How Baltimore shaped a love of art

Published on: June 28, 2022 6:00 AM EDT|Updated on: July 11, 2022 11:28 AM EDT

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I have an innate love of art. Both of my parents are writers in different genres; both are big readers, too. One of my earliest memories was seeing a drum performance with my father, who carefully instructed me to wear earplugs to protect my small ears from the loud noises. I still use earplugs at every concert.

Since that show, my parents have done what they can to expose me to other various forms of art. My father also tried to to turn me into a basketball star, but that required shooting ability. Instead, I taught him that dance is a sport, too. Now, I have become part of an amazing community of artists of all mediums who are proud to call Baltimore home.

All I think about is art when I think about Baltimore. There is endless talent at every turn in this city. As an arts and community reporter at The Banner, I hope to show how the city is a creative powerhouse and how dance, music and visual art are a part of its rich cultural history.

Below are some of the places that nurtured my interest in art and could help spark a similar interest for those looking for local options.

When I was younger, Baltimore Clayworks hosted special classes for home-schooled students. These classes were held at the Forest Park Senior Center and included pottery wheel training and clay building techniques. My teacher was a kind man who was always upfront that Clayworks provided this class with grant funds that were dwindling. I completed a clay box (with a top!) but never got on the pottery wheel. I’m happy to say I have signed up for my first adult Clayworks class this summer. The classes range from beginner to intermediate. Each course has limited seating, so enrollment can be competitive. For $275, students get 25 pounds of clay, six weeks of in-studio classes at the pottery wheel, and access to the Clayworks studio outside of class time.

Sharayna Christmas is founder of Rayn Fall Dance Studio, a studio that trains young dancers in ballet, modern and African dance. Raised here, she was trained at the Harlem Academy of Dance and has been educating young people in dance for nearly 20 years. Christmas was the first Black dance teacher I ever had. At 13 years old, I was still learning what it meant to be me and what my goals were. Christmas is dedicated to making sure every dancer knows their own beauty. She taught me that professional Black dancers use foundation to make their pink pointe shoes match their brown skin.

I felt like I was learning from my own Debbie Allen when she demanded excellence and focus. She is still teaching dance, but is now focusing on finding a new home for her studio and educational endeavors through Muse 360. For 17 years, she has operated out of the Eubie Blake Cultural Center, and now she’s raising funds to expand her vision of teaching more Black students about their history through dance, travel and media with Muse360.

Towson University’s Children’s Dance Division

For years, Towson University managed the Children’s Dance Division that educated students like me, whose parents didn’t want them to be pigeon-toed anymore, as well as pre-professional students. This division no longer exists and now the university has the Community Dance Center, which trains young people in dance but has no pre-professional offerings and a reduced class schedule. I learned alongside, and from, Towson University students who taught me that dance is a viable career option. I took classes in ballet and modern — and accepted that ballet was my true favorite. I trained with them from 9 years old until I was 14. However, I quickly learned that I didn’t have the stamina to keep up.

At CCAT, a public magnet school, there are nearly 10 concentrations or “primes” for students to learn, including visual arts, information technology and cosmetology. I attended Carver in Towson as a literary arts student who dreamed of becoming a journalist. While there, I learned from several working writers who gave me ideas about what was possible if I learned to write. I also met friends who were painters, actors and dancers who continually support me in my work today.

As a child, my mother home-schooled my siblings and me. Maryland public libraries have special perks for home-schoolers that includes a virtually unlimited number of checked-out items. I lived for the stacks and stacks of books I found, including some that weren’t popular with my Christian home-school co-op. Most were nonfiction and answered questions about some of my curiosities. I even got a master’s in library and information science because I believe so deeply in libraries and information literacy.

As I became more familiar with Baltimore, I learned that it is a city with limitless artistic potential. I hope to inspire our readers to invest in a future where art is championed throughout the city.

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