What would you say to free classes on creating one-of-a-kind marbled paper, yoga, holistic health and fitness, and drumming to cultivate focus and self-esteem? How about practical training on financial literacy, writing resumes and cover letters, cooking seasonal meals, preventing drug overdose death, or setting your vision and solving problems? Or perhaps something creative, such as writing about black women’s self-identity, and dealing with trauma through theatre/performance art?
No, you have not read it wrongly — the above-mentioned courses and workshops are all free, with absolutely no strings attached. They are part of the North Avenue Knowledge Exchange in Baltimore.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Knowledge Exchange is an innovative experiment in community-based education. Developed as a partnership among the Maryland Institute College of Art, Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse and Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc. (SNAE), The Knowledge Exchange expands the platform of the Baltimore Free School to a community-wide network of grassroots education and information sharing. It provides an educational platform for North Avenue residents, community members, cultural organizations, youth, college students, alumni and faculty to teach or enroll in free, high-quality courses.
“Following the lead of the Baltimore Free School, our guiding principle is that everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn,” says Gwynne Keathley, vice provost for research and graduate studies at MICA.
With The Knowledge Exchange, Keathley wanted to build on MICA’s educational mission to participate with the communities and neighborhoods on North Avenue. The aim is to use learning and knowledge sharing as a form of creative place-making — to bring people together and to create something new with Baltimore.
Initially a one-day pilot in February 2016, The Knowledge Exchange launched in June 2017 with a program that is jampacked with free classes, workshops and activities.
“The Knowledge Exchange aims to break down several barriers to education, particularly financial access and the educational credentials needed to teach,” echoes Khadija Nia Adell, program coordinator for the project. “I have been asked why Baltimoreans should participate in it. To that, I say ‘Why not?’ She adds that there is so much wisdom in Baltimore, and The Knowledge Exchange supports the intersection of diverse narratives and ideas through arts-based education and an emphasis on social justice and creativity.
Adell coordinates all aspects of The Knowledge Exchange, from logistics, content development, to working with the community. She has been instrumental in engaging with the projects’ partners and North Avenue residents and communities, to ensure that the platform’s programming is innovative and relevant to its audience.
For Red Emma’s, The Knowledge Exchange is about equity in education. It is an extension of the Baltimore Free School, which the cooperative established more than 10 years ago. “Red Emma’s believes that the empowerment of people of all ages and backgrounds to share and learn is vital to the health of any community,” says Eunbi C Kim, worker-owner at Red Emma’s. “We are pleased to join forces with MICA to redistribute resources and opportunities, to promote accessible, free education for Baltimore communities,” Kim adds.
“The Knowledge Exchange is an amazing opportunity for people not only in Station North, but across the broader Baltimore community, to teach and learn,” says Amelia Rambissoon, interim executive director for SNAE. The organization, which manages the Station North Arts & Entertainment District — where a portion of North Avenue is located — has collaborated with MICA on many projects over the years. It has been providing insight into the type of programming residents and patrons of Station North would be interested in, and facilitating conversations with smaller or often overlooked groups and organizations in the area. “The Knowledge Exchange’s wide-ranging topics means that there is potentially something for everyone. We hope folks will take advantage of this awesome resource and get involved in some way,” Rambissoon urges.
The North Avenue Knowledge Exchange runs from June through December 2017. Teach or learn something new today. Visit www.nakexchange.org for more information. Sign up for free education at www.nakexchange.org/courses.