Natalya & Ashley - Baltimore-based ROOTS Members Leading the Festival


Member Profiles: Natalya Brusilovsky & Ashley Milburn,
Baltimore-Based ROOTS Members Leading ROOTS Fest 2011

Listen to the full interview with Natalya Brusilovsky here.

Natalya Brusilovsky came to her first Annual Meeting on a whim after hearing about ROOTS just five days before the A.M.  She's never looked back.

First Came to ROOTS: Annual Meeting 2010!  She was invited by Brian Francoise of Theatre Action Group in Baltimore and Sheila Gaskins, and took a leap of faith, got on a bus for nine hours (she calls it 'glorious'), and came to the Annual Meeting for the first time.  The opportunity to have conversations with other artists and activists, the workshops, late night dancing with the one most diverse crowd she'd ever seen - it was a special magical time.  Even though she says she barely had time to pee!

Her Role with the Festival: Now working with the Festival as Local Coordinator, she's holding together the center, managing the logistical details, and keeping information flowing out to those who need to know things. 

Most Excited About: Bringing the history and energy of art-making and activism that ROOTS holds with the activity of Festival and the Baltimore community.

Biggest Challenge: Preparing to bring the special mix of Aesthetics of Diversity into reality.  Making our ideals of social justice a part of our everyday practice. Doing it right.

Will the Festival have an impact on Baltimore? She hopes it will inspire the communities of Baltimore with the ideals and work ethics that we bring.  Of course, the financial resources that the Festival brings by spending its money here will hopefully last long after ROOTS leaves.

How will it affect ROOTS? Hopefully we'll have a larger Baltimore/D.C. membership.  We'll be better known not only in this area, but also nationally so that folks can better utilize what ROOTS has to offer.

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Listen to the full interview with Ashley Milburn: Part 1 and Part 2.

Ashley Milburn, on the other hand, tracked down the folks at Resources for Social Change after the Creative Convergence in 2007, and according to him, he 'begged, pleaded, and threatened' our folks to take on Culture Works and the West Baltimore community as more than just a continuation of his thesis project.  What was born was a long-term partnership that's still thriving today.

How long have you been involved with ROOTS? Four years. Specifically with Resources for Social Change.  He first met ROOTS members through The Creative Convergence - a Rhizome event our Baltimore/DC members hosted in 2006/7.  Ashley Sparks did a discussion with the Community Arts program at MICA, where he was attending.  He then got himself invited to an learning exchange in Chestertown, MD that Hope Clark hosted.  He went out for lunch with the folks at RSC after that and told him about his vision for art and culture in the West Baltimore community through Culture Works and that began a long and fruitful relationship.

Favorite ROOTS Memory: Bringing 14 people from West Baltimore and having so many of them come forward for membership.  Also, having Bob Leonard and Maurice Turner return to his community again and again so that they can talk and fight and laugh and work together on this hard work of building community together.

His Role with the Festival: Dual purpose.  1) Continuing to work with Culture Works to help them connect with the Festival and keep building community. 2) As Local Organizer, work on the team of contractors doing community cultural development to plan the Festival for those parts that he calls "cultural triage."

Most Excited About: There will be an outcome in less than 25 weeks that absolutely changes the dynamics of the different communities of Baltimore and how they interact together.  They've been spinning their wheels, without systemic change.  The Festival has changed the dialogue.  Folks who used to come in to the community, do their thing, and walk out, are now getting engaged around art and culture.  Parks and People Foundation is dedicated to putting art into their spaces that they're re-greening. They've created art positions to create work.  That's unheard of, and it's only there because of the Festival.

Biggest Challenge: Staying awake. Everything is a 3-dimensional puzzle and a lot of it resides in his head - the conversations, the moving parts.  It helps that Denise Johnson has come on board with Culture Works, so the hope is that it will become an independent art-making group that can do art where it wants to do art, working with community.  

How will the Festival impact Baltimore? According to Will Backstrom, our community liaison at PNC Bank, an early partner in the Festival, he says, "This changes everything." It changes how the community sees themselves and how others see the community.

How will it affect ROOTS? Hopefully ROOTS will see that it's creating a cultural model for how communities deal with urban environments.  It's going to change ROOTS, Culture Works, and Baltimore.  It's a changing agent.  The challenge to ROOTS is that we leave something behind.  It's a laboratory for art, culture, and community.