Arts and the Community

By Antwoine Johnson, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Community is an aspect of life that is embedded in every culture and manifests itself in many ways. To engage the community, to be part of it in such a way as to help it thrive and grow is a privilege and a responsibility. Asian American LEAD youth, this past week, focused on how to make the community grow through art and music which ended with a trip to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Groups 4 and 5 took the reins for organizing the workshops that got our youth into the creative mindset. They took the time to share with the other youth about how art can help a community reflect and remember but, also, create change and encourage. Memorials, for example, are pieces of art that are used to represent and remember those who have contributed to the community, or to remember an event that has happened in the past. In addition, graffiti, while it seems to have a negative connotation, can be used to give color to an urban area and can, also, project positive images into the community.

They also touched upon performing art, focusing particularly on acting using such great examples as Charlie Chaplin and silent films to demonstrate, generally, the art of acting. They then correlated it to community theatre, which is an aspect of community where people use the performing talents and give the gift of entertainment to the community they are in.

To wrap everything up, youth traveled to the Baltimore Museum of Art where they were treated to a tour of the exhibits whose art reflected community: Urban, Asian, and African. Through various statues and works, such as the Water Moon Guanyin, they were able to see how art brought people together; in this case, women and people who wished to be shown mercy, as the Water Moon Guanyin was the “Goddess of Mercy” in Buddhist religion.  Afterwards, the youth were treated to an engaging discussion about how the Museum engages in the city of Baltimore with such events as the cleaning of the front steps of the Baltimore Museum of Art, an event tied to the history of Baltimore and its tradition of the cleaning of front stairs of home and the opening of the Asian Exhibit, which gave the Asian and Asian American communities in the area an opportunity to show their culture to Baltimore as well through dragon dances, wushu demos, and other events.

After another free walk through the museum, youth and staff headed back to Montgomery County, equipped with more ideas and a broader view of what it means to engage their communities.

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