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"Family Portraits: East Baltimore" Provides Free Printed Portraits for East Baltimore Neighbors, Feb. 12-18

Professional family portraits will then be given to East Baltimore neighbors

Posted 02.06.12 by MICA COMMUNICATIONS

Photo from "Family Portraits: East Baltimore"

Vibrant family portraits from East Baltimore appear this month at MICA PLACE (814 N. Collington Ave.), following a collaborative holiday photo shoot staged by MICA graduate students, the Men & Families Center and St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church.

Family Portraits: East Baltimore will run February 12-18 in the Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at MICA PLACE (Programs Linking Art, Culture and Education), showcasing over 50 photographs by Hodo Lee, Erik Sanchez and Rodney Williams taken during a 2-day photo shoot in December 2011. The event and pop-up portrait studio were created by MICA PLACE residents Leah Harper, Remy Peritz and Hodo Lee, in partnership with the Men and Families Center, St. Wenceslaus Church and Amazing Grace Church. Through grant funding from the MICA Office of Community Engagement (OCE) and the Office of Student Affairs Community Service Fund, they provided a professional photo set-up and free printed portraits for neighbors. With the families' permission, dozens of these photographs have now been enlarged and framed for the February show. This exhibit hopes to provide an opportunity to highlight East Baltimore families in contrast to public images, most popularly represented in pictures of vacant row houses and scenes from "The Wire." An opening reception will be held on Sunday, February 12 from 12:30-2:30 p.m.

The event and gallery show are directed by Leah Harper and Remy Peritz, students of MICA's new MA in Social Design (MASD) program. The program itself is housed in the former St. Wenceslaus Catholic School building in East Baltimore, recently renovated by MICA. It emphasizes the artist or designer's role and responsibility in society, as exemplified by MICA's many public and community outreach programs. The college's OCE specifically fosters arts-based community engagement, providing many resources for students, faculty, and staff.

Harper, who comes from an architecture background, and Peritz, a production and communications manager, received funding for the portrait studio through the OCE and the Office of Student Affairs in fall 2011. As residents of MICA PLACE, they invited two nearby community groups to participate: St. Wenceslaus and Men and Families Center. The congregation of St. Wenceslaus, headed by Pastor Fr. Peter Lyons, represents many former East Baltimore residents who still return to the church every Sunday for mass. Men and Families Center, under the dedicated direction of Leon Purnell, assists current East Baltimore families by increasing access to services and improving the relationship between fathers and their children. Together, they represented the old and young, past and present faces of East Baltimore.

Directing the photo shoot was Hodo Lee, another MICA PLACE resident and graduate student in the MFA in Photographic and Electronic Media program. Lee developed expertise as a photographer while running his own commercial studio in Seoul, where he captured a variety of events and people including the South Korean national football team and other national athletes. Erik Liam Sanchez, a recent transplant from Chicago who professionally photographed numerous celebrities and bands, also volunteered for the event. Together with the support of other student and community volunteers, the assistance and documentary photography of Rodney Williams from Men and Families Center and the donation of space from Amazing Grace Church and St. Wenceslaus Church, over 50 families were photographed and given prints to take away on the same day. The response was extremely positive. "This is the only thing I wanted for Christmas," said Jennifer Buckner, mother of 5 children dressed in matching red, "It was just a blessing and a blessing alone."

Coinciding with Black History Month, the MICA PLACE Rouse Company Foundation Gallery will hold an opening reception for Family Portraits: East Baltimore on Sunday, February 12, 2011 from 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public. The exhibit is viewable by appointment-only after the opening reception. For inquiries about gallery visits or location, please contact Kristy Taylor, 410-276-3202. For further inquiries about the photo studio or show, please contact Leah Harper, 239-246-6029. For more information on the project, please visit www.baltimorefamilyportraits.com.