Documenting Community Arts in Baltimore

Screen capture from the exhibit, normaneross.wordpress.com

For the past two years, the library’s Special Collections department has worked with members of the community to recognize and preserve the legacy of community arts in Baltimore, with particular focus on the contributions of African Americans to the arts.

Last year, we hosted a pre-Artscape event and worked with researchers who conducted oral history interviews in the library. This year, we received a UB grant to digitize 16 mm films from the Cultural Arts Program and worked with a UB undergraduate student to create an exhibit highlighting a community arts leader.

Film Project

When 19 reels of motion picture film returned to the library after digitization, we were thrilled to discover more than 40 individual movies! The collection documents not only poetry, dance, and visual arts from the Cultural Arts Program, but also a wide range of human services and programs from CAP’s parent organization, the Baltimore Urban Services Agency.

Much of the digitized film was created by Baltimore City youth, under the director of producer Rachel Wohl, for Baltimore’s public access television channel, WBFF. Archivists in Special Collections had the opportunity to meet Ms. Wohl and get additional historical details about the films, which can be viewed and downloaded in their entirety here, on the library’s Internet Archive site.

Intern Exhibit

Special Collections was also lucky to have the opportunity to work with UB Integrated Arts intern, Hannah Smith, on an exhibit to honor the legacy of Norman Ross. Mr. Ross devoted his life to Baltimore’s community arts, as a musician and founder of the Cultural Arts Program, the Eubie Blake Museum, and AFRAM, the city’s African-American festival.

In addition to the materials Hannah created for the display case in the Special Collections Research Room on the 4th floor of the library, she also put together a digital exhibit. The exhibit website brings together her biographical research into Mr. Ross’ life, as well as highlights from over 10,000 archival photographic negatives she carefully examined!

As an archivist, I appreciate how working with the recent past affords opportunities to make connections to the present day. Our collaborative efforts to recognize the history of Baltimore’s community arts have connected Special Collections to many talented and committed individuals, and each one of them deserves recognition. Thank you, Norman Ross, Angela Koukoui, Breck Chapman, Pete O’Neal, Rachel Wohl, Janikka Simms, Hannah Smith, and Skip Elsheimer!

1 comment:

Laura Melamed said...

Thank you Special Collections!