We have located in northeast Baltimore, along the bustling Harford Road corridor, to grow a school where many of our families have set down roots, established businesses and where we share a common commitment to celebrate and improve our corner of the world. The school has close contacts with many of the new and enduring institutions and enterprises (a bookstore, a coffee roaster, gourmet restaurants, an open-air co-op market...) sprinkled along our main street that connects Hamilton Hills, Lauraville and Arcadia.
Caroline Chavasse (cofounder & staff) is the mother of two children and was a Professor of Video Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art for 7 years. She has presented master classes in Digital Video and Media Production at the Gilman School and has taught theatre workshops at University of Michigan, Middlebury College and Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. Caroline cofounded and operated, along with some terrific parents, the Free School Preschool and a community play group in Hamilton that ran for 5 years.
Before moving to Baltimore in 2000, Caroline worked with LeVar Burton at his film company at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, helping to develop family-friendly entertainment for television and film and also on his Emmy award-winning PBS educational series, Reading Rainbow. Caroline has an extensive background in theatre and television performing in New York City for ten years Off-Off Broadway and regionally in Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Richmond, North Carolina and Vermont. She's enjoyed working with such luminaries as Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Mary-Louise Parker. Her one-woman show, a blend of monologue, comedy and dance, received critical acclaim and was developed into a short independent film. Caroline has appeared in numerous television commercials nationally and locally, as well as on "The Wire." Some of her favorite things are history, vocabulary, cartooning, dog training, choreography and dance, video making and editing, reading stories aloud, camping and hiking, and working and playing with the exquisite young people at Arts & Ideas.
Ali Solonche was born in San Fransisco but considers herself a Maryland native, since she moved to Columbia as a baby. She kicked her first soccer ball at age four and has played soccer competitively ever since- she continues to play in an adult co-ed league. As a kid, Ali tried her hand at many other sports, including gymnastics, softball, basketball, and swimming. This love for the outdoors and physical activity has stayed with her in adulthood and she continues to stay active. !
Though soccer took up most of her time, from a young age Ali was always enthusiastic about art and it was in high school that she really got to explore her love for painting and photography. Her passion for the visual arts, led her to New York University, where she majored in Studio Art with a concentration in Sculpture, and a minor in Sociology. In school, her major allowed her to explore mediums such as the letterpress, glass, ceramics, and oil paint. Ali had the opportunity to study Special Effects Make-up with Rob Benevides, which she continues to practice along with her love for make-up artistry and fashion. In her third year at NYU, Ali lived in Florence, Italy for a semester, where she learned Italian, played soccer with the locals, travelled, ate great food and made new friends. Her love for travelling has brought her all over the United States, Europe, and most recently, to Guatemala.
Back in Manhattan, while working as a nanny, Ali held many internships, her favorite being with Free Arts NYC, a non-profit organization that provides art programming and mentoring for underserved youth. Her experience at Free Arts greatly influenced her desire to work towards building a better Baltimore and to be active in the community, especially with Baltimore’s youth. Currently she volunteers and teachers art classes at Art with a Heart in Hampden. In her free time Ali continues to pursue her own art-making, enjoys reading and watching movies, thrifting, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.
Ali is excited to return to Arts & Ideas for her fourth year on staff!
Joel Tyson (staff) is a classically trained trumpet player who studied with of Doug Phillips of the Navy Band, David Flowers of the National Symphony Orchestra, and Langston Fitzgerald III of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He attended the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Maryland at College Park, developing a love for composition, orchestration and computer music. During this time, Joel was a member of many orchestras and bands, including the Washington Civic Symphony, and the McLean Symphony Orchestra. Joel's other studies include philosophy, economics, mathematics, and poetry.
Joel spent one year living in San Francisco, joining the Bay Area Composers’ Alliance to collaborate and study with other CA composers. He then moved to Venice, Italy for one year with the intention of living there, but unfortunately his visa ran out before he was able to secure legal residency. Back on the East Coast, Joel managed several large record stores, buying, promoting and reselling a vast selection of music. While dipping a foot into the world of retail management, he became conscious of his calling to social justice issues, eventually joining the efforts of groups like Positive Force, the DC Books to Prisons Project, Progressive Maryland and ACORN. He also worked as an administrator for World Arts Focus, a dance-centered arts organization which housed Joe's Movement Emporium. At World Arts Focus, he came into contact with and volunteered for many Prince George's County politicians, including Peter Shapiro.
After moving to Baltimore, Joel and his wife helped to start and run an organization called the Women's Prison Literacy Initiative with the purpose of providing incarcerated women the resources needed to achieve a high level of literacy that will help them in and out of the prison system. Also with his wife, Joel started a retail candy store called Rock Candy. He was responsible for the daily management of the business along with handling its accounts and promotional events. While co-owning Rock Candy, he helped found the Lauraville Business Association, still in operation today. Joel has been a member of the board of the Arcadian Fellowship (Arts & Ideas’ umbrella organization) since its inception. He also volunteered in service of the Children's Chorus of Maryland.
Audrey German (staff) grew up on the Shady Side peninsula, a rural community south of Annapolis, MD surrounded by water and nature. By the age of eleven Audrey spent as much time as she could on the water sailing a two man craft alone. Navigating the West River as a young person taught her a lot about personal responsibility, as well as the beauty of owning her own experiences and the necessity of learning how to balance caution and adventure. Crabbing, growing and canning vegetables and tending the fire in the family wood stove along with her four younger siblings was a way of life in a family where both parents worked outside of the home. As a result, Audrey’s interest in the health of the bay and conservation of the Chesapeake’s wet lands and wild life originates from her rich experience growing up there. This atypical up-bringing also instilled in her a deep value of community, hard work and perseverance.
In a departure from her rural childhood, Audrey’s interests in fashion and design as a young adult led her to train to become a make-up artist and hair stylist. Her first professional work in this area was for the highly regarded John Casablanca modeling agency in Atlanta, Georgia. She has also done her stint in corporate America as a business administrator for Aetna US Healthcare. Audrey later translated her administration and sales skills into opening and running small businesses. In more recent years Audrey has been a practitioner in the holistic health field as a Reiki Master and teacher. With good people skills and a commitment to volunteerism, Audrey is dedicated to mentoring adults in the community and assisting them in their recovery after personal crises.
In her down time, Audrey loves to cook, a skill that she learned by watching her father, and is interested in nutrition and experimenting with a wide variety of recipes. For relaxation she enjoys the beach, gemology, mineralogy, hiking, meditation, sketching, the study of ancient history and culture, and doing building and home improvement projects. She enjoyed working as a collaborator this summer on Baltimore’s first Tinkering School program where campers build, make, create and tinker using tools, materials and their imaginations. Audrey is the mother of Rayne Kuhn who has been attending Arts and Ideas since the 2008-2009 school year. This will be Audrey’s second year on staff at A&I.
Danny Mydlack (cofounder and former staff) is tenured Associate Professor of Electronic Media at Towson University where he teaches American History & Media Culture, and Television, Documentary and New Media Production. Danny is the Director of the award-winning documentary "Voices from the New American Schoolhouse," internationally the most widely-screened documentary on democratic education. As well, locally, he cofounded in 2003 the Baltimore Freeschool Preschool, the precursor to Arts & Ideas. Danny has held academic posts as Studio Instructor at The University of California San Diego, Professor of Television Production at George Washington University and Departmental Chair at the Maryland Institute College of Art and has presented to education workshops, screenings and to symposia throughout the United States and in Europe. He began work in school reform 38 years ago, founding the Independent Learning Center at Fairhaven High School where he attended. He contributed as a research assistant in technology and education in the 1980s in Boston under technology and learning expert Seymoure Pappert and in the 1990s at the University of California, San Diego under American Educational Research Association award recipient Dr. Hugh Mehan where he was also employed by the nationally-recognized Center for Teacher Development. Danny is a lifelong student and mentee of NAEA Viktor Lowenfeld Award recipient Dr. Peter London.
The Episcopal Church of the Messiah has enthusiastically supported and partnered with Arts & Ideas to give our school a home. Founded in 1872, the Church of the Messiah has served Baltimore in the Episcopal tradition for more than 136 years, tracing its roots back to 1797 and the founding of their mother church, St. Paul's. The Church's Vestry along with The Rev. Lee Ann Tolzmann have built a reputation for service in the community, as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Pick Up, operating a Food Pantry, participating as a Baking Team for Moveable Feast, supporting the Baltimore Education Advocates and hosting meetings for a variety of community services.
The Arcadian Fellowship Church, our parent organization, is a Maryland Religious Corporation started in 2008 to serve as a spiritual organization that embraces diversity of thought and belief while providing for its membership a supportive and stimulating community. Its mission is to promote the free and responsible search for personal truth and meaning, the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, and to promote a democratically self-governed education environment within which children are free to explore life in all its complexity.
Arts & Ideas inhabits the 3,000 square foot upper floor of the Church Hall and has access to 2500 square feet of the lower. Constructed of stone in grand gothic style, the high-ceilinged space is encircled with over 30 stained glass windows and features the original woodwork from the 1920s.
The architectural details evoke images of a 19th century mansion while the open floor plan allows for maximal flow and usability. Our intention is to provide a relaxing, dignified setting where children can pursue a wide variety of activities, social interaction and groupwork.
During the summer of 2008 the space was renovated to reestablish the full stage/auditorium and a variety of multi-purpose spaces. The layout includes read-together nooks, art tables, science/project counterspace, and personal work benches as well as computers, recording booths and a piano. The school has direct access to the large tree-shaded lawn and the gardens of the church yard.
Arts & Ideas has a special connection with our neighborhood green space, Herring Run Park, which is just a short bus ride down the hill. Because of the unique freedoms afforded by our educational model, our school is ideally situated to offer our students regular and rich immersion in the natural landscape.
In the nineteenth century, boy scouts camped in its woods and local residents drew water from its renowned cold spring. In the nineteen twenties, the Olmsted Firm, legendary landscape architects, drew plans for the park land and its connecting thoroughfares.
Local historian, Eric L. Holcomb, writes, "a walk through Herring Run Park illustrates the dramatic change from the Piedmont Plateau to the Coastal Range." Herring Run Park offers access not only to open fields and hiking/bike paths but is one of the few wild spaces within the city that is home to foxes, fish and birds including the Oriole and the Great Blue Heron among others.
Its flowing stream is part of a 44 square mile watershed that feeds the Chesapeake Bay. The nearby Herring Run Watershed Association acts as steward and educational center and is this ecosystem's leading advocate for its longterm health and vitality.