1. History of the art exchange
The Baltimore-Rotterdam sister city committee has sponsored artist and cultural exchanges since 1985. Around 2006 our efforts became more focused in this regard. Annet Couwenberg, the chair of the committee at that time and a professor at MICA, spearheaded an arts education exchange between students of the two cities, with a traveling exhibition of postcards designed by the students. The program was called Reflection.That program has evolved into a longer-term exchange after 2008, and now it is called HarborTraces, a fitting name because both Baltimore and Rotterdam are port cities.
As part of this program, the committee sent multimedia artist and UMBC professor Steve Bradley to Rotterdam in 2009 for an artist residency. There, he met artist Kathie diStefano from Rotterdam’s Avalanche Arts (Dutch name: “Stichting Lawine”), and she introduced him to the community of Heijplaat.
After Steve returned to Baltimore, he started conducting arts education activities at Benjamin Franklin High School and collaborating with Dr. Nicole King from UMBC on the Mapping Baybrook project. Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) was also involved at that time, inspired by a harbor arts curriculum developed at Willem de Kooning Art Academie (WdKA) in Rotterdam.
Steve Bradley came to the realization that the neighborhoods of Heijplaat in Rotterdam and Brooklyn-Curtis Bay (Baybrook) in Baltimore share many similarities. He was instrumental in carrying the artist exchange forward and focusing it on these two neighborhoods. He has been very actively engaged in Brooklyn Curtis-Bay and helping students use art as a way to explore their relationship with their community. Other departments at Bradley’s university, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have also become very involved with the Brooklyn Curtis-Bay community.
Among other things, Steve taught stop-motion animation techniques at Benjamin Franklin High School and he then brought those techniques to Heijplaat in Rotterdam to conduct workshops with local residents, making animated sculptures out of trash. Steve also participated with Kathie in producing her ecological-themed show in Heijplaat, and Kathie later did variation of that eco-show in Brooklyn Curtis-Bay and elsewhere in Baltimore.
Since then, Kathie diStefano has re-visited Baltimore many times to conduct workshops on themes of recycling and sustainability and to facilitate exchanges between Baltimore and Rotterdam schools. While many of the projects have been centered in Brooklyn Curtis-Bay and Heijplaat areas, there also have been similar projects in other communities in the two cities.
It’s a great example of how the two cities can exchange ideas in how to use the arts to inspire community pride and awareness of their history and environment. And it helps brings an international perspective to the classroom.
2. Timeline of Activities
There have been a range of activities related to the HarborTraces project since its inception in 2009, and more are planned for the future.
- November 2022
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Rotterdam, visits Baltimore for meetings, workshops ,and performances, including several performances of her “Seagull Mamma” show about trash and recycling for Pre-K through 1st grade. More info.
- February–April 2022
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Rotterdam, coordinates a virtual exchange program on the theme of trash/recycling with middle school students at Bay Brook school in Baltimore and Wolfert Lansing students in Lansingerland, north of Rotterdam. More info.
- June 2021
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Rotterdam, visits Baltimore for various planning meetings with Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister City Committee, representatives from Baltimore schools, Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland, Baltimore Department Of Public Works, Filbert Street Community Garden, and others.
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Rotterdam, is now part of the artist roster at Young Audiences Arts for Learning, Maryland and conducts performances about trash & recycling to Baltimore area schools. Schools can book her “Seagull Mama” performance for Kindergarten through grade 2 via the Young Audiences website. She also offers interactive lectures & performances on trash and recycling for middle and high school audiences.
- Spring 2018
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Rotterdam, conducts a virtual exchange program on the theme of trash/recycling with Lakeland school in Baltimore and Het Balkon school in the town of Maassluis, west of Rotterdam. This is part of a series of activities in the South Baltimore Gateway District supported by Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability. More info.
- Fall 2017
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Rotterdam conducts:
- “Operation Trash” workshops with 3 schools in the South Baltimore Gateway District, and planning meetings for a spring online exchange program with Baltimore and Rotterdam schools. More info.
- Trash & composting workshops, conducted in collaboration with the manager of Filbert Street Community Garden on Nov 2 and Nov 6.
- Meetings with other schools and organizations.
- Morgan State University School of Architecture+Planning’s graduate studio class features a Baltimore-Rotterdam project: students worked on a conceptual project where they designed welcome center and housing for newcomers to the city, for a site located in Heijplaat area of Rotterdam, and they designed the same kind of buildings for a site in the Station North area of Baltimore.
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Rotterdam conducts:
- February-June 2017
- “Operation Trash” virtual exchange with Baltimore & Rotterdam high schools to teach recycling and environmental stewardship, including “Ben Fest” community clean up festival on April 22. More info.
- Artist residency at Mann Residential School. More info.
- Activity with Filbert Street Community Garden in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay.
- October 2016
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Heijplaat in Rotterdam, visits Baltimore to kickstart the “Operation Trash” virtual exchange with Baltimore & Rotterdam high schools to teach recycling and environmental stewardship. She also met with other organizations. About her October visit.
- April 2016
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Heijplaat in Rotterdam, visits Baltimore to plan exchanges between Baltimore and Rotterdam area students on the themes of recycling and environmental stewardship, and to plan theatre improv workshops with a green theme for Benjamin Franklin High School in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay
- March 2016
- The Netherlands chapter of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) awards a grant to Kathie diStefano (Avalanche Arts) to set up pen pal exchanges between Baltimore and Rotterdam area students on the themes of recycling and environmental stewardship
- Summer 2015
- Children at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center’s summer school program do a pen pal exchange project with IKC ’t Palet Holy, an elementary school in Vlaardingen, a small town near Rotterdam. The exchange is facilitated by Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Heijplaat in Rotterdam.
- Fall 2015
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Heijplaat in Rotterdam, visits Baltimore in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the Baltimore-Rotterdam sister city relationship. She conducts sustainability-themed theatre workshops at Creative Alliance in Baltimore, MD and Nederlandse School in Bethesda, MD, and attended meetings to plan future exchanges with Baltimore schools.
- December 2014
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Heijplaat in Rotterdam, returns to Baltimore to plan upcoming projects for fall 2015.
- December 2013
- Kathie diStefano, theatre artist and educator from Heijplaat in Rotterdam, conducts an artist residency in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay. She collaborates with Jason Reed, a garden educator and Open Society Institute Fellow, to conduct a series of projects and workshops for community residents, teachers, and students at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center, Benjamin Franklin High School (BFHS), and Curtis Bay Elementary / Middle School.
- School year 2013-2014
- Steve Bradley continues to conduct arts classes with students at Benjamin Franklin High School in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay
- May 2013
- Winter 2012-2013
- Steve Bradley conducts weekly art engagement activities at Benjamin Franklin High School (BFHS) in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay. Under his guidance, high school students make short animated movies with the help of UMBC university students. Compilation of the animated movies
- Tumblr blog site for 2012 activities
- Under the guidance of Professor Exsul Van Helden, Stevenson University film students make a documentary movie about Bradley’s 2012 work in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay and his UMBC students.
- Dec 1, 2012 Exhibition and reception at the Polish Home Hall in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay
- MappingBaybrook site launches (spearheaded by Dr. Nicole King from UMBC). MappingBaybrook documents and preserves a sense of place and memory within this small harbor community cut off from downtown Baltimore by the Patapsco River. More about MappingBaybrook
- Portrait Stories exhibit at Benjamin Franklin High School
- Fall 2012 Artist Steve Bradley is working in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay and revisits Rotterdam to collaborate with Kathie diStefano.
- Fetisch Objecten: Bradley and diStefano conduct a workshop with Heijplaat sanitary workers to create sculpture out of trash and create stop motion animation films. Video of the workshop and the animated movies
- Eco News: During Steve’s residency, Kathie also worked with these individuals and local students and seniors to create a theater performance, doing a mock TV news show on the topic of trash and recycling: The Eco News Show / Het Afval Journaal in Rotterdam
- Oct 28, 2012 Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister City Reception in Rotterdam
- Videos about the residency, created by Charlois neighborhood community internet TV station (in Dutch language):
- Tumblr blog site for 2012 activities
- Metamorphous – a 6 week collaboration between Benjamin Franklin High School (BFHS) students in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay, Baltimore City and undergraduate students in visual arts from UMBC, creating stop-motion animation films of sculptures created from trash.
- MICA’s art education department teaches harbor arts class at Benjamin Franklin High School, inspired by a curriculum designed by Rotterdam’s Willem de Kooning Academie.
- Steve supports Dr. Nicole King in MappingBaybrook, a cultural-historical mapping of Brooklyn-Curtis Bay
- Steve and Nicole start collecting sounds, photographs, drawings and audio stories from the harbor community of Baybrook at risk of losing their collective memory of their place
- Steve starts Portrait Stories, a project bringing together youth and elders in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay. They exchange stories about their life histories and make drawings based on those stories.
- Heijplaat Groen starts. It is a community outreach group focusing on environmental sustainability themes like recycling and energy.
- July 2010
Bradley broadcasts on low-power FM radio sound compositions that juxtapose recordings made in Rotterdam with Baltimore, at Baltimore’s Artscape festival
Event announcement (PDF)
- February 2010
Steve Bradley revisits Rotterdam
- December 2009
Kathie DiStefano from Stichting Lawine visits Baltimore
- Summer 2009
Steve Bradley artist residency in Rotterdam
- May 2008
URBANtraces in Station North:
Community arts project, launched on May 6, 2008 by Baltimore’s former Mayor Dixon. This project served as inspiration for Bradley’s 2009 residency in Rotterdam.
- January 2008
Steve Bradley travels to Rotterdam to plan his 2009 residency.
HarborTraces is an evolution from our previous Baltimore-Rotterdam art exchange program called Reflection.