Friday, March 18, 2011

Scotty Walsh and Port Discovery join with Westport students to make art

Scotty Walsh speaks prior to the mural unveiling

When Scotty Walsh found out that art had been cut from the curriculum at Westport Academy, a k-8 public school in a working class neighborhood in South Baltimore, he decided to do something about it.

A street performer, accomplished vaudevillian, and the visual arts specialist for Port Discovery Children's Museum, Walsh partnered with Westport Academy to create an eight-week, after-school arts program to engage students in painting. The result of that effort was on display at Port Discovery yesterday, as the young artists unveiled a colorful mural in front of media representatives, parents, museum officials, and special guests gathered in the museum's art room.

Scotty Walsh and Bonnie Crockett with Westport Academy students in front of their painting.

"Art really made all of the difference for me when I was a kid, so I've never forgotten the importance of art in the lives of children," said Walsh in a museum press release. "I think it's especially important to develop art programs and hopefully reach some of the children that need art in their lives."

The program was embraced by administrators at Westport Academy, where 83 percent of students are eligible for the federal free lunch program, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. The school serves a historically African-American community with a once-thriving economy which nosedived as businesses closed down or left Baltimore in the '70's, '80's, and '90's.

To jump start the painting project, Walsh sought funding from Patrick Turner, a prominent local developer who hopes to reverse the economic fortunes of the neighborhood with an ambitious $35 million waterfront redevelopment project. Walsh also reached out to Bonnie Crockett of Westport Community Partnerships and to acclaimed Chattanooga-based sculptor John Henry, who plans to install a large-scale work in the Westport waterfront space.

Henry spoke to the Westport students who gathered for yesterday's mural unveiling, calling them "the next generation of creative leaders." Each of the eight children who completed the after-school program received a certificate signed by the sculptor.

Sculptor John Henry speaks to the young artists

As the small crowd waited for the television news crew to arrive, Walsh led the children - who seemed to be between the ages of 5 and 10 - in a song and dazzled them with magic acts.

The students also drew self-portraits, taking inspiration from the self-portraits of famous artists that covered the walls.

The 5' x 10' painting will reside in Port Discovery's StudioWorkshop exhibit space.


  1. What a great article, so seldom is that I read positive stories about children in Baltimore. Scotty Walsh seems to have the magic touch with the children and the developer. Mr Walsh is touching these children's lives with art and music, but more importantly is that he is showing them that their lives matter.

  2. Thank you for this great article! I thought it was very telling when John Henry asked which of the students considered themselves to be artists, and every single hand went up!

    As is often the case with these sorts of projects, I learned a lot more by doing it than I originally would have predicted.

    I would just like to add one point regarding the funding of this project. The Westport Community Partnerships was eventually able to secure funding from P. Flanigan & Sons, Inc. for transportation of the students to Port Discovery. Ultimately, that was the most pivotal point in this project.

    So, my hat's off to Patrick Turner, Bonnie Crockett, John Henry, Westport Community Partnerships, and P. Flanigan & Sons, Inc. for making this possible!

    Thanks again!

    Scotty Walsh

  3. Having attended the art unveiling, I can attest that Kevin really captured the event!

    Scotty gave his time to help the Westport kids create something beautiful! They were clearly proud of what they accomplished and it was terrific to see them get public recognition.

    It was also great that internationally reknown sculptor John Henry volunteered to come and share the moment with them. He was real, down to earth and inspiring!

    Thanks, Kevin, for covering this!

  4. Thanks for the kind comments, and thank you, Scotty, for inviting me to such an enjoyable event.

    It's a really promising project and I'm encouraged to hear about the support it's received so far from businesses, nonprofits, and individual. Keep up the good work!