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Work Made from Words

Art is a legitimate form of research. However, as a conceptual practitioner whose work blurs methods and boundaries across many professional disciplines, I am learning to use words to represent traditional and experimental research practices. The following projects are art works made out of words, spanning the disciplines and conventions of urban, community, or preservation planning, historic preservation, sociology, and cultural landscapes.

These Were Not Fancy Houses; The Rest Remains

A short creative non-fiction essay about demolition in a cultural landscape is available to read HERE.

Locking Pliers

We're Gonna Do It Anyway: A Case Study In Tensions Between Safety and Creativity in Baltimore City Artist Run Spaces

This is my Thesis for my Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania's Weitzman School of Design. 


The notions of safety and creativity are often irreconcilable opposites in planning, developing, and operating spaces of arts and culture. The issues affecting arts and cultural spaces are indicative of systemic tensions involving planning, policy, code enforcement, gentrification, affordable housing, policing, and local economies. This paper investigates how safety and creativity can coexist in Baltimore City’s self-organized artist run spaces and the cultural ecosystem. While artist run spaces are tapped and lauded as economic drivers, vital to a city’s identity and economic landscape, in Baltimore, they are consistently relegated and regulated, sometimes pushed underground in the built, political, and social environment in which they exist. What can or should, therefore, contribute to the success and vitality of artist run spaces? What are the challenges these spaces and cultural producers face? The purpose of this research is to examine, summarize, and daylight challenges and potentials for safety and creativity to coexist, in order to preserve, protect, and sustain spaces by and for the arts.

I argue that self-organized arts spaces must be acknowledged, accommodated, and planned for, and the coexistence of their safety and creativity must not only be allowed but enabled. We’re Gonna Do It Anyway: A Case Study in Tensions Between Safety and Creativity in Baltimore City Artist Run Spaces explores and introduces the intersects and disconnects between how artists and planners envision safety and creativity. Through the case study of the Bell Foundry and the Arts Safe Space Task Force in Baltimore City, dominant and authoritarian vs. grassroots and ad-hoc roles are explored and questioned, divergent ideologies are evidenced, and lessons learned posit a future of planning with and for artist run spaces that is less authoritarian/conflict-based and more collective/holistic/vertically integrated. Inspired and informed by informal interviews and by mining sources that document and respond to national and local tragedies that occurred in artist run spaces, the thesis shows that artists and audiences need not die in vain if the dominant culture can learn from and work with its creative subjects. Everyone wins when creativity and safety coexist.

Renovation Tools

Images of Contemporary Artist Spaces in Baltimore City:
The Copycat Project & BMoreArt Artist Studio Portraits

"...Underground or private artist spaces often intentionally avoid attention, avoid documentation, avoid being captured just as much as they are revered, romanticized, and hunted by lenses and snappy shutters – the mechanics of curious eyes and hungry publics. The viewer and the camera are welcome as long as the beer cans are cleared, the paintings are hung, the floor is swept, the artist has showered. Images of Contemporary Artist Spaces in Baltimore City: The Copycat Project & BMoreArt Artist Studio Portraits investigates two collections of photographs of contemporary artist studio spaces and practices in Baltimore City made by artists for artists. While these images don’t invade the grime, gore, and eroticism of what an artist studio might be, their aesthetically beautiful interpretations of countercultural spaces can and do reflect a spatial and cultural imaginary of artistic production in Baltimore City. Like the visual record of artist studios since the Renaissance, these archives depict artist studios as the sexy, clandestine, and creative fodder that has and continues to inspire the fantasies and curiosities of a middle-class version of bohemia.

Artist spaces’ continued existence in Baltimore City has been precarious due to local and national tragedies that impacted the entire arts and cultural ecosystem in the last decade, a precarity further exacerbated by the global COVID19 pandemic that decimated the entire sector. These photographic archives are a vital tool for preservation and posit potential futures for the sustainability of arts spaces. The purpose of this research is to compare and contrast The Copycat Project and BmoreArt’s Artist Studio Portraits in order to explore how these photographs of Baltimore City’s artist studios align with a long tradition of intrigue and imaging of artist spaces, and how they might influence present and future social, political, and preservation initiatives. What do these photographic archives tell us about contemporary artist run spaces in Baltimore City? Can these photographs serve/preserve artists and artist-run spaces by placing them in the historical lexicon of photographic documentation of arts and culture? Can and should these images be available to potentially inspire social, political, and economic reform? Can they be used and available to advance a larger purpose than their original art-for-art’s audience intentions?..."

The full text from Spring 2023 is available HERE.

Painting Easels

Reflection Papers

This series of 4 reflection essays examine power relationships in social impact in practice while acknowledging that artists are also implicated.

..."The ability to exercise power enables us to change power dynamics - to simultaneously feed on and critique that proverbial hand that feeds us. I have absolutely allowed the devil to buy me dinner and drinks on the company card in the name of the greater good. I worked with teams to advise institutional and government officials on the commercial property issues and land use policies that were preparing to unleash themselves upon scores of unsuspecting, and undercapitalized, artists and creatives. As a part of the institution, the non-profit industrial complex, I was at the forefront of fighting for the underdog against all of the real and perceived villains in the development cycle, in the middle of the sausage factory of city governance behind the practices of placemaking and placekeeping."

01: Making, Keeping, and Becoming Real (September 2023)

03: Reflecting on Reflections and The Need for New Methods: Meandering Through Unlearning

04: Planning Has A Lot To Be Sorry For: Seeking Apologies and Forgiveness in Social Impact in Practice

05: It's Not That There is Too Little, It's That There is Too Much: Musings on the Literature and Lineage of Social Practice

Light and Shadow

Ethnography of Brunch

"...The story of the Jones Falls River Valley is not entirely charming, but the history and development of the area is inextricable from the history and identity of Baltimore. The neighborhood of the Jones Falls - including Hampden where the Golden West Café is situated - invented redlining, racialized zoning, buried a natural resource, and built a highway on top of a river. Social systems were infected with the racist hostilities of the Klu Klux Klan. It was also on the Jones Falls River that the pillars of the capital were created, and munitions were manufactured for bombs in both world wars. The Golden West Café has served brunch here for over two decades. An area of natural beauty but fraught with hundreds of years of conflicting complex human histories, the Jones Falls and Hampden in 2022 is still a site of prospective manufacture - a factory for nostalgia and urbanist redevelopment fantasies."

This is a short ethnography of brunch from Fall 2022.

Dry Flowers
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