30 Creative Minds Under Thirty Interview with Michelle Gomez by Jill Gordon

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THIRTY is a series of monthly talks featuring emerging Baltimore artists under the age of thirty. According to Maryland Art Place, all thirty participants use a diverse range of creative practices, from visual art to performance, curatorial, community art, design, film, photography and technology to create visual experiences. Participants of THIRTY were selected either through open call or by invitation. Energetic, fresh, in-progress, and authentic, these talks have been well received to standing room only audiences. I recently caught up with co-producer, Michelle Gomez, to discuss the program.

JG: Tell me about your inspiration for THIRTY. 

MG: The program, THIRTY: 30 Creative Minds Under 30 was inspired by the creative minds that make Baltimore so cultured. It’s the people who take time out of their busy lives to make artwork, curate exhibitions, plan great programs, build darkrooms, empower youth, and do community organizing. A lot of them don’t get paid for what they do; they do it only because they want to give back to their communities using their creative and artistic skills. They are the young movers and shakers that make Baltimore such a unique and exciting city to live in!

I am so honored to be a part of this community and they deserve a public platform to not only present their final work, but to talk about their processes, their inspirations and the creative chaos that occurs before the final outcome of their projects. It is a chance for creative minds to talk about why they create and why it matters. Not only does THIRTY promote their work to a wider audience, this program also provides mentorship to the lecturers and the opportunity to network with artists outside of their respective field, allowing for them to support each other and possibly collaborate.

IMGP3722Michelle Gomez

 JG: How did you choose the participating artists?

MG: We created a THIRTY committee of Program Advisory Committee members who were heavily involved with shaping this program, this included Briony Hynson, Joseph Letourneau and myself. We suggested some artists to invite and MAP also sent out a call for applications. The selected artists had to be under the age of 30, live and work in Baltimore and have a strong portfolio. MAP did not limit this opportunity to visual artists but also wanted to invite creative minds who use a diverse range of creative practices, from visual art to performance, curatorial, community art, design, film, photography and technology. We also considered whether or not the artist has had many opportunities to present their work. We thought this program would be a great way to provide the opportunity to promote their practice and grow their network.

JG: What common threads do you notice between the participating artists, other than their age?

MG: Every program reception features three creative minds. We tried to group artists based off their themes, processes, and goals and of course had to juggle everyone’s schedule for availability. For example, the upcoming THIRTY program on May 15 will include Charlotte Keniston, Rebecca Chan, and Ginevra Shay. These three creative minds all love Baltimore and work directly with communities throughout the city.

Charlotte is an activist and community artist who works with under served populations, she did a project called “Food for Thought” that raised awareness about food inequality and it’s impact on urban neighborhoods. Rebecca is wonderful! She is the Program Manager for Station North Arts & Entertainment District (SNAED). She makes all the programs that happen in SNAED possible such as Open Walls and the upcoming Artists and Neighborhood Change Conference taking place June 20 and 21. Ginevra Shay has a heart of gold and is an extremely talented curator who organizes exhibitions at Current Space and is the genius behind the development of photo darkrooms, classes, and programs at Current Space. On top of that, she also manages to keep up her own personal studio practice as a photographer.

On June 12, three sculptors/installation artists will be featured in THIRTY: Jim Leach, Kyle Bauer, and Michelle Dickson. Through these groupings, we hope that the artists can be inspired by each other’s talks and get to know each other’s work on a deeper level. I would love to see them collaborate too… just imagine what Charlotte, Rebecca and Ginevra can to together if they all envision a common goal! All of the selected creative minds are amazing and I am so proud of them!

JG: What is the reciprocal benefit of these talks for participating artists and non-artist audience members?

MG: The artists gain an opportunity to talk about their work in public, helping them develop professionally and to help shape their ideas in a concise matter. I believe these talks give them a chance to critically think about what they are doing and why, which allows them to focus on what’s most important to talk about within a 10-15 min presentation. The audience and guest panelists also challenge them with questions in the end. Hopefully this experience somehow influences their next project or helps them to solve a problem by giving them clarity and a sense of purpose.

The audiences get to learn about the arts in general and get to hear from the artists themselves about their processes and reasons for creating. This program is meant to educate, and in the end, everyone walks out of MAP learning something new. One of my friends told me that a guest on the March 6 opening was so impressed with the talks by Emily CD, Ashley Minner and Mia Weiner, they said, “Wow, how come I didn’t know about Ashley Minner? She is doing incredible work, I wish I would have known about her sooner!” That’s the kind of feedback I hoped for… that feeling of excitement, surprise or awe! Those are the feelings that inspire people to follow their own path.

JG: How is MAP involved in helping the artists craft their presentation?

MG: The MAP staff and selected mentors attend a THIRTY mentoring session with a large group of the participating speakers. Each of the participants answer prompted questions that consider them to critically think about their processes, who their audience is, what they want their audience to experience out of their work, why they create, and whether or not they see their practice as a business. We then give feedback and suggest what the artist should emphasize in their talk and answer any questions. If the artist wants to send us their PowerPoint prior to the talk, we are open to giving them further feedback and support.

The next THIRTY talk featuring Charlotte Keniston, Ginevra Shay, and Rebecca Chan, will be held on Wednesday, May 15th at 6pm at Maryland Art Place.

Author Jill Gordon is an urban explorer, artist, and writer. She is a member of Mother Made Baltimore, and can be contacted at [email protected].

Photos by Diamond Newman

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