Baltimore City Students Express Views on Violence Through Art


The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” embodies a citywide gallery show and competition sponsored by The University of Maryland R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center Violence Prevention Program.

The initiative is called Art Against Violence. Through art, the program gives kids an outlet to articulate their feelings and be part of the conversation about violence in Baltimore and throughout the world.

By using art, the University of Maryland R. Cowley Shock Trauma Center also seeks to inspire Baltimore City residents to reduce hostile and risk-taking behaviors that lead to violent and traumatic injury.

The University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center Violence Prevention Program’s mission is to prevent violent personal injury among Baltimore City’s most at-risk populations through research and evidence-based programs targeting the root causes of violence.

Dr. Carnell Cooper founded the Violence Intervention Program in 1998 to reduce the number of repeat victims of violence in Baltimore. “We see the results of the violence that happens to our citizens here in this city,” said Dr. Cooper, who is a Shock Trauma surgeon. “Art Against Violence was started as part of our many efforts to try to impact the violence in our city.”

UM Shock Trauma is the designated trauma hospital in Maryland to treat the most severely injured and critically ill patients. Dr. Cooper noted that violence is the leading cause of death for young adults in Baltimore.

“We are constantly trying to highlight the problem of violence in our community,” said Dr. Cooper. “One thing we know from our research is that patients who drop out of school are at higher risk of being victims of violence, and Baltimore has a high drop-out rate. We try to partner with schools to prevent kids from dropping out.

“Art Against Violence was an ideal fit. It allowed us an opportunity to highlight our concern about violence in our community and gave our students in the Baltimore community an outlet to express their feelings.”

Dr. Cooper is also an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “As a member of faculty here at the School of Medicine, part of what we feel is that we want to impact the community beyond what we do here in the hospital. We want to go beyond closing wounds, and impact the community around us to make it better. We here at the University, are a part of the community, and want to impact it beyond our doors.”

He added, “We do things like this to reach out to the community. We want to have an impact to prevent people from coming to Shock Trauma with a violent injury. That is part of our new approach.”

This year, the annual event was held at the Memorial Episcopal Church, located at 1407 Bolton Street in Baltimore.

The event took place March 23, 2018 during National Youth Violence Prevention Week, which seeks to raise awareness and to educate students, teachers, school administrators, counselors, school resource officers, school staff, parents, and the public on effective ways to prevent or reduce youth violence.

More than100 artworks were submitted by Baltimore City Public School students. The winners were: Ciaya Spence Highlandtown Elementary (Elementary School Category.); DaySean Matthews, City Springs Elementary (Middle School Category); and Mia Mohammed, Bard High School (High School Category).

“The artwork illustrates a number of things,” said Dr. Cooper. “You can see that the participants gave this issue some real thought. The artwork shows what is going on in their communities and personal lives. The violence around them is impacting them, and the way they proceed in their lives.

“It is concerning that they should have these kinds of thoughts as opposed to much more light-hearted thoughts. That is the nature of the communities that some of our kids are growing up in. It should be a wake-up call for all of us to put more thought into making our communities safer. Ultimately, children will feel more optimistic about the communities they are growing up in.”

After the event, the artwork was on display at the University of Maryland Medical Center through the first week of April followed by other sites. Works of art were also available for purchase.