UMBC Charlesmead Initiative for Arts Education

The Charlesmead Foundation has provided UMBC with a gift of $500,000 over five years, Fall 2018 through Spring 2023, aimed at strengthening arts engagement opportunities for K-8 students in Title I schools in the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS). We are seeking proposals to fund new, or expand existing, partnerships between UMBC faculty/staff/graduate students and these schools.

We will continue to accept and review submissions on a rolling basis for projects up to $1,000.  Proposals for projects over $1,000 are due November 1st, 2021 (fall), and March 15th, 2022 (spring). Reviewers will usually make decisions within 3-4 weeks after each submission. If your proposed activity is awarded, but new announcements from Baltimore City Public Schools require changes in your proposed activity, we will work with you to accommodate those changes as much as possible.

If you have any questions, email David Demarest ( If you have an idea but need connections to a Baltimore City Public School and/or local arts organization, let us know. We are here to help.

Current Projects

Students’ contributions to their virtual collection of family keepsakes.

“Treasures” is a recently funded project that aims to elevate community culture beginning at the level of the family. In September of 2020, twenty fifth-grade students of Matthew Henson Elementary School began working with their family elders to find family keepsakes and animate the stories around them.

Faculty, staff and students from UMBC’s Imaging Research Center will collaborate with teaching artist Ashley Milburn and community mentors, including Arch Social Community Network leaders. They will work with families to create digital versions of their artifacts and record family stories, all which will be assembled into an interactive living virtual monument that is accessible to all. The finished virtual sculpture will be projected on buildings and screened at both community and university venues. The goal of the project is for young people to experience the value of family legacy through art making and material culture.

The project team is currently navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to bring the project to fruition without compromise.

Past Projects

UMBC Theatre and STEM students & faculty, Arbutus Middle School science teachers, and guest artists.

 In January 2020, the “Theatre Arts and Communicating Science” arts integration project collaborated with Arbutus Middle School (AMS) to use theatre skills to creatively engage students in learning and communicating about science in active, compelling ways. A project team was assembled that included UMBC faculty, Theatre department undergraduate majors, STEM graduate students, and AMS science teachers. During weekend workshops the team learned skills in playwriting and improvisation from guest artists, and voice/speech from Theatre faculty Lynn Watson.

During the spring semester following the training, the project team took those skills into AMS science classrooms, guiding 100+ middle school students to imaginatively express science concepts physically and verbally. Theatre skills were integrated into the classrooms in a number of ways. For example, to help students gain deeper understanding of the plight of endangered species, a playwriting exercise was used to prompt narrative writing about threatened animals. In learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion, the UMBC students assisted the middle school students in creating and performing improvisational scenarios to demonstrate the real-world effects of the laws.

UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery exhibition with K-8 Baltimore City youth.

In November 2019, the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery began a collaborative project with museum educator Willa Banks to create an arts education curriculum for K-8 Baltimore City youth emphasizing hands-on learning and engagement with original artworks through the gallery’s exhibition program and in the holdings of UMBC’s Special Collections.

During the spring semester, 90 students from Liberty Elementary and Frederick Elementary schools visited the gallery for an interactive tour of the exhibition Antonio McAfee: Through the Layers, Pt. 2 led by the gallery curators. Students enjoyed putting on 3D glasses to view McAfee’s work, saw rare nineteenth-century photographs from UMBC’s Special Collections that the artist manipulates in his digital photographs, and created collage portraits to take home with them. They shared what they learned over snacks, reflecting on what photographs can tell us about history and how portraits reveal (and conceal) personal identity.

Due to COVID-19, the final two class visits scheduled for March and April were canceled, but we are already planning ways to adapt the curriculum to an online format for Academic Year 2020-2021.

WAYM middle school students tour Imaging Research Center at UMBC.

In August 2019, the UMBC Shriver Center Peaceworker Fellows program began a collaborative project with Wide Angle Youth Media, a local non-profit serving Baltimore City youth, to provide quality media arts education and academic and workforce readiness workshops for 80 Title I Baltimore City students.

Throughout the course of the academic year, Wide Angle delivered two series of 8-week media education courses in public libraries for middle school students. The students created stop motion short films, learned photography skills, as well as videography and video editing. The students also visited the UMBC campus for a day spent with art faculty, staff, and students where they learned about the potency and power of media. After a tour of the art facilities on campus, students ate lunch at the dining hall where they brainstormed ways to pursue careers in digital multimedia.

Additionally, during Wide Angle Youth Media’s summer programming, Mediaworks students were able to learn about food access in Baltimore City, partnering with two local coffee shops who had lost business due to COVID-19. Students received products from Vagrant Coffee on their front porch and were able to safely take product photography. They were guided through online lessons and one-on-one phone calls.

Though the final series of classes and the second and third UMBC campus visits were canceled due to COVID-19, the project was a great success, engaging 80 students.

BSO OrchKids students’ rehearsal at Linehan Concert Hall, UMBC

In Spring 2019, UMBC music education students, the UMBC wind ensemble, Baltimore Symphony Orchkids students and teachers, Diana Lawrence, and Daniel Bernard Roumain (aka DBR) came together to explore gun violence in America.

BSO OrchKids students and teachers came to campus and worked with UMBC music education students and teaching artist Diana Lawrence to create an original work in response to gun violence. The students co-composed the piece over two sessions. In addition to their collaborative experience, OrchKids students also had the opportunity to tour the campus and get a feel for college life. Part of the goal was for OrchKids students to have a positive experience on campus and to gain more insight into the college experience—something we hope they will consider pursuing in the future.

The collaboration culminated in a multi-disciplinary performance titled “Thoughts and Prayers.” BSO OrchKids students not only shared their original work alongside UMBC music education students, but also performed alongside UMBC wind ensemble students under the direction of Brian Kaufman, Diana Lawrence, and Daniel Bernard Roumain. The concert was followed by a community conversation facilitated by UMBC’s Dr. Kimberly Moffitt, in which UMBC students, faculty and staff, OrchKids students and families, and area community members engaged in discussion about gun violence in response to the performance. Perhaps the most meaningful part of the event was hearing from OrchKids students what they learned and what the event meant to them.

A student who was part of Alan Kreizenbeck’s partnership with WombWorks runs the soundboard during their production.

In May 2019, Alan Kreizenbeck of the Theatre Department partnered with WombWorks to produce two plays by African American playwrights. The Charlesmead gift funded stipends for high school students from Frederick Douglass and ConneXions, who trained as technical theatre interns during the productions. The gift also allowed for 120 high school students to view two matinee performances, meet the playwright, and discuss the significance of the plays.

Lakeland students tour the IRC.

In February 2019, 75 eighth graders and 5 teachers from Lakeland Elementary/Middle came to the UMBC campus for an arts field trip. Due to bureaucratic processes, the students had not been able to join their fellow classmates on their original field trip, but the Charlesmead gift gave them the chance to attend this alternative field trip. Led by graduate student Rachel Wallace, the students all had the chance to: view an art show in our Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC), create their own collaborative sculptures, explore the technology in the Imaging Research Center (IRC), tour the UMBC campus, eat lunch in the UMBC dining hall, and play basketball in the gym.

Upcoming Projects

Sandra Abbott of the CADVC is collaborating with curriculum writers and three Baltimore City middle school teachers to develop arts lesson plans that incorporate the Joseph Beuys Sculpture Park (located on UMBC’s campus), adhere to state educational standards, and fit appropriately within the school year curriculum. Field trips to UMBC and the Sculpture Park that were scheduled for spring 2020 are postponed due to the pandemic until further notice.