More than a year has passed since I first spoke with Sidney Clifton about her vision for The Clifton House, a new artists’ sanctuary in Baltimore, which is set to open in February 2021. I sensed her passion and strong instincts back when I interviewed her in the summer of 2019, when she was just getting started on making her childhood house into a home again.
With everything in the world in constant disarray, it’s heartening to know one thing has not changed: Sidney Clifton’s vision.
The eldest daughter of the legendary poet Lucille Clifton and the community activist, philosophy professor and sculptor Fred Clifton, Sidney was raised with her five siblings in a white house on Clifton Avenue (pure coincidence!) in West Baltimore’s Windsor Hills neighborhood. During the time they lived there, Lucille wrote some of the most seminal works of her career, including her first book of poems, Good Times, and other titles written while a writer-in-residence at Coppin State University. By the end of the ‘70s, Lucille had crafted six books of poetry, a memoir, several children’s books, and earned the title of Maryland’s Poet Laureate.
But then came 1980, when they lost their home due to financial instability. Nearly forty years later, on the ninth anniversary of her mother’s passing, Sidney felt called to reach out to the owner of the house and was more than delighted to find out that the house had gone on the market that very day. Sidney, who lives in California, worked out a deal with the owner, bought the house, and got to work building up the Clifton House as a place for creatives to hone their craft through programming like writing and history workshops, arts programs, and a residency/studio program.