Mayoral Forum on Arts & Culture shows the Power of Citizen Artists

In an unprecedented show of strength by Baltimore’s creative communities, over five hundred citizen artists came together for first ever Mayoral Forum on Arts and Culture held by Citizen Artist Baltimore (CAB) on Monday, March 7 at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Participating mayoral candidates included Sheila Dixon, Elizabeth Embry, Joshua Harris, Patrick Gutierrez, DeRay McKesson, Nick Mosby, Catherine Pugh, Cindy Walsh, David Warnock, Wilton Wilson, and Calvin Young. CAB asked questions based on input collected during seven listening sessions held all across Baltimore City. The mayoral contenders spoke about important issues including increasing support for arts education, mandating equity in cultural funding, creating a cabinet level arts position, and developing an inclusive cultural plan for Baltimore City.

The historic gathering of Baltimore’s citizen artists started off with Baltimore City youth leading candidates from MICA’s Cohen Plaza into the Falvey Hall. Shortly before 6pm, members of Sankofa Dance Theater held a drum call, casting a spell of excitement over the standing-room-only crowd. MICA President Sammy Hoi kicked off the event with powerful remarks on the positive impact of arts education and the impressive economic impact of the arts in Baltimore. He also invited attendees to take the Citizen Artist Pledge at citizenartist.vote, and reiterated the need for Baltimore’s creative communities to vote in the primary election on April 26, 2016. Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Executive Director Jeannie Howe then talked about how CAB engaged hundreds of voters to identify their top arts priorities and develop the CAB candidate questionnaire. She also recognized the hard work of the CAB Steering Committee and encoraged audience members to consult citizenartist.vote to find out more about the candidates positions in the coming days.

The rest of the forum was lead by CAB Steering Committee members and special guests, including Denise Johnson of CultureWorks, Navasha Daya of the Youth Resiliency Institute, Krystal Williams of  Baltimore Arts Education Coalition with student guest Jacques Thompson, Walters Art Museum Executive Director Julia Marciari Alexander, and CJay Philip of Dance and Bmore, who took turns asking the candidates about their plans for their first 100 days in office, increasing arts employment, supporting arts education, making cultural funding more equitable, engaging the arts throughout city government decision making, and being an arts champion. By the end of the event, Baltimore’s leading mayoral candidates has spoken at length about their personal connections with arts and how they plan to leverage arts and culture to better serve residents’ needs and continue to build on Baltimore’s cultural strengths.

Media Responses:

Gus Sentementes of CityExplainer.com livestremed the entire event. Watch the video here: