Something wonderful happened when I was visiting the Walters Museumin Baltimore, Maryland on Martin Luther King Day, with mydaughter and granddaughters. Children were building his Dream, not just by transforming cardboard boxes into houses, schools, stores and libraries with paper and glue, but by their very presence, working together, smiling, making friends and sharing with each other. On this day everyone participated in a variety of art activities that included creating mighty message megaphones, pay it forward tokens, helping hands, and building a peaceful community complete with clothespin people. There were also performances and stories paying tribute to Martin Luther King.
As an artist and art educator, I have personally experienced how art can be a powerful tool to build community. I've worked with children to create a plants and animals of Virginia mural that helped transform a dilapidated school courtyard into an outdoor learning lab, as well as a painted quilt celebrating local history that now hangs in our public library. Celebrating community was the theme of another mural project that I was involved with. It was created by young patients at the Children's Inn, a place for sick children and their families to live, while undergoing treatment at the National Institutes of Health.
The Walters Museum has created a real sense of community with the children and families of Baltimore through their outreach programs. Dr. Gary Vikan, Director of the Museum, defines the Walters' mission: "We bring art and people together for enjoyment, discovery and learning". Family festivals and tours, early childhood programs, Art Kids classes, Art Carts with hands on learning materials and summer programs are all an integral part of this outreach. There are also free Drop-In Art activitiesat the Museum every Saturday and Sunday, from 10 am to 3 pm. Jackie Copeland, the Museum's Education Director, explains all of the ways kids can have fun there at "Visit My Baltimore".