"For the people with beautiful ideas, a place within community." This was the title of my graduate school reflection project written after my first six weeks in Baltimore (six years ago). It comes to mind now, after a busy week full of courageous people implementing beautiful ideas and working together to create positive change within the city. It inspires me to write this morning and pay homage to all those that made an impact this week.

I started off at 9am on Monday morning at the Mind Your Business Homeownership Opportunities for the Creative Leaders of Baltimore's New Economy. This event, if I understand it correctly came out of a dialogue led by Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts last year and was organized by What Weekly. Quite a mouthful in the title, but a useful event in getting to know who one needs to know if one is considering purchasing a home in Baltimore. Since I got here I have had a place in my heart for Baltimore's row homes. Getting closer to thinking about investing in a physical structure here leads to questions of intention and gentrification and of the power one has to choose being intricately connected to the historical patterns of urban environments, where renewal has often been equated with removal of non-white communities. I have hope for Baltimore. There seems to be a moment in development, where vacant houses are renovated and higher income residents move in, before anyone is forced out when a neighborhood is mixed income and if one could overcome the social prejudices of class that are ingrained in our society (even if never admitted), one might be able to sustain a community where the first waves of gentrifiers does not mean a complete removal of the residents that were there before. One also might be able to organize and leverage resources in a way that actually does meaningfully shift the balance of power.

There is more I can write about gentrifying, but that is for another day. Speaking of meaningfully shifting power, Monday night I was at the Youth Dreamers, where middle and high school students work with adult allies to provide opportunities for youth to accomplish personal goals, develop leadership potential, and participate in improving their communities. The Youth Dreamers envision a community that values its youth, acknowledges their strengths, and inspires them to reach their potential for leadership and service. The Youth Dreamers will always hold a special place in my heart, they provide young people real opportunities for leadership and it is one of few youth programs where I have seen power shared by youth and the adults holistically. 

Wednesday was the Wide Angle Youth Media Festival with an art exhibition and film screening that took place at the Creative Alliance. The artwork was beautiful, but what blew me away were the videos. For as long as I have been familiar with Wide Angle (all cards on the table I worked with them several years ago to organize the youth media festival) I have been impressed with the videos that come out of the program, but this year's was something special. The thoughtfulness, beauty and confidence that these youth put into their videos is awe inspiring. Most often starting from a personal experience, these videos highlight the strength, innovation, courage and creativity that Baltimore's young people bring to the world. Not only do these videos highlight the dignity and fortitude of these youth, but also ask questions as to why the world does not always acknowledge this or treat them with respect. In Life with Asperger Syndrome a 15 year old tells the story of what he needs to be successful, his experiences in life and how important support is. What is illustrated from this and other Wide Angle videos is how much the youth workers in this organization care for their students and how much they support them in their development as story-tellers, media-makers and individuals capable of creating change. This year's festival also included films from other youth organizations from Maryland and across the country. This was a nice comparison, to see and hear the different perspectives of youth in different places, but who are often struggling with similar questions and issues. 

The last great event I attended this week, was the House of Ruth Maryland benefit at Minas Gallery. The gallery sits atop a boutique on the first floor (part of the same establishment) that features vintage clothing, accessories, jewelry and handmade local crafts. The second floor gallery specializes in solo exhibitions of local artists. The space is also used for literary events, performances, yoga classes and more. It is a great space with an incredible welcoming and joyous feel. Stop in if you have not been there before. You might be able to find a new pair of shoes, sunglasses or a piece of artwork to bring home. The owners are fabulous people and the boutique and gallery a staple of Baltimore. It was great fun to be there for this event.

I could actually write about so much more, above were all my afterwork activities. During work at Baltimore Clayworks, I also get to interact with some incredible people. The Clayworks community in addition to approaching ceramics with enthusiasm and creativity are actively creating an environment of joy and love. They are part of building the experience that Clayworks provides and of ensuring that people across Baltimore have access to clay regardless of social or economic status. Clayworks is an organization of great people. It also partners with other organizations working for change in the community. This week I had the privilege of visiting our partner site Jubilee Arts whose mission is to provide opportunities in the arts to enrich the social, spiritual, and creative life of the residents in the Sandtown-Winchester, Upton and surrounding areas. This organization, like Clayworks, has a group of committed, caring and compassionate people looking to use art as a catalyst for change. 

Beautiful people with beautiful ideas. This is what I find in Baltimore. This is what drives my devotion to the city, my optimism for its future and the knowledge that I am also responsible for my role in it.