This weekend I found inspiration – in friends, in work and in art. It has been a long time since I have written anything on this blog. At the beginning of the year, I decided that in 2016 I was going to return to some semblance of work/life balance. It was two years into my job as executive director at Baltimore Clayworks and it seemed like if I never made it a goal it would never happen. The fact that I found inspiration in so many things this weekend and that I have time to sit here now and record them on the page makes me think that I am on the right path.

My first inspiration came from my job. Two visiting artists, Jill Foote-Hutton and Kevin Snipes joined us at Baltimore Clayworks for workshops both onsite and in community and for an artist talk. Spending time and hearing these two creative individuals share their thoughts on their process, inspiration, the role of the artist in connecting people across difference, social practice and equity was an honor. These two artists although incredibly different in their work and experience have connections in the way they use their craft to make sense of the world, use imagery as a means of storytelling and simultaneously leave room for the viewer to interpret and create stories of their own.

Having the opportunity to spend time with these two artists and the chance to sit in on one of their workshops, left me refreshed and excited to return to my own artistic practice. This was lucky because the morning following the artist talks, I attended an Indigo Tie Dye Workshop offered as part of “Indigo Magic”, an exhibition curated by Kibibi Ajanku. The workshop was led by Cheryl Hinton and brought together an incredible group of people that created tie dye squares that will become part of a collaborative quilt to be shown at the closing reception of the exhibition. The exhibition uses indigo as a lens in which to view the ways that indigenous African traditions show up in contemporary African American Art forms. I have not yet seen the full exhibition, but after the tie dye workshop, I will not miss it. It was incredible to hold the fabric in the buckets of deep greenish/blue and to watch when they were laid out to rest how the bright green deepened into indigo. The transformation was magical and the facilitators' emphasis on the community built during the process added to the confirmation, which was voiced several times in different ways: that art is healing, that art is connecting, that art brings communion, that art brings transformation – to ourselves and to our community.

The knowledge that came out of this making seamlessly tied back to some of the themes of Kevin and Jill from the night before. I found myself inspired by all that I had experienced when my phone buzzed with a reminder that the Creative Alliance was holding its first Activist Speaker Series. I continued my journey across Baltimore to the Patterson and arrived a bit early. This gave me the time to view the main exhibition, “The Simurgh”, which references the mythological creature of transformation and rebirth from Persian folklore and features four contemporary painters from Iranian background. This too is an exhibition not to miss. The intricate drawings of Cameron Shojaei and the large scale painting and collage on mylar, “Time will glide you away, but you will always remain, for nothing is as pure as you are” by Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi both asked the viewer to spend intimate time looking over and through the detail and expanse that were contained in the composition. The gallery was empty as I walked through and I was glad, as it gave me the freedom and space to wander back and forth between the paintings, gazing with fresh eyes time and time again, revealing new details and marks unseen upon previous viewings.

More transformation, more rebirth. It was then time for the talk. Juan Ortiz facilitated the conversation and was joined by Parag Rajendra Khandhar and Dominic Moulden. Juan began the conversation by reflecting on how young people of color need to see their reflection in those offering solutions to the challenges around them. Dominic and Parag then shared some about the work they have done and continued to do both in Baltimore, DC and beyond. I found myself nodding the entire time, the talk covered a variety of topics from equitable development to the demographics of non-profit leadership to the layered issues of power that are inherent in any and all work with people. It was an inspiring talk and I encourage you to attend the next in the series. For me the conversation brought up the continued theme of creativity and transformation, how we struggle to do it as individuals and in our institutions and larger social structures. I am truly honored to have been there and everywhere else that I traveled during the weekend and inspired to continue my own creative journey and transformation.

If you are interested in any of the above, check out:

Baltimore Clayworks – Kevin Snipes has an exhibition in the solo gallery on view until July 2

Indigo Magic – on view at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum until July 28

Creative AllianceThe Simurgh on view until May 28 and check their calendar for the next Activist Speaker Series