elementary School; and the 1900 block of Division Street.
Pervis and other students worked with renowned local artists such as Clayworks’ Herb Massie, who spent his childhood in Upton. The students on Massie’s team diverged from the mural theme creating mosaics and flowerpots instead.
“I like mosaics because there is something spiritual about bringing the little pieces together and creating a picture or design,” Massie said.
Massie’s inspiration for the flowerpots and murals came from memories of neighbors washing the marble steps outside their front doors and seeing every door brightly painted with a flowerpot to match.
Other professional artists participating in the 2016 Art@work program include: Julie Horton; Ignacio Mariño Larrique; Megan Lewis; Gary Mullen; Iandry Randriamandroso; Mike Thomas; and Ernest Shaw, Jr.
“If ever there was a time for positive youthful engagement in the life of the Upton community and of the Avenue Market in particular, that time is now,” said Robert Thomas, executive director of the Baltimore Public Markets Corp. who coordinated operations at Avenue Market and five other markets throughout Baltimore. “These young artists are developing their talents while learning the more comprehensive soft skills of community engagement.”
Tracy Baskerville from the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts says the Art@Work program has been an incredible success.
“Art@Work was developed after the unrest of 2015. As the arts council for the city, BOPA wanted to create a program that would create summer jobs for youth, inspire an interest in the arts and use the expertise of the many Baltimore artists working in the city every day,” Baskerville said. “This program accomplished that goal. In addition, we wanted something in which the community can enjoy the results, and they can with beautiful murals that were created in the Sandtown and Upton neighborhoods.”
In addition to the artwork created, the youth artists participated in financial literacy classes presented by the Baltimore CASH campaign; professional development seminars conducted by HIBRED Workforce Solutions; leadership development workshops supported by the No Boundaries Coalition, Youth As Resources and BUILD, as well as zine (magazine) workshops led by local journalist Jordannah Elizabeth.