BOPA Program Concludes With Youth-Led Mural Creations

Sitting on a small stoop, Joanna Hollins reflected on the inspiration behind the artwork located just a few feet away on the façade of the DeWees Recreation Center.

“We went around the neighborhood and interviewed community members,” said Hollins, who is a sophomore at Towson State University. “They wanted to see something that signified youth, joy, happiness and unity. Our inspiration was derived from the Quilts of Gee’s Bend.

“We felt a quilt represented all of the things the community wanted. Quilts are also fun and colorful. We wanted to make our own quilt.”

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend are quilts created by a group of women and their ancestors who live or have lived in the isolated African-American hamlet of Gee’s Bend, Alabama along the Alabama River.

Ursula V. Battle

With the Quilts of Gee’s Bend as their guide, Hollins and a team that included professional artists and Baltimore City youth created the vibrant, colorful façade of the DeWees Recreation Center, located at 5501 Ivanhoe Road.

Hollins is a mural apprentice with Art @ Work 2019. Through the five-week mural artist apprentice program, professional artists and Baltimore City young adults created highly visible beautification projects in city neighborhoods. The program is open to Baltimore City youths enrolled in the YouthWorks program. Young people ages 14–21 are hired to work under lead teaching artists and artist interns to create beautification projects throughout their neighborhoods.

The 2019 program ended with youth-led mural tours and community celebrations featuring performances and refreshments on Friday, August 2, 2019 at both DeWees and Farring-Baybrook Recreation Center, located at 4501 Farring Court.

Art @ Work 2019 is produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) in partnership with YouthWorks, Greater Baybrook Alliance, and Loyola University Maryland’s York Road Initiative. Iandry Randriamandroso was among the 2019 lead artists.

“As an artist, I do art murals that are very simple,” said Iandry Randriamandroso, who was among 2019 lead artists. “My work is simple because I like to engage people in my work by looking at it, and participating in the painting process. The quilts of Gee’s Bend lend themselves to my way of thinking. They very simple, graphic and colorful.

“We wanted to produce a mural for the community that was beautiful, and that would make them happy. It appears that we accomplished our goal.”

Randriamandroso is a native of Madagascar. He earned a MA in Community Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA). He said he has worked with Art @ Work for four years.

“The kids in this community have a space to play, learn and be happy because they make friends here,” said Randriamandroso. “A lot of people came to celebrate with us from the community, along with family and friends of the youth who participated. The purpose of today’s event is to celebrate the completion of the mural.”

Kenneth C. Clemons, who program participants affectionately refer to as, “Mr. Kenny” is a four-year artist intern with the program.

“Today was a very extraordinary event,” said Clemons, who attends the Baltimore Academy of Illustration. “The youth really put their best foot forward to do this mural. There were some good times and some challenging times, but we pulled through. They are MVPs— our Most Valuable Painters. They really brought their A-game.

“Not only did the kids excel in painting the mural, but they also did well in creative writing, drawing and color theory. They were a great group.”

Lloyd Richard Barnes, III is the DeWees Recreation Center Director.

“This puts a whole new look on the rec center, which was built in 1955,” said Barnes. “It’s inviting, colorful and joyful to look at. They all were very determined to get the mural done. They came early in the morning and even worked on Code Red days. When you see youth doing that, it really shows you something. And they did it in a month. They put in the effort and it paid off.”

Kia Grant said her children Jason, 14, and Peyton, 11, are members of the DeWees Recreation Center.

“Just the fact someone did this was great,” said Grant as she looked at the recreation center. “I appreciate the program. It’s a great example of teamwork and giving to the community.”

Other Art @ Work mural locations include Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School, 4301 W. Bay Ave. and the Family Dollar, located at 5315 York Road.

For more information about Art @ Work, visit https://www.promotionandarts.org/arts-council/art-work.