On June 15th, 2013, The 6th Branch celebrated the completion of our first major project: The Bethel Street Garden and Playscape, located on the 1500 block of North Bethel St. This block, which as recently as 10 years ago was the site of rows of vacant homes on both sides and an abandoned playground in the back, had come to represent so much of what was wrong with Oliver, and many other similarly impoverished neighborhoods in Baltimore. The rowhomes came down and yielded to even more overgrowth and general neglect. The drug trade and associated crime had taken over, and was even the site of murders and dumped bodies. The area was characterized by physical and emotional blight and was heavy with the fatigue of poverty. is what the leaders of The 6th Branch encountered before even the first day of service there:
Since last June (2012), we have had the good fortune of being able to work with Briony Hynson, who was at the time a post-graduate fellow from MICA’s (Maryland Institute College of Art) Social Design program. Briony’s thesis, which she calls Playgroundism, is a simplistic, yet genius, approach to gradually creating opportunity for the children of Oliver and facilitating how they play in public spaces. Through open exchange and by giving honest feedback to us, Oliver youth literally created their own play environment. Briony documented her experience on her blog, found here: http://playgroundism.tumblr.com/.
The Oliver neighborhood participated in a Global Day of Play on Oct. 4th, inspired by the viral video Caines Arcade. Over 50 kids from all over Oliver and some of the surrounding neighborhoods came out to take place in the Cardboard Challenge, which was a huge success! The day’s events were captured on film by volunteer Vincent Purcell, whose submission was selected as the top video world-wide by the Imagination Foundation! Here’s the video:
The Baltimore Lightning, a “team” of approximately 10-15 kids in ages ranging from 9-13, has held football practice every day since about mid-October at the Bethel St. Playscape, on what we now refer to as “Lightning Field.”