MICA social design, class of 2014
today in MASD we’ll be discussing scaling our projects with kyla fullenwider. i’ve been thinking about ways to scale my project. since i’m working on mapping population changes in station north, i’ve thought about the kinds of conversations those maps & other visualizations could help facilitate.
in addition to expanding my project by creating more visualizations after the ones i complete and exhibit for the MASD thesis show, i think it could be beneficial for me to bring those visual tools into various community discussions that are already occurring about the past and future of the station north arts & entertainment district. these could include community association meetings like the greenmount west community association, conversations in which MICA is assessing its impact on the neighborhood surrounding the graduate studio center, city government conversations about the use of law enforcement in station north/greenmount west, and many more space and conversations that i’m sure exist though i am not aware of them yet.
eventually, i think the type of visualization i’m working on could be applied to other parts of baltimore, and perhaps other cities. i would have to, however, do extensive research before applying these methods to another city in order to ensure i’m not making any assumptions about similarities they may or may not share with baltimore.
Thesis Statement (as of 12/5/13—i gave a rough pitch to my classmates this past thursday)
I have experience with anti-violence activism, diversity training, and queer community organizing
my undergraduate studies were in American Studies & Queer Studies
my design experience comes from independent study and freelance work
Goals for Thesis & Beyond:
I want to bring my design and organizing work together, I believe they’re the same share the same goal, which is to say that the job of a designer is to facilitate conversation
I want to practice working for a struggle that is not my own: my experiences with activism have involved working with my own community, I want to gain experience working alongside others in solidarity
I want to work to advance racial justice
Incarceration & Gentrification:
mass incarceration: removes people from their communities, weakens ties between individuals + neighborhoods where they live(d)
insert overview here w/ statistics,
gentrification: attracts “desirable” (white & wealthy) people to an area in which they did not previously live, under the guise of improving an area, making it “safer”
they’re both types of migration, but incarceration is a kind of forced migration and gentrification is voluntary/encouraged with financial incentives
what kind of dynamic does this create? What effect do these two types of movement have on a particular neighborhood?
Station North as a case study:
arts & entertainment district designation
new developments: MICA Graduate Studio Center, Red Emma’s, City Arts building, whatever is happening on the NE corner of Howard & North Ave, plans for a new MICA building?
Who is funding this development?
Who receives art-based subsidies? What are the racial demographics?
What is the vision of “progress” for this district look like?
What are the arrest rates for the district?
What’s the difference between a district and a neighborhood?
- What is the change in property values over time in Station North?
Long-Term Creative Mapping Project:
partnership with Melani Douglass, Curatorial Practice ‘15
what are the different ways of mapping a neighborhood?
What can we learn from comparing different narratives of a neighborhood?
How many different pasts, presents, and futures can a neighborhood hold at once?
Sources Thus Far:
Jennifer Wallace, Professor of Creative Writing at MICA, 10 years experience teaching writing in prisons in New York and Maryland
Mikita Brottman, Professor of English at MICA, teaches at Jessup Correctional Institute and works at Clifton Perkins Psychiatric Hospital (part of the Maryland Department of Corrections)
Betty Huang, an industrial design student in Detroit, studying gentrification in Detroit and the role of designers in the labor system
Jen Jack Giesking, New Media and Data Visualization Specialist, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital and Computational Studies Initiative at Bowdoin College, my former professor in a class at CUNY Graduate Center about queer histories & spaces in New York City
Myra Margolin, community psychologist with experience volunteering in the Baltimore City Detention Center
Leigh Maddox, Board Member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former Chief of Maryland State Police, former undercover agent infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan
a friend who has TA’d a class in a CT prison and taught a class about the War on Drugs (he asked that his name not be published)
Potential Future Partners/Sources:
Jay Gillen, Baltimore Algebra Project (worked to shut down new youth jail earlier this year)
Neill Franklin, ED of LEAP (Baltimore native and former Police Chief)
Paul Rucker, Deutsch Foundation Fellow, Artist-in-Residence at MICA, and anti-prison activist
- Eric Sterling, President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
- Eric Cadora, Director of the Justice Mapping Project at Columbia University
- Joe Jones, ED of Center for Urban Families
- Ben Stone, ED of Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc.
Why This Is Important:
- mass incarceration & gentrification are affecting people across the country, in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, DC, etc
- the effect is an increased number of people in prison, an increased number of people without homes, an increased number of people starving & in debt
- this part of a larger problem
- I would like my project to be a visual contribution to gentrification resistance work and anti-prison work, by illustrating the relationship between the two and helping to build solidarity among the people most affected by these phenomena
- academics and activists alike need better visual tools to communicate their research and ideas
here is my heart to place under yours.
you are slow breaths
all that strength you made fom your blood.
a whole nation of black pain.
you carried in your spine.
a jail cell. made from your mother’s island.
i return some to you.
are my legs.
ninety four years
is many bones to go through.
many walks through the sun.
many hearts to shed.
many stars of joy to comb through your hair.
a lot of time
let us hold you now.
let us warm the water for your skin.
let our youth be your comfort.
we have seen how your feet danced.
that we have commited
you. to memory.
all hope and fresh mourning.
we know what the ancestors sound like
when they come.
they are ready for you.
if you have done
you came to do.
are finished transcribing your soul into humanity.
have our cloth ready.
our flowers ready.
our songs in our mouths ready.
our feet and all the drums ready.
our fresh water.
I shifted into second gear with my thesis research last week. 4 one-on-one meetings, and one lecture later, and I have more questions than I did before. which I still think is a good thing, even though I’m supposed to be narrowing down my thesis proposal for next week! ack!
meeting with myra margolin
myra was kind enough to meet with me on monday and let me pick her brain about baltimore history, psychology, anthropology, and development. we talked about the construction we’ve each noticed in station north, who is doing what volunteer work in which baltimore prisons, whiteness, the greenmount west development plan, and “fair development” (which sounds very similar to “community wealth building” but is apparently different). she encouraged me to follow my instincts in terms of what’s happening in station north, and what is going to be the best point for a design-based intervention. (below is a photo of the station north logo reflected in a window, from google images)
meeting with jennifer wallace
jennifer teaches poetry & creative writing at MICA. she has also taught writing and book-making classes at prisons in westchester county, new york and here in baltimore county. when I asked her what was the most important thing to know about prisons, she said that the people inside are often thought of as a contained unit, when they often have families and children who they are deeply connected to, despite the walls that separate them. when I asked about gentrification in baltimore, the neighborhoods that came to mind for her, were station north/greenmount and hampden, which I knew about, and locust point, which I had never heard of. she also gave me the name of a professor at MICA who teaches at jessup correctional institute—mikita brottman, and told me that a professor named amy roza also teaches at jessup as part of the goucher prison education partnership. (below is a picture of the guard tower at jessup correctional institute, from google images)
paul rucker’s presentation
paul rucker is an amazing multimedia artist, activist, and musician who is spending this year working at MICA. his short presentation at the graduate studio center on wednesday covered the history of prisons in the U.S., gun control laws, and the history of lynchings and murders of black men by the police. I was in awe of how simultaneously provoking and digestable his presentation was. there was certainly a lot of grief and violence involved which I will be sitting with for a long time. even while confronted with such weight, however, it felt like paul carved out a space soft and complex enough that everyone in the room could be present in their own way. that is quite the skill. time and history were woven together in honest and inconsistent patterns, and his unconventional cello playing was soothing and rousing at once. I left knowing that the influence of his work would find its way into my own. we didn’t have a chance to talk after the presentation, but I’m hoping we can meet in the next few weeks.
below is his piece “proliferation.” be sure your speakers or headphones are turned on for the cello accompaniment.
mind meld with melani douglass
melani is a first-year curatorial practice student and was literally the first person I met during orientation at MICA. we immediately hit it off, and started scheming about ways to honor the people of baltimore in our own artistic and design work. we met again on friday, just to catch up. once we started talking about station north, gentrification, mapping, vacant buildings, race, history, different ideas about the future/city planning, what parts of baltimore history are not discussed, what it would mean to partner with a johns hopkins student… it was clear we were still on the same page. we’re both presenting our thesis proposals to our own cohorts and then are going to, at the very least, share our ideas and preliminary research with each other. questions she planted in my mind that I’m still thinking about: where did everyone go who used to live in these vacant buildings? what can she see as a baltimore native that I can’t, and vice versa? what can we do as a woman of color and a white man working together that we couldn’t do alone? what are the ways poor people have resisted gentrification? how can an arts district designation benefit long-time residents? how can we, as MICA students, leverage our privilege to complete a project that builds bridges once burned? what’s the difference between a district and a neighborhood? what is MICA’s vision of station north’s future? baltimore city government’s? long-time residents? the 4,000+ people currently kept in cages in the prisons and jails of the city? the greenmount west community association?
how can one place hold so many different presents and futures at once? how many times can history repeat itself?
all I can say is I’m so glad to have yet another supportive, determined, and inspiring person as part of my community here in baltimore. these questions won’t necessarily be answered, but we won’t sweep them under the rug either. the history of struggle in this city is much too broad, too deep, too beautiful to be ignored. (below is a baltimore neighborhood map, from wikipedia)
skype call with betty
I met betty huang during the better world by design conference in providence, RI in september. she’s about to graduate from the college for creative studies in detroit, where she grew up. we hit it off during the conference’s social event when we started comparing the way people talk about both baltimore and detroit. both cities are seen largely as post-industrial waste, shameful pools of drugs and violence, “blank slates” for young white gentrifiers and large development corporations to experiment and capitalize on. in order to help each other organize our thoughts about how power allows and encourages gentrification, we decided to talk it out. we swapped ideas we’ve gotten from michel foucault, guy debord, janet helms, zygmunt bauman, and socialist theories. we talked about co-ops, community wealth building, socialist critiques of co-ops, micropolitics, how to make ideology visible. lots of big stuff! I’m hoping we can talk again soon, especially if she ends up on the east coast after she graduates in a few weeks! (below is a typographic neighborhood map of detroit from ork posters)
another note about all of these meetings: I love and am so drawn to friendly, soft-spoken, thoughtful people. I’m so grateful that I have gotten the chance to meet so many on this research/grad school journey I’m on. as tiring as it can be to initiate and follow up with so many meetings, I’m feeling really energized by people’s incredible ideas and enthusiasm. we’re ready to have these conversations, and I’m looking forward to inviting even more people into them moving forward.
I’m also looking forward to relaxing over the holiday break. I’m not even close to okay with celebrating genocide and colonialism as “thanksgiving.” but I am grateful for my family and for the respite from my hectic class schedule. I’ll be thinking hard about whiteness, and about what a gift my extended mixed race family is, as I have been ever since the undoing racism training earlier this month. and I’ll be hoping for more kind and honest conversations every year, hoping we can hold each other’s pain and hope in the same space.
for my social design master’s thesis, I want to create a set of design tools that will contribute to anti-prison work. each have the possibility for both print and web solutions. I’ve sketched out three potential avenues toward that end:
creative mapping of station north
problem: gentrification of station north, disconnect between MICA & greater community
intervention: creative mapping of the neighborhood that illuminates history, current artistic practices, police data
audience: residents of charles north, barclay, and greenmount, & the MICA community
aspects of problem to be addressed: preservation of history, acknowledgement of local art & struggle, illumination of disparities between different groups’ visions for the area’s future
potential partnerships: melani douglass (curatorial practice ‘15), red emma’s, paul rucker, johns hopkins, downtown partnership, priya bhayana
illustrating the war on drugs in baltimore
problem: stigmatization & criminalization of drug use & addiction, disproportionate prosecution & incarceration of people of color
intervention: education about class & race disparities in drug legislation in baltimore
audience: the most privileged, white wealthy people, to help them see how their rights are being protected at the expense of other people’s freedom and well-being
aspects of problem to be addressed: mass incarceration, addiction, violence, ignorance, harm reduction
potential partnerships: LEAP, prison education professors at MICA and goucher, prison policy institute
re-entry service guide
problem: a large number of non-profits serving specific populations of formerly incarcerated people, no central organization or funding
intervention: a collection & perhaps coalition of all re-entry organizations, who they serve, how they are connected, etc
- audience: both formerly incarcerated people in baltimore and the general public
- aspects of problem to be addressed: unorganized information, lack of communication between groups, competition for funding, recidivism
potential partnerships: alternative directions, hand in hand