Giving Baltimore's Youth the Tools to Tell Their Stories

“Everyone has a story to tell, but not every community has access to the tools to do so,” Moira Fratantuono ’10 (Community Arts M.F.A.), development and communications director at Wide Angle Youth Media.

Fratantuono, along with David Sloan ’08 (Community Arts M.F.A.), production director at the organization, is focused on imparting knowledge and building skill sets for their audiences. Through Wide Angle Youth Media, they work with middle and high schools and grassroots organizations, as well as Enoch Pratt library branches, to provide media education to about 450 Baltimore youth (ages 10 to 24) each year. The aim is to enable them to tell their own stories and become engaged with their communities.

“We address that opportunity divide, break down barriers and enable our students to shape their own narratives,” Fratantuono said, and stressed that the organization strives to become a presence in the community instead of just being an outsider.

Sloan, who oversees Wide Angle’s workforce development program, said even though it is tremendously rewarding to help students make personal work, many of them are hungry to find ways to turn their interest in media into a career. “I think individuals and organizations working in community arts should consider how they can help participants build specific, marketable skills, in addition to their artistic and social aims.”

Students and staff at Wide Angle Youth Media

Tanya Garcia ’14 (Community Arts M.F.A.), who works part time at Wide Angle, said her work creates space for dialogue around identity and social difference. “It takes patience, building of long-term relationships, humility and always-on listening,” she said of the key ingredients of successful collaborations.

The MICA alumni involved at the organization continue to pursue personal creative practice, including Garcia, who curated the traveling exhibit, “Después de la Frontera” (After the Border), where she worked with eight artists to honor the stories of unaccompanied immigrants who fled El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for new lives in the U.S. She connected that experience to her work at Wide Angle, saying, “I believe part of my responsibility as an artist is to educate and provide space for others to share their stories and build narratives.”