From young minds, visions of inner-city life

Church art show features works by Bolton Hill pupils

April 20, 2002|By Larry Bingham | Larry Bingham,SUN STAFF

The art show will take place tomorrow, in the fellowship hall of Trinity Baptist Church, even though putting on a show was not the original idea.

Chalk sketches will hang on the basement walls, and sculptures will be set about the room, and the women of the church may even provide light refreshments since the show begins right after the 11 a.m. worship service.

And yet when the students from the Maryland Institute College of Art first appeared at Mount Royal Intermediate School, they didn't have a show in mind. Rahiem Milton had finished a work study and told the school's art teacher that he longed to do more for her pupils than what the semester had allowed.

He told Ida Fuell that the problems her students faced crept out of the Bolton Hill school's barred windows and followed him back across the street to the college. They made him want to reach out to her inner-city pupils, to give them what art had given him.

He was only 21 but he talked big: wanting to change perceptions of modern African-American art; using art to lift up downtrodden communities; building bonds between college kids and neighborhood kids.

What he had in mind was not organized or affiliated with the college's community outreach programs. But he said he'd talked to his friends Kirklyn Jackson and Levon Lewis and they felt the same. They rounded up seven more students, formed a group, called themselves the Urban Renaissance Organization. And they asked to work with her pupils.

Fuell has been an art teacher long enough to have seen beautiful drawings blossom on a once-blank page. She knew every masterpiece began the same way: with a single brushstroke.

So for weeks, the 10 college students trooped down Mount Royal Avenue twice a week and worked with Fuell's seventh-grade boys and girls.

They knelt at their desks and taught them to draw figures from shapes. They sat in their chairs and showed them their own work.

Rahiem told them how drawing had given him confidence. Levon explained how art had saved him from joining a gang. The boys and girls at Mount Royal learned that of all the things art can do, it can give voice to voices seldom heard, like theirs.

The neighborhood kids were asked to express their feelings about their community.

Jamilla drew a picture of someone spray-painting graffiti on a rowhouse. Kaheem drew two men on a corner selling drugs, two others running from gunfire. They drew trash and cigarettes, fancy cars and police cruisers, broken windows and boarded doors.

The college kids were so moved by what they saw that they talked about coming back in the summer and keeping the program alive next year.

They decided that other people should see what the neighborhood kids had drawn, so three of them approached the Rev. William C. Calhoun at Trinity Baptist.

Calhoun has been a minister long enough to know one good deed begets another. So he offered his church. That way, the college kids, the neighborhood kids, the community, they all ended up with two.

The Urban Renaissance/Mount Royal School art show will take place tomorrow after the 11 a.m. service at Trinity Baptist Church, 1601 Druid Hill Ave. Admission is free.

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