“It makes me happy!” said Dyelle Washington, a tenth-grade student with dreams of becoming a nurse. “It brings joy to our school and it gives us all a lot of inspiration of what we could be. It really makes us feel like a family and I just love it!”
The mural at Renaissance Academy is the third in an ongoing public mural series facilitated and sponsored by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Council for Arts and Culture, for which First Lady Yumi Hogan is honorary chair. In fact, it was the First Lady who came up with the idea to have the council commission public murals at UMB’s many partner schools in West Baltimore neighborhoods.
“Art brings all of us together,” said Hogan, who is an artist herself. “It doesn’t matter your background because it’s something we can all appreciate together.”
Renaissance Academy was an ideal choice for the mural series because it’s part of the University of Maryland School of Social Work-led program, Promise Heights. Promise Heights is a cradle-to-college and career approach aimed at closing the opportunity gap in the West Baltimore communities of Upton/Druid Heights.
“Along with five schools and 20 partners, Promise Heights will build a pipeline of much needed wrap-around services for students including, early childhood development, social-emotional support, academic support, and college and career coaching to ensure pathways out of poverty for youth and their families,” explained Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, the executive director of Promise Heights. “We are excited to have the UMB Council for Arts and Culture sponsor this mural at Renaissance Academy.”
Members of the council hope that this mural will become yet another pillar of support for the students at Renaissance Academy, and that it will demonstrate the power that art can have on the mind and body.
“This mural series is all part of UMB’s holistic view that the arts can help people heal and work through crisis and trauma. It’s also the perfect way to show that the arts go hand-in-hand with fields like medicine, nursing, and social work,” said Jennifer B. Litchman, MA, senior vice president for external affairs and chair of the Council for Arts and Culture alongside the First Lady.
The council had been working in tandem with a group of students at Renaissance Academy for the past year to determine the theme and artwork of the mural. Finally, they were able to narrow it down to three art concepts, and the school got to vote on which one they wanted to see in their hallway.