THE CULTURE WORKS STORY
CultureWorks was developed in 2008 as an idea to determine if Art and Culture can be a tool for revitialization. The focus of the work has been West and Southwest Baltimore. The work commenced with a Visual Artist (Ashley Milburn) whose focused thesis was the Highway To Nowhere in West Baltimore, he is a graduate of MICA Community Arts Program. In community spaces, people were gathered to have a public conversation about the impact the structure has had on West Baltimore. CultureWorks was able to gather those who still cry about the concrete structure, those who see no use for the structure, and those who were impacted, lost their homes, businesses, schools, churches, and sense of community. The original Arch Social Clubhouse (1923) was displaced due to the Highway To Nowhere.
This ACT of cultural engagement led to the creation of visuals brought by community members, the re-naming of an Inner Block Park (Hidden Streams), temporary art structure at local schools and empty lots, building the cultural story of the Highway To Nowhere; creating videos, sharing the story on a national stage. The work led to a National Festival on the Highway To Nowhere. This festival had national acts, such as Chuck Brown, Talib Kweli–local performing artist–and a National Learning Exchange. At least 10,000 people attended the weeklong event and a weekend festival.
Out of this public engagement, a committee for Arts and Culture was developed in the community. The committee defined what Art and Culture means to the community and further helped to developed the principles of CultureWorks.
CultureWorks is now a Cultural Organizing Practice rooted in the belief that people and people that inhabit spaces (the community) define their values, beliefs, desires, and concerns. Also, in the spaces in which people live, the landscape plays a major part in how people live, the manner in which they interact and socialize, and the practices that people display is also connected to the manner in which they celebrate as human beings.
CultueWorks practices Cultural Organizing based on the story that developed the practice (The Highway To Nowhere in West Baltimore). These principles guide the work that is now called Cultural Actions that are planned in conjunction with the community voices of the past, present and future.
-We do no harm.
-We listen and reflect back to the community what we hear utilizing the many art forms that Artist display people and culture.
-We do not work to produce a set standard of outcomes, but organize and galvanize people to interact with one another through the lens of culture.
-We aim to up-lift the human value of people in their landscape by infusing the Arts and Artists in the work of cultural organizing.
-We seek to display community through visual, performing, musical, poetic, theatrical, and the practice of the storycircle.