Intern Weekly Response: Exhibit Review

Posted on July 25th, 2019 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to review an exhibit that they had recently visited. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here. 


~From Intern Elana 

For my exhibition review, I have decided to focus on an exhibit that I was able to see at the Smithsonian on our Intern D.C. Day. After going on the gallery tour of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), a fellow guest asked our tour guide which exhibit he would recommend that we visit next and he suggested “Americans.” Thus, I went in with no idea what the exhibit would be about. When I entered the hall, I was greeted with a large room with its black walls covered in bright images of Native Americans in American pop culture, from the Land o’ Lakes butter logo to an Indian motorcycle. This black and white color scheme made the brightly colored images and objects pop and gave the whole exhibition a modern and visually striking appearance. This room made it instantly clear what this exhibition would focus on: the myths and stories of Native Americans as a part of American popular culture: how they came to be and why certain stories are particularly popular. Stepping into the first room made me realize how multi-media focused this exhibition was. The back wall projected video clips, the side walls were covered in images and objects in cases mixed together and two long tables in the center of the room were outfitted with touchscreens that allowed visitors to learn about the images and objects on the surrounding walls. Although I am typically a person who is more drawn to objects, I appreciated the use of multi-media in this exhibit. It allows the visitor to see how narratives permeate so many aspects of how we receive information, from movies and television to books to products you might buy at the grocery store.

Photo Credit: https://americanindian.si.edu/

Four rooms jutted off from this center room. Three of the rooms were filled with what one might call an exhibit within an exhibit and the last had a video installation. Each of these rooms told a different popular American story that centered on Native Americans: Pocahontas, the battle of Little Bighorn, the Trail of Tears and Thanksgiving. They attempted to get at the truth of each of these stories and understand why these specific stories became so ingrained in the American narrative. Each room did so effectively by using the multimedia aspect of the exhibition. It was only through interactives, videos, objects, artwork, and text together that the exhibit was able to tell each story and explain how it became so ingrained in the American conscious. Personally, I wish that more than just a video had been included for the Thanksgiving story because the multimedia aspect of the other rooms led to a much greater depth to the stories and a better understanding of how stores such as these become so popular and ubiquitous. However, each of the other rooms did a great job of telling the stories they each focused on. For example, the Little Bighorn room, called “The Indians Win,” used artwork of the battle made by both sides, newspapers, posters, and Native objects to show “Why have Americans been obsessed with this one loss rather than dozens of victories?” and how the image of the “Plains Indian warriors came to represent all Indians.”

 

Photo Credit: https://sarahruffingrobbins.com/2018/03/30/americans-exhibit-at-the-nmai/

This exhibit made me consider how narratives, not limited to stories about Native people, become ubiquitous in society today. It made me rethink these particular stories, stories that I had heard for years and just accepted, and inspired me to take another look at other stories that are ingrained in the American consciousness. It made me think about where I absorb information from, even from something as simple as the logo on a stick of butter. The message behind this exhibition is incredibly resonant in this world where we are constantly consuming from hundreds of sources.  As you might be able to tell, I really enjoyed this exhibit and found it to be highly successful in conveying its story. If you are able to, I highly recommend seeing it in person at the NMAI or experience it online at the link below.

Exhibition website: https://americanindian.si.edu/americans/ 


~From Intern Ariella 

Usually, people go to museums to check out things they’ve never seen before. They don’t go to look at things that they already know.

Americans challenges that idea by flipping it on its head.

Americans is an exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Open since January 2018, the exhibit centers on showing visitors images that they’re already familiar with.  Most Americans will recognize an Indian Halloween costume, have learned the tune for “Ten Little Indians,” and notice the classic wooden statues outside smoke shops. But the amount of Indian images, terminology, and stories that have infiltrated American culture stretch much farther. Americans seeks to point this out to its audience, and does an extremely successful job.

The Americans exhibit at NMAI features displays of Indian images in American culture, as well as several deep-dive rooms.

Visitors enter the long, narrow gallery, which is a wing on the NMAI’s third floor. On both sides, from floor to ceiling, are objects. Each has the image or loans its name to Indians.

Directly to the left, by the entrance, is a bright yellow 1948 Indian Chief Motorcycle. Straight ahead, a screen plays the clips from various TV shows and movies featuring Indian characters. Several couches enable visitors to sit and just look around- which they would likely do, if they could easily read the panels by the objects lining the walls.

NMAI’s choices in what to include are interesting to consider. According to its Media Fact Sheet, Americans features nearly 300 objects along the walls. While looking at the items, my main question was: why these? Why did South Park and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving make the cut, but not the Twilight Saga’s depiction of a werewolf Indian tribe, or Tom and Jerry episodes featuring Indian war cries?

Perhaps the choices were made to highlight instances where the Indian influence was less obvious to casual visitors. For example, there is no sign in the exhibit of the Washington Redskins, a team whose name and mascot are so discussed that both Wikipedia and the Huffington Post have categories devoted exclusively to the topic. But the Seattle Seahawks, whose mascot is likewise inspired by Indians, is included. By making this choice, NMAI is able to inform visitors of a new angle to a topic they thought they knew about. Everyone has heard of the Redskins controversy. The Seahawks label instead asks, “Are all Native American–themed mascots bad? Maybe not,” before explaining that the logo was inspired by art from the North Pacific Coast tribes.

The best aspect of the exhibit was just off of the main gallery. Four small, deep-dive exhibits are included as small wings off the main room. Each focuses on a different, commonly known tale about Indians: Thanksgiving, the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Trail of Tears, and Pocahontas. The rooms walk visitors through the inaccuracies in the widely known stories.

I was least impressed with the Thanksgiving room, which features a five-minute video explaining the holiday’s confused origins. There was nothing wrong with the informative clip, but I didn’t learn anything new. On the other hand, the Pocahontas and Trail of Tears rooms were especially well-done. The Pocahontas room used several different mediums to carry its message across: a public interview video, panels along the walls, and lights pointing out characters on the Capitol’s Frieze of American History.

One of the exhibit highlights is the deep examination of the characters in this section of Frieze of American History, located in the Pocahontas section.

One of the cleverest, and most telling, aspects of the exhibit comes before visitors even walk in. Just the title reveals much of what the gallery’s aims are. It is called Americans – not “American Indians” or “Indians in America.” It is a short, simple, word that the majority of visitors will identify with themselves. In titling the exhibit Americans, NMAI reminds visitors of the way that Indians have been present in American culture from the beginning. Because they are pointed out, they wind up belonging with all Americans.


~From Intern Mallory 

For this week’s blog post we were asked to evaluate an exhibition. While there are many museums in the Baltimore-D.C. area, the most recent museum I’ve been to was in Missouri. And while I would love to discuss an exhibition in the area for others to visit, I wouldn’t be able to give a proper evaluation as it has been a while since I visited a museum on my own. So, for this week, I’ll be talking about the Titanic Museum in Branson, MO.

The museum, as the name suggests, discusses the Titanic. At the start of the museum is highlights how the Titanic was made, then discusses the voyage through the iceberg. It has a section dedicated to the passengers, and the museum ended with the discovery of the Titanic in recent years, with the trek down to the wreckage.

The exterior of the Titanic Museum.

Personally, I really enjoyed the entire museum. I thought that it flowed nicely, starting at the building of the Titanic and continuing through the more recent re-discovery of her. The exhibits mainly housed quotes from passengers and crew, images from onboard the Titanic, and some artefacts (which included items from passengers, some dishware, boarding passes).

Interior of the museum, interactives within the exhibit

One thing I found to be very interesting was that upon entering the building, everyone was given a boarding pass with a name. This is who you “were” for the time in the exhibits. In the last room there was a wall dedicated to the passengers and crew onboard the Titanic at the time of her sinking, with both survivors and victims listed. This created a very interesting way of connecting the visitors to the people who lived through this event, gaining interest as they walk though and discover more.

One this I found curious was that while the tour was mainly self-guided, with captions to images and text blocks scattered about, there was also an audio tour. While the audio portion wasn’t mandatory, everyone was given a way to access it, and there were numbers throughout the exhibition which would provide more information about certain subjects.

Interior of the museum. A member of the staff dress as a crew member on the Titanic, standing in front of the replication of the Titanic’s grand staircase within the museum.

All and all, I really enjoyed my trip. While it was a bit dark at times, I learned so much more than I previously knew. The audio tour portion was, at times, a bit too much – as it could hold up a certain area. But I still think that the audio tour added much more to the entire experience. The few interactives (panels that you could stand on which were angles to show how steep the deck got during the sinking and water as cold as it was that night – 28 degrees) were cleverly places and fun to interact with. There were also small question panels around where you could test your knowledge on the topic discussed in the room which was an interesting way to not only help visitors remember information but also to increase visitor retention time.

But the mystery and narrative being the person who you “are” while walking through really grabbed not just my attention, but also the group that I was with. We all were actively looking through the rooms, trying to look for clues for the fates of our passengers.

The exhibition was very well done, immersive yet not suffocating so. It provided a new outlook into the lives of the passengers, their experiences, their lives after. Personally, I learned a lot and found the exhibit to be very engaging. The way the individual cases were set up were also well done, for the lack of physical items from the ship that survived nothing seemed empty or overcrowded. I also think that the lifestyle and culture of the era was very well represented. It also handled the topic of the tragedy very well, being respectful while also providing all the information they have.


~From Intern Hannah 

This is a review of Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent, featured in the Freer Gallery, one half of the Smithsonian’s National Museums of Asian Art. I visited this exhibit on the JMM Intern’s trip to DC and gave a short summary of my experience in that blog post. However, this was one my favorite exhibits that I visited that day, so I think it deserves an in-depth look.

The exhibit has a strong focus on the human body, specifically, the human body that was accepted to be the most beautiful during the Mughal Empire. Most of the objects in this exhibit were from the period of time when the Mughal Emperors ruled over much what we would now call the Indian Subcontinent. Their reign, which ran from 1526-1858 covered what is now India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. This empire was one of the most powerful and prosperous in the world. A lot of art was produced in this period, as appearance meant a lot in this society. The representations of bodies and fashion in this exhibit can tell us a lot about common thoughts and beliefs on the nature of being, gender roles, social ideas, and hierarchies of power at the time. Dress, posture, and conduct were all ways for individuals to show their power, authority, and loyalty. Mughal courtiers often wore beautifully and carefully crafted luxury objects on their bodies, in order to display their sophistication. This Mughal strive for refinement was very tied to the regional king’s authority and inspired both Muslim and Hindu civilians to adopt imperial fashions.

One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was not an object, but the curator’s choice to include magnifying glasses for visitors to use. I definitely utilized this tool to be able to see the intricate patterns and details featured in some of the art in this exhibit.

Figure 1: The inclusion of magnifying glasses was a great touch and helped me to better interact with the objects!

As for objects in the exhibit, I loved this displa6y centered on the use of flowers in Mughal Empire art. The display features a dagger with a beautiful floral motif on the handle, which might have belonged to a Mughal courtier. The flowers are made of rubies, which were valued higher than diamonds, so this would have belonged to someone with means. The middle object is a scent box with painted red and gold lilies, and probably held betel, an aromatic breath-freshener used during intimate moments. The label reads, “in ancient India, sophisticated lovers were always well perfumed.” The third object was a sprinkler, which probably held rose water to be sprayed on guests. The label says it was probably made in Avadh, a north Indian kingdom that emerged towards the end of the Mughal empire, as it was in decline. Also in this room were displays with beautiful jewelry and other adornments. In this first room also lived an imperial scroll that gave beautiful images, and an idea of how these beauty standards were understood and passed on through kingdoms and generations.

Figure 2: Dagger, scent box, and rosewater sprayer

Figure 3: A scroll featured in the exhibit, showing some depictions of the ‘ideal’ body and fashion

The second room of the exhibit turns away from royalty and towards gods. There is a long list on one of the walls listing the Thirty-Two Body Marks (called Lakshanas) of a Buddha. These markers run from long legs and white teeth, to curls that come out of the head clockwise, and retracted genitals. There were many statues of Buddha in different representations around the room. It was really interesting to see so many interpretations of the same ideal.

I really enjoyed this exhibit and the beautiful objects in it. I have a soft spot for decorative daggers and swords, so I got very excited by the ones featured in the exhibit. I think it is comforting to look at body image standards from another culture and time. It’s great reminder that all beauty standards are socially constructed and are also constantly changing. It is not a short falling to not fit an ideal that is not realistic. It felt really human to be confronted with fashion styles associated with the time and think about what has changed and what has not, in terms of elitism in fashion and the way that mainstream fashion is still greatly influenced by those with power and money. Although ideas about the body, fashion, and gender are very different now than they were in 17th century India, I felt like I could understand the motivation and societal pressure to want to look or present a certain way. Some things never change.

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Looking to History for the Answers: Urban Decay

Posted on July 27th, 2016 by

The infrastructure of a city often defines its residents and eventually its reputation. There are interesting exceptions to this, Baltimore being a prime example. Baltimore City is a city where everything changes every two blocks, sections of the city appear dilapidated row houses next to abandoned structures sometimes half demolished. These areas in Baltimore appear as if time has left the city behind, with the exception of the bright blue light emitted from the video camera installed atop the intersection. A short drive and a mile later expensive refurbished housing or preserved massive brownstone homes can be seen, people abuzz in green fairly cared for spaces with a notable lack of surveillance cameras, liquor stores and wandering homeless. Return west and there are entire blocks of homes that have been abandoned for years right next to an occupied home.

Yet Baltimore parades a different image of itself, a city boasting massive hospitals blazing a forefront in the medical world, Johns Hopkins, Medstar, Mercy and others. A city with a tourist friendly harbor with new businesses, local manufacturing and big names. Expensive waterfront property, large boats. What used to be immigrant neighborhoods and docks worked by various generations turned into areas desired by a new resurgent interest in younger generations of working class families seeking urban lifestyles. A twist as the children of families who left the city years ago through generations of rapid white flight return only to establish their own enclaves effectively gentrifying areas.

While this seems harmless initially the situation’s consequences are clear in a brief visit to West Baltimore. As the jobs become more exclusive and move elsewhere or are filled by new roles the already poor and disparaged neighborhoods further decline in essential areas. Public education, housing and maintenance, businesses that remain are small and locally owned as larger business move to the fringes of the city. As these poorer areas are alienated furthering an ‘Us vs Them’ attitude which broods and the melting pot that Baltimore stood as for generations quickly homogenizes.

Examples of urban decay are evident all over Baltimore, entire blocks of abandoned homes and structures.

Examples of urban decay are evident all over Baltimore, entire blocks of abandoned homes and structures.

Looking around I realize how many cues can be taken from history to help address this very real; problem. Recently I visited DC where we visited the National Library of Congress. They had an exhibit on the life of Jacob Riis, an American immigrant living in New York city. He noticed the squalor conditions the poor and immigrant families endured in the city encouraging him to document their struggles and improve the living conditions. A bold man who made friends that ascended to high places such as Theodore Roosevelt. I saw a lot of similarities between the disintegration of infrastructure and the consequences it had on New York at Jacob Riis’s time and the aging infrastructure of certain areas in Baltimore now. Water pipes in Baltimore are old, the harbor all though transformed is still suffering from pollution and years of neglect. The New York of Jacob Riis’s time was still experiencing a massive influx of immigrants, this is where the problem differs. Baltimore is experiencing an increase in people moving into the city in exclusive areas such as Canton, Harbor East and North Baltimore. The population enduring the declining living conditions has been here for generations.

A picture taken by Jacob Riis depicting the difficult living conditions as families living in New York at his time, multiple people often occupied a single room.

A picture taken by Jacob Riis depicting the difficult living conditions as families living in New York at his time, multiple people often occupied a single room.

As Baltimore moves to make a name for itself hopefully the gap stops widening as people invest more in the city as a whole rather than some exclusive areas. If history has shown us anything all it takes is one determined person willing to get their hands dirty and make connections. Jacob Riis’s legacy has taught us many things and his observations motivate decisions made today. A small example being his decisions to create public play areas for children to keep them out of trouble, this is especially relevant in Baltimore as public figures push for more of these communally accessible spaces for the youth.

A peaceful protest of local Baltimore citizens after the death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing riots. A prime example of how concerned citizens can come together to address the problems the city faces today.

A peaceful protest of local Baltimore citizens after the death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing riots. A prime example of how concerned citizens can come together to address the problems the city faces today.

 CadeBlog post by Digital Projects Intern O. Cade Simon. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

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Intern Thoughts: A Weekly Response

Posted on June 30th, 2016 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to report on a “Baltimore Experience.”


By the Rocket’s Red Glare

One of my favorite free things to do in Baltimore is to take walks on the grounds of Fort McHenry. The views of the harbor are beautiful; I could sit for hours and just look at the ships and boats passing by. It’s also a great place to sit on the grass and have a picnic. The path around the perimeter borders the harbor, so there is always a nice breeze flowing through. Also, you can see the fort’s giant American flag from nearly anywhere on the grounds. If you enjoy taking pictures, there are plenty of opportunities for patriotic photos!

Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry

Beside the fort itself, a great landmark at Fort McHenry is the 24-foot-tall statue of Orpheus, which is a monument dedicated to Francis Scott Key, at the end of the path. I look forward to seeing it on all of my trips! Be sure to pay special attention to the statue’s eyes; they have life-like dimension that always impresses me. Fort McHenry defined Baltimore’s history, and it’s still a great place to visit!

~Alice Wynd


Baltimore and the Star-Spangled Banner

Baltimore has a rich history surrounding the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. As a group, the interns were able to attend the celebration of Flag Day at the Flag House. There was fanfare, the youth fief and drum core from Fort McHenry attended and played several songs. We were lucky enough to have great weather that day as we sat outside for speeches and the raising of the flag, but my favorite part of that day was getting to go inside the house where Mary Pickersgill and her assistants worked on the flag before they brought it to the brewery to sew the enormous thing together.

On a tour through the Pickersgill House.

On a tour through the Pickersgill House.

Mary and her only surviving daughter moved back to Baltimore after the death of her husband, John Pickersgill. Mary’s mother was already living in Baltimore and moved in with her daughter and grand-daughter when they bought their house. The flag business that Mary developed gave her a reputation for producing fine work and led George Armistead, the commander at Fort McHenry, to commission her in making a flag “so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.” She was able to finish the flag in six weeks and a magnificent flag; it was quite a sight flying over the fort.

The house held a few things that had belonged to the Pickersgill family, including two vessels that had remains of coffee and cocoa in them. Not only was Mary working well enough to attract the attention of Armistead, but she was making a tidy profit from her independent business. Mary was a rare sight for her time. Many women were not able to secure the independence she found in the flag making business; Mary was an independent and successful woman making her own way in a man’s world. She inspired, through her handiwork, Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner.”

~Rebecca Miller


A Diverse Baltimore

This weekend, while working at My Thai in Little Italy, I had a very distinctly Baltimorean experience. The Chef asked me to run over to a bodega down the block and pick up some bananas and sugar. On the way there, I walked past the Perkins Homes public housing project, past some abandoned and decrepit properties, and into the store, where nobody (besides myself) spoke any english. The smell of tacos and chile relleno in the store was intoxicating, and I left inspired. I, a white Jew from Owings Mills, left the posh restaurant where I work for a Thai immigrant, passed the projects, and went into an entirely spanish speaking bodega, all in the same block.

This kind of diversity and community blending is unique to Baltimore, and is something I’m extremely proud of. This kind of cultural mixing is what makes America great, and helps me to justify the existence of a nation that was founded on the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of African peoples as much as it was founded on the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, the sovereignty of the people, and self-determination.

~David Agronin


Bawlmer’s Best Time

Although I’ve been attending Johns Hopkins University for three years, this is the first summer I’ve spent in Baltimore and I’ve been using it to explore and experience Baltimore in a way that’s impossible when school’s in session.  So far, the most uniquely Baltimore experience I’ve had is at HON fest in Hampden on the weekend of June 12th.  HON fest, in case anyone reading this is not from Baltimore and is even more “Bawlmer” illiterate than me, is a yearly festival in Hampden celebrating the classic Baltimorean endearment “hon”, short for “honey” and 1960’s style, a combination which I’m still confused about even after attending the festival and doing research for this post—clearly there are some parts of Baltimore that I can never understand.

Hundreds of Hons

Hundreds of Hons

HON fest was a blast, though—sixties-style bands and all the crab and seafood stands you can possibly imagine, hair stylists teasing hair as high as it would go, go-go boots on dancers and iced tea and lemonade to conquer the Baltimore heat.   My friends and I wandered up and down the street, soaking up a uniquely Baltimore atmosphere.  From finally seeing the giant pink flamingo that is so iconically Baltimore to watching my friend eat oysters, surprisingly I felt like a part of this warm city and not just a student tourist.

~Gina Crosby


We All Scream for Ice Cream

Every day as I make the walk from the metro to the Jewish Museum I pass an old factory. The factory itself has beautiful architecture with ornate arches and windows. The red brick factory has the outline of Hendler’s Creamery Co. with an H and two C’s in circles on the center three window arch pillars. At first I thought it was just another abandoned factory, but as I was working on inventory, the name kept coming up on old signs. At first I didn’t make the association but after doing a bit of web research I found that the Hendler’s Creamery Company held an important place in Baltimore history.

Hendler Creamery Company, JMM 1998.47.21.3

Hendler Creamery Company, JMM 1998.47.21.3

The old Hendler’s Creamery Company building was where Hendler’s ice cream was produced from 1912 until sometime in the 60s. The ice cream was at one time one of the most popular brands in Baltimore. Before that it was theater, hosting movies, vaudeville and pieces preformed in Yiddish, to list some of its attractions.  Before that it belonged to the Street car company. The Maryland Historical Society has written a nice piece on the history of the company.

Now the factory lies in a state of disrepair, waiting to start the next part of its life.  In 2012 the building was bought by a developer for 1.8 million, with a plan to make it into luxury apartments.  Redevelopment of the historic property was slated to begin in 2014, but changes in the plans have pushed the start date back. As of yet a new start date has not been projected.

~Tamara Schlossenberg


A Marine Melting Pot

As cliché as it sounds I’ve always loved the aquarium. I know, it is one of the biggest tourist attractions and as a native you would think I would be able to come up with something a little more “hole-in-the-wall”-esque, but even as an adult there is something about the size of it and the variety of marine life that intrigues me.

When I was taking my foundation classes freshman year I made a whole book about the Aquarium solely because I knew I could get some cool images from it. The book itself was an accordion book and it had a very grid like pattern similar to the roof of the very geometric building. Anyway, I had images of jellyfish and sharks and other marine animals and I just began to think about the vastness of the ocean and how much we actually don’t know.

The National Aquarium

The National Aquarium

Now, how does all of this relate back to Baltimore? The National Aquarium is home to more than 660 animal species. That is way more than a “shark” or a “jellyfish”, and they all live in there together in this one building. Baltimore is home to around 630,000 people, and all of them are so different. There are so many different cultures, races, languages, and religions etc., which all live together in this one city. Just like the aquarium, even though not everyone speaks the same language or believes in the same thing, there is unity within the city.

~ Rachel Morin


From the Bay Area to the Old Bay: A West Coast Perspective on Baltimore and the Chesapeake

I lived in the Bay Area on the west coast for most of my life; unlike the southern California beaches I was used to the cold water bay. When I moved to Baltimore I had no real expectations or preconceptions; what I had known about Maryland as a whole when we moved was very limited: 1. We had family there, 2. Some wars had happened there. I arrived in the beginning of the summer, I didn’t really know anyone so I was quickly enrolled in Summer school to get my (abysmal) grades up and keep me out of trouble for the time being. One thing I had sort of become accustomed to in the Bay Area was having the same weather pretty much year around. Well the rest of the world actually has REAL seasons. That means hot, humid summers…..and cold winters, cold winters with snow. Pretty sure my neighbors had a good laugh at my attempting to shovel snow the first time.

The Fayette and Charles street bus stop which serves the 11, 61, 3, purple route and some other smaller private lines, my bus stop currently as of working this internship.

The Fayette and Charles street bus stop which serves the 11, 61, 3, purple route and some other smaller private lines, my bus stop currently as of working this internship.

The most iconic East coast experience I can remember would be waiting for the bus to get home. Every bus stop was a different social sphere and had a different atmosphere, as is the nature of midsized cities and Baltimore especially. You can follow the same street that runs through Bolton hill down through Sandtown. Baltimore is a medley of neighborhoods all so close to each other but so different and distinct in not only their levels of affluence but their history and the inhabitants living there.

A bus stop for the 17 bus, fairly iconic line as it covers a large area.

A bus stop for the 17 bus, fairly iconic line as it covers a large area.

Another prime example being Guilford and Greenmount Avenue, so close and so different. The bus stops downtown and in Mt. Vernon are social spaces where people from all over the city converge to catch very similar buses. I met a huge variety of people just in my time waiting for my bus, it is an experience that truly cultures someone. It wasn’t always pleasant, people weren’t always friendly, but overall it was definitely one of the ways I learned the most about the place that I live. Spending that much time around such a variety of people is a vital part of growing up and being an understanding and socially aware adult. There is only so much a white boy like myself from north Baltimore can learn about the rest of the city unless you go out and interact with people from the rest of the city.

The Charm city circulator a free network of buses spanning the east – west route (orange line) north – south line (purple route) and some other smaller routes (green route, banner route) intended more for tourism.

The Charm city circulator a free network of buses spanning the east – west route (orange line) north – south line (purple route) and some other smaller routes (green route, banner route) intended more for tourism.

Whether I chose to wait at Penn. Station or downtown Fayette Street or Mount Vernon the crowd of people I would meet was diverse. I had and continue to have some great conversations with some really interesting people in varying stages of their life. Sometimes it made the end of my day very interesting, other times stressful. Either way it introduces you to the people of your city and that is a truly unique and enlightening experience; my experiences really shaped the way I feel about Baltimore.

~Cade Simon


Going the Distance

I have been a completive distance runner for seven years, ever since my parents encouraged me to try a Fall sport. In Autumn of 2009 I began Cross Country at Pikesville High where I also ran track in the Winter and Spring. I eventually started running road races, and this is where I discovered what I love most about Baltimore; the running community.

I’ve attended plenty of road races over the years. While they all have a special dynamic of their own, I have noticed something consistent about all of them. The attendees are  comprised of passionate, driven people who all have their own reason for running the race. Some people are fundraising for a cause, others need to prove something to themselves and others simply want to spend a morning with their family in the fresh air.

Me & Erika Brannock

Me & Erika Brannock

My favorite race is the Sole of The City 10K. A challenging, yet beautiful course and a great race atmosphere; I highly encourage anyone reading this to consider running the race. In 2014, the event was benefiting the Erika Brannock Foundation. Erika, pictured below, was injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. A portion of her left leg was amputated, her right leg was damaged as well. The race, to me, was symbolic of Baltimore’s support for Boston, as well as Erika’s first year of recovery.

Before the race Erika (pictured below) gave a speech encouraging the runners, and declaring that she would not stop her recovery until she was able to walk again. I can clearly remember the applause that followed her speech. After the race, I found out I had won my age group division. Erika was distributing awards. I quickly thanked and congratulated her on her recovery. I also told her that people like her are what continue to inspire me to pursue a career in teaching.

Speaking to the crowd

Speaking to the crowd

This exemplifies what I love about Baltimore Running: this community loves their own. The Baltimore Marathon saw a whole city uplift Dave Berdan, as he became the first local runner to win the event. Back On My Feet, a nonprofit where I also interned for a Summer, has helped countless people combat homelessness. Running stores, such as Falls Road or Charm City, welcome experienced athletes, as well as anyone who wants to begin running. The runners in this city have big goals, big spirits and even bigger hearts.

If anyone in Baltimore is nervous about taking up running I can promise you; this is the place to do it.

~Ben Snyder


Two Nights on the Town

Since coming home from Rhode Island for the summer, I’ve been trying to make the most of my time in Baltimore by trying new things as well as visiting all my favorite haunts. This past week featured a few hours of both. On Friday, an old high school friend invited me out to go swing dancing with her at the Mobtown Ballroom, which we’d done a couple of times right before graduating high school. At first I was reluctant, more in the mood to stay home after a long week of interning, but once we were thirty minutes into the beginner lesson, I was really glad I’d agreed to go. Swing dancing is so athletic, and by the end I was a sweaty but happy mess. It was such a nice way to meet people I’d never have met otherwise, dance with some sweet grandpa-aged men, and let loose to music from the Great American Songbook.

The salsa instructor demonstrates a move with one of my peers.

The salsa instructor demonstrates a move with one of my peers.

Fast forward to Monday evening, and I was dancing to quite a different tune- a salsa number, to be exact. My mom had convinced me to take Monday night lessons with her, and this was the end of the four-week cycle, meaning we were now officially *advanced* beginners. In comparison to swing, which can be jumpy and frenetic, salsa is smoother, and the steps are smaller. In our lesson, we learned a new combination, a long string of different moves all back to back, twirling and stepping in time with the music and each other. Despite not knowing the names of the other members of our class, we still felt a bond, having danced together for the past four weeks. Not only had all the dancing made me more coordinated, it had made me more connected- to my city, to my neighbors and friends, and even to my mother.

~Emilia Halvorsen


A Green and Leafy Surprise

Nothing destroys stereotypes like witnessing the eclectic group of people who attend themed booths or festivals. In 2015, I observed the diversity in the Baltimore vegetarian/vegan scene when working at a booth for the Vegetarian Resource Group during the Charles Village Festival.

The Charles Village Festival, now twenty-one years old, happened this summer at Wyman Park Dell, at Charles and 29th Streets in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s two days of vendors, games, live music, a 5K run, and a garden walk. At the vendor section last year, the Vegetarian Resource Group laid cookbooks, pins, and magazines on the table. Pumped up on caffeine and on the beautiful day, I asked every person who stopped by if they followed a vegetarian or vegan diet, or felt interested in it, and got many interesting responses. Some people had tried and hoped to finally succeed, some got a pet and wanted to stop eating meat, others felt it was healthier for their heart. But while the reasons and stories were interesting, the wide range of people with stories is what really stuck with me. Families with many children, bikers with studded jackets and long hair, recent immigrants, and businessmen stopped to talk.

I couldn’t decipher one “most common” demographic – people from many different races, religions, and styles came and went. It would have surprised anyone with any assumptions about Baltimore and about vegetarians. Experiences like this one make you more conscious of how little you know about the people in your own city and neighborhood, and how many common connections you may uncover if you just throw any assumptions and talk. In a city such as Baltimore, known for its divisions, it’s especially important to remember.

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