Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Loyola University Maryland: Where Do We Fit In?

This past weekend, I had another opportunity to visit the American Visionary Art Museum, located on Key Highway in Baltimore City. Having been many times before, I decided this time that I would focus on not only the art work that was being displayed, but more importantly the people and surroundings. As I took in the surroundings of Baltimore, and watched the people, I asked myself: where does Loyola fit in to the Baltimore community?

Having come from an area outside of Baltimore, but working and spending a lot of time in Baltimore, I think I am able to offer a unique perspective of how Loyola fits in the city. I work in a very large, urban trauma center. Maryland is home to the largest trauma center in the nation—where we see gun shot victims, stabbings, and victims of other acts of violence. As I walked the fairly long walk from Pratt Street where I parked, to Key Highway where the museum is located, I thought about how the patients I see day after day at work could be any one person I am walking near. Then I thought about life at Loyola. I immediately began to think how sheltered Loyola is from the rest of Baltimore City. For years, Baltimore has been characterized by violence and crime—Loyola doesn’t see any of this on its North Baltimore campus. Loyola is like an island, with its inhabitants only going to the nice parts of the mainland when necessary.

I thought to myself: who are those that call Loyola home and who are those that call Baltimore City home? The answers to those questions are relatively simple. Loyola is full of upper class, white Catholics, who, I think for the most part, come from pretty similar backgrounds. Baltimore is rich in diversity—from the slums of West Baltimore, to the culturally diverse area of Highlandtown, to the areas north such as Park Heights, to the areas southwest of the city like Cherry Hill. These are the places that Loyola students rarely see. Not many would know that there is an orthodox Jewish area not too far west of Loyola, or areas in west and southwest Baltimore that are so crime infested that even some police officers wont drive through alone. So the answer to my questions is quite simple: Loyola students are all very similar, where Baltimore is composed of a diverse group of people from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

When I arrived at the American Visionary Art Museum, I was immediately wowed by the artwork outside of the building. The truth is that the outside is actually one of my favorite parts of the museum. All of the different art mediums that come together, to form one piece work, whether it is a sculpture, a mosaic, two dimensional, or three dimensional, the beauty of what was created is amazing. From the wind-chimes outside that looks like a tree, to the ornament filled garden area outside of the museum, to the multiple works of artists who I had never heard of before, it is all very truly unique.

As a Loyola student, I realize that if it weren’t for already living and working in Baltimore, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity of seeing the many different areas of the city. If I could tell all Loyola students one thing, it would be this: explore the city. Realize that York Road, Fells Point, and Federal Hill are not entirely representative of Baltimore as a whole. Take a step outside of those places and see what the city has to offer in places like Mt. Vernon, Highlandtown, Little Italy, or the revitalized west side of Baltimore. These places are what give Baltimore its character.

So back to my original question: where do we fit in? I would venture to say that Loyola doesn’t completely fit in to Baltimore City. Fore the most part, we are a standardized body of students, most of who come for eight months then leave—only to come back when the academic year resumes. It was great being able to take time, visit the American Visionary Art Museum, and examine the small island of Loyola compared to the larger mainland of Baltimore City.

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