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Blog — "Baltimore"

The Divisive Nature of the Arts

Heidi Shenk "Baltimore" art

I have officially been part of the Baltimore art world for the past five years. I mark the beginning of Row House 14 as the start of that timeline. In five years, I have sought out the community of others who make, love, or share art. Something about being surrounded by others that love art just as much as I do is important to me. I think it's the aspect of inspiration-- being inspired by others and having others to share your ideas with.

However, in those five years, I feel as though few gains have been made in becoming part of that community. I've written about those hopes and dreams on multiple occasions on the blog, but I've never written more deeply about it.

During this past holiday season, my frustrations came to a head as I found myself at a poorly attended arts and crafts market surrounded by other incredibly talented artists of all kinds. It was the third show in just as many weekends that didn't go quite as I had hoped, and I noticed that those same artists that I saw on that day were in attendance from the weekends before.

Meanwhile, on that same weekend, another craft fair took place that was wildly popular and very well attended. The group of artists was a familiar group. I had attempted to get into that market on multiple occasions, but despite my many, many attempts, I was denied once more. I couldn't understand why so many of the same artists were able to return to the market each year without giving a newbie like myself a chance. After a frustrating weekend, I proclaimed to Andrew that I felt like I had gotten into all of the reject markets. However, the quality of the art at each of these markets certainly were not of reject material.

For me, and many other artists that spoke to me about this, it feels as though there is a divisive line within the art community that doesn't intend to exclude, but does. Over the days following Christmas, I explained to my visiting parents how frustrating things can be for so many artist entrepreneurs in Baltimore and that many of us feel as though we're outsiders being shut out of a small group that often sees a bounty of success. My parents' continued response was, "But that's just how it always is. There's always the 'in' group, and that's just how it is."

Yes, they're right. That IS how it is, but does it have to stay that way? Can't that change? Or can't outsiders be the catalyst for change? Their continued response to my questioning was still a solid "no."

Maybe I'm an idealist, but I believe all people should be given a fair and equal opportunity. In this city, and certainly elsewhere, that simply isn't the case in the arts. In a city that is often ruled by The Maryland Institute College of Arts, it is often hard to be taken seriously if you're not an alumna. I've heard the question and response all too often at various art events. "Oh, I just love your cards! Did you go to MICA?" "No, I did not." "Ohhh." The "ohhh" is often accompanied with a tone of disapproval, a quick glance away, and an abrupt change of subject or end of conversation.

Alternatively, I get those who ask if I will be at such and such market or if my cards are sold in particular local stores. When I respond with a no, I get a "What?! Why wouldn't they want your cards to be a part of that?! I can't believe it!" And I usually respond, "I don't really know why," because I truly don't. That's not to sound arrogant or come off as if I think I'm above others-- that's just not the case. It's more along the lines of not understanding how despite any and all efforts, I still end up on what feels like the reject's side.

You may be reading this nodding in agreement with my parents' sentiments, thinking to yourself that this is just how things like this are and that I should move on and get over it. However, I just can't shake it.

Why should some opportunities be given to only just a few to enjoy? Haven't we ALL worked hard in order to get to the place that we are today? It reminded me of why I first became a teacher when I first moved to Baltimore. I hold a firm belief that everyone should be given a fair and equal opportunity, and when fair and equal doesn't seem to exist, especially in a world and field that is always touted as so open-minded, I feel disheartened, frustrated, angered.

I'm not sure what to think anymore about makers and the arts in this city. Sometimes I feel a sense of community with a few individuals that I chat with or see from time to time. Other times, I feel completely disenchanted and excluded. While I still think finding community within the arts is important to me, I also believe that maybe it's time to look for it through other avenues and be a catalyst of change.

I'm not quite sure how that will look in the future. Andrew has suggested starting our own art market. And I'd still love to have my own retail shop. Perhaps those are things to spend time working on building rather than trying to be a part of what already exists. It can be strange being on your own, by yourself, in your house, with no one else other than a dog and cat. I like the solitude most of the time, but the energy of an art community is missing. I'm not quite sure how to get there, but hopefully I'll get there somehow. And for now, I'm focusing on the small positives notes and building things one small block at a time.


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Doors Open Baltimore

Heidi Shenk "architecture" "Baltimore"

This past weekend, we were able to take in a day long event called Doors Open Baltimore in which the public could explore many historic buildings throughout the city. This was the first year for the event, and seeing that Andrew is an architect, it was an obvious addition to our weekend happenings. While there were just too many buildings for us to take in, we picked a few throughout the city that we thought would be interesting.

My favorites were the Crown Industrial Park in Greektown and the Pearle Museum near City Hall. While Crown has been housing artist studios for about 40 years, they recently began to renovate one of their warehouses to bring it up to slightly more modern standards (read drywall, heat, and sprinkler systems). I had no clue that these studios existed until Saturday-- in fact, I thought the warehouses were abandoned. As you can imagine, I instantly had dreams of taking over one of these beautiful spaces for myself.

Crown Industrial Park Crown Industrial Park Crown Industrial Park Crown Industrial Park Crown Industrial Park Crown Industrial Park

The image above is a look at one of their new studios in progress. I mean, seriously! Look at that beautiful potential!

The Peale Museum is rich in history, but no longer in use. It once housed a collection in the early 1800s, which now resides at the Maryland Historic Society. However, I've heard that there is a nonprofit architectural group that is hoping to restore it and use it for a museum once again. I enjoyed taking photographs here because it felt as though everything had stopped in time. Remnants of its use in the 90s as a conference center were still there-- fans, chairs, tables and all.

Peale Museum

Peale Museum Peale Museum

I hope that there is a similar event as Doors Open Baltimore next year. It would be fantastic to have an architectural tour of this kind on a yearly basis. It's incredible to learn about the history of your city through their buildings and understand a little bit more about Baltimore's past.

Does your city host an architectural tour? Have you ever been able to explore historic buildings in your city?

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Orioles in October

Heidi Shenk "Baltimore" daily life

It's no secret that we love baseball. If you follow me on Instagram, you may or may not be sick of seeing my photos from Oriole Park and Camden Yards. I grew up listening to Harry Caray broadcasting the Cubs games on AM radio, chewed my nails through watching my dad's hometown team the Pirates play in the playoffs in the early '90s, spent years with a glove on my hand at first base, and happily married someone that loves the sport just as much as I do.

When we moved to Baltimore eight years ago, we were glad to be in a baseball town, and took advantage of being a bike ride away from Oriole Park. About two years ago, we realized that we were attending so many baseball games, that it was actually more economical to purchase a small season ticket package, and so we did.

Over the course of the past few years, the Orioles have gone from last in their division to winning their division and heading to the playoffs. As season ticket holders, we are lucky to get first dibs on some postseason tickets. When the ticket information arrived in our mailbox, Andrew and I excitedly looked at each other, knowing that this could very well be our only chance to potentially go to a World Series game, a definite bucket list item, and we purchased our postseason tickets the next day.

Our first game of this postseason was Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tigers. It was a come from behind win with the winning runs scored in the bottom of the 8th inning. The stadium was electric with energy and as loud as I've ever heard it to be. The Orioles went on to sweep the Tigers in three games on Sunday night in Detroit, so our postseason excitement will only continue.

As for now, here are a few shots I snapped at Game 2 capturing some of that excitement on Friday afternoon.

orioles alds game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2 Orioles ALDS Game 2

Are you a baseball fan? Have you ever been to a postseason game?

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Oregon Ridge Park

Heidi Baltimore outdoors photography

Yesterday morning, The Beast died. The Beast, also known as my printer, was four years old and had finally decided that it had fulfilled its duty after printing thousands of cards and stationery sets in that time period. This left me at a standstill yesterday until my new printer would arrive. The weather was gorgeous, and so I decided that it only made sense that I spent my new found extra time...

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Oregon Ridge Park

Heidi Shenk "Baltimore" "outdoors" "photography"

Yesterday morning, The Beast died. The Beast, also known as my printer, was four years old and had finally decided that it had fulfilled its duty after printing thousands of cards and stationery sets in that time period. This left me at a standstill yesterday until my new printer would arrive. The weather was gorgeous, and so I decided that it only made sense that I spent my new found extra time outdoors.

I decided to make a quick 20 minute drive just north of Baltimore to Oregon Ridge Park. We first went to Oregon Ridge for the

Hot August Blues Festival

a few years back, and subsequently found out that there are plenty of trails to hike there as well. It's a nice place to head to in the Baltimore area if you want some decent hiking without having to drive about an hour away.

Oregon Ridge was full of sunshine, but at first felt disappointingly dead to me. The brown colors and crunchy leaves under my feet made me feel as if it were November. And then slowly, but surely, I began to find peeks of green amidst the brown. Spring may have arrived later than it usually does, but it certainly was making itself visible in a small way.

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What I had hoped would be an hour hike, turned into a two hour, 3.68 mile hike throughout the park. My hike was followed by a stop at the coffee shop for an iced coffee and some reading. While my day began with a stressful event, it ended with time off that I realized had been greatly needed. And this morning, I have felt newly energized and recharged.

Has your spring finally arrived? Have you had some time off to spend outdoors lately?

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