Spreading hope through art

Black Cherry Puppet Theatre 1

By Jessica Porter, Young Audiences Program Director

Tuesday morning in Baltimore began with a somber tone. As community members cleaned up our streets, led peaceful demonstrations, and opened their doors to their neighbors who needed a place to go, reflect, and process​, something beautiful began to happen​.

Early on in the day, I was struggling to find ways to productively volunteer. Despite our initial frustrations, the Young Audiences staff worked collaboratively with each other and with our artists to ​identify ways to positively affect the lives of quite a few people in meaningful, creative, and important ways throughout the day.

Young Audiences​’​ musician Kevin Martin volunteered to provide his Steel Drum Experience program, with children and volunteers who were spending the day at The 29th Street Community Center​. ​Our very own Chief Innovation Officer​ Pat Cru​z​ and several Young Audiences staff ​partnered with ​puppeteer Michael Lamason​ to get arts activities, such as mural painting​, puppet making,​ and a free puppet show, off the ground at Black Cherry Puppet Theater.

This doesn’t even touch on the ​powerful work our artists were doing on their own! ​In a 10-minute span of​ the ​local ​news​ Tuesday evening​, I ​saw at least four different artists I’ve worked with in some capacity​ during my time​ at Young Audiences right in the epicenter of the healing taking place in our city.​ ​​Having long been active members of the communities in which they live,​ ​many of our artists are poised to lead the change that ​our city deserves.

Kevin Martin at 29th Street Community Center 1

When Kevin​ called me to say he was on his way to the 29th Street Community Center, I ​decided to come along. There were only about a dozen students at the center, and probably just as many volunteers, but s​eeing the smiles on those kids faces was the hope that I needed​​. I could tell ​the experience provided a​ much needed ​spark for the other adults too. ​The students​ chose to​ name our band ​“Monkey Kids.” Though we had only​ ​40 minutes​ ​together​, at the end we performed a rough rendition of the Toots and the Maytals’ song “Monkey Man”–and everyone walked away​ ​​beaming​.​

Black Cherry Puppet Theatre 3

A​cross town at Black Cherry Puppet Theater, more than 30 kids and parents gathered to draw, paint, and create their own puppets before a free puppet show mid-afternoon. ​This was a true community effort, as ​​artists donated their time​ and​ volunteers ​contributed food and labor​.​

We’ve all got a lot of work to do in order to see the change our city needs​, but I am more confident than ever in the transformational power of our work, and thanks to my experience,​ I am once again​ hopeful for our city’s future.

Black Cherry Puppet Theatre 2

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