SPACEmakers Makes Graffiti into Art

Lezlie speaking at the Stoop Party, with host Andrew Parlock
Lezlie speaking at the Stoop Party, with host Andrew Parlock

Bringing donations of spray paint and face masks to a party? Pretty weird.

But, that’s what guest speaker Lezlie Silverstein of SPACEmakers requested when invited to attend the the SATF Stoop Party in April.

A MICA graduate student in the Community Arts MFA program, Lezlie is currently serving on an 11-month AmeriCorps residency with Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts (AFSIVA), a nearby city high school in the Harlem Park neighborhood located at West Lanvale and North Gilmor.

The school is a place where students, parents, and the surrounding community feel safe and welcomed­—where college and high achievement is the expectation, not the exception.

AFSIVA students come to school already challenged by poverty and societal neglect, and then struggle to find ways to express themselves. Confronted daily with strained finances and for some, the pressures of early parenthood, they have difficulty maintaining self-esteem and consistent attendance.

Ultimately, the students simply can’t think of themselves as “achievers,” which becomes a roadblock to entrepreneurial endeavors, attending college or gaining trade skills.

SPACEmakers 4Lezlie’s SPACEMakers program offers one key to opening doors to achievement. Twelve dedicated AFSIVA student artists meet from 3:30 pm until dusk every Wednesday and Thursday to create graffiti artworks. While learning through  participation, they also study the underlying history, theory and techniques behind street art.

In the process, they are transforming the school’s courtyard into a work of art that celebrates youth culture and creativity while decriminalizing the art of graffiti. Over time, the administration and school community’s initial mere acceptance of the project has blossomed into praise and recognition for the makers.

Everyone has gained a renewed appreciation of their school’s spaces, as students and teachers spend more time outside or even just looking outside through the windows. And now the students consistently attend school so they can join in the after-hours SPACEmakers program.

Right after the SATF Stoop Party, Lezlie met a few of the SPACEmakers at their exhibition at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. When she told them about the event and the support they received from Bolton Hill, they were excited and proud. Lezlie told us, “It’s a huge success every time the students can reflect and recognize how their work connects to Baltimore and its people.”

The program is desperate for supplies. This cool service offered by Blick Art Supplies to nonprofits will help you help out. Help SPACEmakers continue to teach an art form that keeps teens engaged and learning.

You can email Lezlie Silverstein at lsilverstein@mica.edu.

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