The Charm City Art Space: An Oral History

philhiotusccaspic

Our activist project was to create an oral history of the Charm City Art Space (CCAS), a longstanding Baltimore Do-It-Yourself venue and staple of the local music scene that recently closed down for an indefinite amount of time. Our goal was to interview several different informants with various connections to the space in order produce a short audio segment that gives a narrative history of the art space, including critical reflections on the space and the role it played in the local community.

We began by laying out a general blueprint for the project – we planned out who we wanted to interview, what we would ask them, and how to go about coordinating interview times. We wanted to curate a final product that offers a variety of perspectives in order to offer as unbiased of an account of CCAS’s existence as possible, so we planned to interview informants with various different relationships with the art space. In the end, we were able to interview one of the space’s founding members, one of the more recent members, and a musician who had played and attended shows at the art space throughout its lifetime. We contacted them over email, scheduled a time and place to interview each of them, and conducted and recorded each interview when the time came. After conducting all of the interviews, we set to work listening to each of them and deciding what material we could best use for the final piece. Having worked out a general timeline for the final narrative, we edited the audio into its final form. Our result was hours of raw material neatly condensed into one seventeen-minute audio segment.

ccasshowWe faced a number of challenges throughout our work on the project. For one thing, the logistics of scheduling a multitude of interviews – interviews that necessarily had to be conducted in person and in a space where clear audio could be recorded – were far more difficult to coordinate than we expected. Several of our potential informants simply ghosted us despite multiple attempts at contacting them; other interviews just didn’t work out despite our best efforts. In fact, we scheduled and rescheduled an interview with one informant four different times, and yet conflict arose with every single appointment, and we were never able to complete the interview. All in all, for future endeavors we learned that is is very important to plan as far ahead as possible and leave a good deal of time to coordinate and conduct interviews; had we done this, we might have been able to interview more informants and gather an even more diverse set of perspectives. That being said, the interviews that we were able to conduct ran very smoothly, and we were nonetheless able to create a solid final product and accomplish the core goals we set out for ourselves.

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This project taught us that activism can take a great number of forms. Before we started, we were not even sure that an endeavor such as this was activism at all. The material we read and discussions we had in class helped in part to change our minds on this subject, but the greater lesson came from actually pursuing the project itself. As we researched what we could about the space’s history, we realized there were a number of relevant critical issues woven into the narrative of Charm City Art Space’s history that could be examined. Discussing these issues with our informants felt like activism in and of itself because we learned so much, and we realized that making these dialogues and narratives publicly accessible was in fact an important undertaking. We learned the importance of simply providing other people with the resources and opportunities to make their voices heard, as we did with this project in coordinating, recording, and publishing these interviews. By helping to lift these voices, we have enabled other people to listen to and learn from them, just as we did.

via Lane Kennedy and James Callahan

Listen to the final audio piece here.

Photo credits to Phil Hiotus, Kate Frese and Farrah Skeiky

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