Creative Connections: An Inside Look at Community Outreach

Editor’s Note: A chance connection through AirBnB brought Jill Collier Warne and her family to stay with Susan and me for a week while she was here for work. During their stay, she kindly invited us to attend the concert by Creative Connections, which was the culmination of her week’s effort. This innocent offer of a place to stay led to a performance that literally brought tears of joy to my eyes and made me proud to live in Baltimore.

Jill is the director of Creative Connections. She started her career in Baltimore, but now lives in Michigan. Her co-director for this project is Dan Trahey, Bolton Hill resident and creator of the OrchKids program. I asked Jill to tell the Bulletin about their work.

Jill conducting
Jill conducting

By Jill Collier Warne; photographs by Colin Sorgi

For a week in March, Creative Connections worked with 150 students to collaboratively create an original piece of music that reflected their individual and collective identity.

A joint effort between three organizations, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids, City Neighbors High School and the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, the collaborators ranged from first graders through graduate students.

Many of the younger students attend Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts, just a few blocks from Bolton Hill.

Not a single note had been written before the week began. A blank canvas with only an idea—to explore the concept of “leaps and gaps.” By allowing people to share their stories, ideas and emotions, Creative Connections provides the space in which to blend everything together into a beautiful and dynamic piece of music.

It wasn’t easy. Read more, see lots of photos, and some videos

Rutter’s Mill Park Gets a Makeover

Rutter Park 2
Finished wall at Rutter’s Mill Park

By Coleen McCarty and Susan Badder

A quiet oasis of mature trees and lush greenery, Rutter’s Mill Park is a reminder of the natural landscape that once existed there. In the late-18th century, Bolton Hill was open land, drained by streams that fed into the Jones Falls. One, Spicer’s Run, ran down from Reservoir Hill, emptying into the falls just south of where the North Avenue bridge stands today.

Just downstream was a water-powered grist mill owned by John Rutter, whose family owned property in the neighborhood along the banks of a Spicer’s Run tributary. That body of water became known as Rutter’s Run.

By the late-19th century, rowhouses had been built on John Street, Lafayette Street and Mount Royal Avenue, and Rutter’s Run had been channeled and covered over. On quiet nights, those waters can still be heard running beneath us.

Demolition of old wall
Demolition of old wall

For the first half of the 20th century, a row of two-story alley houses stood on the site of the park. As a part of mid-1960s urban renewal, these houses were demolished, and Rutter’s Mill Park was created. Designed by Constantine (Gus) Courpas, the plan took into account the building on the Mosher Street side of the plot, the studio of sculptor Ruben Kramer and his wife Perna, who were patrons and caretakers of the park for many years. Gas lamps now light the park and the sounds of water trickling from a fountain now provide an ambient reminder of the site’s history.

Over the years, Rutter’s Mill Park has been maintained by its neighbors, the 40+ households that back onto it and collectively form the Rutter’s Mill Park Association. Routine repairs and plantings have been funded through grants from MRIA, the Bolton Hill Garden Club, Festival on the Hill and the Parks and People Foundation.

New wall is built better
New wall is built better

As Rutter’s Mill Park approached the half-century mark, it began to show its age. By 2009, the brick wall surrounding the park began to list, suffering the effects of time, weather and the growing tree roots. The wall had to be removed before it fell. A proposal submitted by the Baltimore City Bureau of Parks suggested replacing the brick wall with a chain-link fence.

Claudia Sennett and Susan Badder led a group of advocates who formulated a counter-proposal to replace the wall with a design appropriate for our historic community. MRIA past president John Kyle and then–City Councilman Bill Cole took up the cause.

With the assistance of Valarie Ruppert, Director of Community Greening at Parks and People, and the leadership of Walley Stephenson of Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, the Rutter’s Mill Park Association solicited bids from private contractors. The project was completely funded by Recreation and Parks, in large part through the efforts of the office’s director, Ernest Burkeen, Jr.

The new wall is a substantially improvement over the one it replaced. Built to accommodate the continued growth of trees, the gates are now open, and Rutter’s Mill Park once again welcomes all sorts of visitors. Intimate enough for a single reader, this “backyard” for 40+ residences, two elementary schools and a college can also host a church luncheon, a wedding reception, or even a nursery school graduation. And, of course, the annual Easter Egg hunt.

The newly refurbished Rutter’s Mill Park extends a warm welcome to the entire Bolton Hill community.

(Editors’ Note: the Rutter’s Mill Park Association is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and also accepts tax-deductible donations from businesses and individuals. Donors should contact Claudia Sennett, 1415 John Street, 410-523-3156.)


Second Party with a Purpose

A great Baltimore tradition
A great Baltimore tradition

It’s time for a stoop party!

Please join the Social Action Task Force (SATF) for our second Party with a Purpose (read about the first one here) on Saturday, April 16th at 11:30 am. We’ll be outdoors on the stoop of 1529 Bolton Street for Bloody Marys and beer.

Farmers from the Whitelock Community Farm in Reservoir Hill will be on hand to tell us about the pleasures and trials of growing crops in the city. When you talk “Buy Local,” you don’t get more local than this.

We’ll learn about what they grow, their farm stand and CSA, and volunteer opportunities to get your hands in the dirt. They always need more help around a farm.

We’ll also hear from neighbor Chas Phillips about the plans for BoltonStock 2016, which will be the honored guest at SATF’s third Party with a Purpose.

At 1 pm, we’ll walk together over to the Boundary Block Party at the Upton Triangle, where there will be food and music and more fun. Plan on making a day of it.

Attendees should bring a $10 donation to offset the cost of drinks and support Whitelock Farm.

Whitelock Community Farm
Whitelock Community Farm
Some of the farm hands
Some of the farm hands

Join in the Boundary Block Party

Boundary Block PartyBy David Nyweide

So you live in Bolton Hill. How often do you venture west of Eutaw Place?  Maybe you go to the post office every so often. You might not think that there’s much else to draw you to Pennsylvania Ave.

You’ll have a great reason to head there on Saturday, April 16 from 1–4 pm, when the No Boundaries Coalition and Jubilee Arts are hosting the annual Boundary Block Party at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Presstman St.

In 2008, the first block party was held on the Eutaw St. median, the unofficial but generally accepted boundary separating Bolton Hill from Madison Park and Marble Hill. From the start, the block party set out to encourage more open involvement between the whole 21217 community.

Over the years, it has grown bigger and moved just a few blocks west to the Upton Triangle at the boundary of the Upton, Druid Heights, and Sandtown-Winchester neighborhoods.

And the fun has grown too, with music to dance to, grilled food to eat, fresh produce to purchase, and face painting and sidewalk chalking for the kids. The premise is simple: provide a fun-filled opportunity to mingle with neighbors on all sides of the boundaries that often keep us apart.

Volunteers are still needed to help with the event (see related article). If you want to volunteer, there’s always something to do! Fill out the form here.

This year, Bolton Hill’s Social Action Task Force will host the second Party with a Purpose—a Stoop Party at 1529 Bolton St. starting at 11:30 am on April 16, the day of the Boundary Block Party.  Around 1 pm, everyone at the Stoop Party will proceed en masse to the Block Party. Plan to make a day of parties—celebrating our neighborhoods and neighbors.

Boundary Block Party 2At the Block Party, will you socialize with residents across Central West Baltimore like you’ve known each other for years? No. Will you make a new friend who lives a few blocks west of you? No, you probably won’t.

Most likely you’ll hang with those you know from Bolton Hill. But maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know while waiting in line for a hamburger. Maybe your kids will work on a sidewalk chalk landscape with kids they wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for the Block Party.

You might learn about the superb work that Jubilee Arts does with youth and the arts. Or that the Avenue Bakery, about a block north of the Boundary Block Party site, pays delicious homage to Pennsylvania Avenue’s rich jazz legacy and heritage from the Civil Rights Movement. Or that there’s an indoor roller skating rink and bowling alley at the Shake and Bake, farther south on Pennsylvania Avenue.

You might even feel compelled to attend a No Boundaries Coalition meeting across the street at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church on the second Tuesday of the month, giving you another reason to return to Pennsylvania Ave.

Creating space for people who ordinarily don’t interact won’t magically make us friends. The promise of the Boundary Block Party is in the introduction it offers neighbors who’ve only known each other as strangers. It provides opportunities for social exchanges that could start to mend the social fabric stretched threadbare, over the decades, across Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

Read more about the Boundary Block Party here.

Ragtime Opens April 15

Ragtime for webMark your calendars and be sure to attend a performance of Memorial Players’ spring musical, Ragtime, based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow. This musical sings of the American dream, full of love, hope, possibilities, adventure, friendship, despair and redemption.

The cast of just over 50 comes from across the Baltimore region, with seasoned actors who have returned year after year and many new faces.

Though this is Director Bill Kamberger’s first production with Memorial Players, he is well known in the theater community. He was named Baltimore’s Best Stage Director by the City Paper in 2003, and by Baltimore Broadway World in 2015.

The show opens on April 15th at 7:30 pm, when the Players will transform Memorial Episcopal Church into New Rochelle, Harlem, and the Lower East Side at the turn into the 20th century.

Performances will be held for two weekends, with Friday & Saturday evening shows at 7:30 pm, and Sunday matinees at 3:30 pm.

Make a night of it by attending one of the pre-show receptions, hosted at a neighborhood home with fine food and drink. It’s a wonderful way to support Memorial Players, and the only way to get reserved seating. Purchase your tickets now for this receptions by clicking the date. 

Friday April 15, 5:30–7 pm
Home of Michael Booth & Kristine Smets
1308 Bolton Street

Saturday April 16, 5:30–7 pm
Home of John Seeley & Paul Seaton
217 Bolton Place

Friday April 22, 5:30–7 pm
Bolton Hill Nursery School
204 Lanvale Street

Saturday April 23, 5:30–7 pm
Home of Marjorie Forster
1715 Park Avenue

Vote. Please, Vote.

I VotedMaryland’s primary elections are this month, and they are big ones. Cast your vote for president (yes, that president), senator, mayor and more.

The voter registration deadline is April 5. Go online to the Board of Elections website to register to vote, check your current voter registration, update your information, or change your party affiliation.

Early voting starts Thursday, April 14 and runs through April 21. The closest voting place to our neighborhood is probably the Westside Skill Center at 4501 Edmondson Ave. (Enter on Athol Ave.) or the Community Engagement Center at the University of Maryland–Baltimore, 1 North Poppleton St. Get a full state wide list of locations here.

The primary itself is on Tuesday, April 26.

Voters’ guides can be downloaded from the Baltimore League of Women Voters website, as well as from, which also offers personalized voter information.

MRIA Board Member Linda Rittelmann will have paper copies of the voters’ guide available at the April’s MRIA meeting on the 5th. Please email Linda at if you would like copies for your church, office, event, etc.

Make your opinion count. Vote!

Walking Tour of Bolton Hill

Walking tour led by Charlie Duff
Walking tour led by Charlie Duff

Baltimore Heritage will be leading a walking tour of Bolton Hill on Saturday, April 30.

Founded in 1960, Baltimore Heritage is the city’s nonprofit historic and architectural preservation organization. Managed since 2003 by executive director and Bolton Hill neighbor Johns Hopkins, they work to preserve and promote Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Their historic tours help raise funds for the organization and also allows them to share their love for the buildings and places they hope to preserve. Led by volunteer tour guides (including nuns, architects, scholars and activists), participants ride bikes, climb scaffolding, and walk up and down hilly streets as they tour historic buildings and neighborhoods all across the city.

Their spring tour schedule hits many other Baltimore neighborhoods, including Mt. Vernon, Paterson Park, Seton Hill, and Marble Hill, as well as a whiskey distillery, the Maryland Zoo’s Rogers Mansion, Pimlico, and more.

Join a Baltimore Heritage tour and discover the stories and people behind our city’s great historic places. Learn more about the Bolton Hill tour and register here.

Planning for BoltonStock 2016

Caleb Stine & the Brakeman, BoltonStock '15
Caleb Stine & the Brakeman, BoltonStock ’15

Planning has started for BoltonStock 2016, and the date has been set: June 25 from 6–9 pm.

You may remember that last year, when the City pulled the plug on the annual neighborhood June band concert due to budgetary concerns, neighbors jumped in to reincarnate the event in a new form. Thus, BoltonStock was born.

Pulling together a new outdoor festival normally takes months or even years, but Chas Phillips and Victoria Lebron worked miracles, organizing everything in a matter of weeks. The 2015 event was a big success, as reported in last July’s Bulletin.

Caleb Stine and the Brakemen have confirmed that they will be playing again this year, and the planning crew is considering more acts. Of course there will be children’s activities, food on the grill, beer & wine.

Fans enjoying the evening
Fans enjoying the evening

The organizers need volunteers for cooking, selling food and drink, setup on the day of the festival and cleanup afterward, spreading the word, and more. Planning and logistics meetings will be scheduled in May and June.

If you’d like to lend a hand, email Chas at And look for a Facebook event page to be up shortly.

Most of all, don’t miss BoltonStock 2016.

The Bulletin’s Spring Photo Contest

Yes, we even had snow this month.
Photo by Linda Rittelmann

The theme for our first Bulletin Photo Contest was spring. March’s weather responded perfectly to our choice, providing displays of color and light that morphed before our eyes.

Being rule-breakers at heart, for this first contest we overlooked those who submitted more than the two images allowed.

And the winner is . . .

Linda Rittelmann, for the photo at the left that captures the quirky, Janus-faced aspect of the season. Plus, she actually did follow the rules.

Thanks to all our contestants, including Camille Mihalic, David Nyweide, Kellie Welborn, Linda Rittelmann, Margaret Carruthers, Michael Collins, and Perry Cooper. They worked valiantly to capture nature’s art.

We hope you enjoy this slideshow of all the submissions on the season we all love, a season that never lasts long enough. Click the “Show thumbnails” button to see the photo credits.

Comment and tell us which one you think is the winner.

Garden Club Accepting Grant Applications

A previously funded project.
A previously funded project.

The Bolton Hill Garden Club is now accepting greening grant applications; the deadline is May 1. The purpose of the Bolton Hill Garden Club Green Space Grants Program is to help fund public space greening projects within Bolton Hill.

Applications will be accepted via email or paper. Don’t forget to include a “before” picture of your project and a budget. Also, please check out the Frequently Asked Questions for information on what types of public space projects the garden club can fund.

Click here for a grant application and more information. Questions may be sent to

Help make Bolton Hill greener!

And, remember to support the club’s Spring Plant Sale on April 30.

New Hopes Build for State Center

Rendering of the proposed State Center complex at Howard and MLK. credit: Mithun
Rendering of the proposed State Center complex at Howard and MLK. credit: Mithun

For years, the State Center Neighborhood Alliance, in various forms, has been working hard to ensure that the neighbors bordering this large parcel benefit from its development. Their ten years of work finally may be coming to fruition.

On March 21, a consortium of twelve West Baltimore organizations gathered near the site of the proposed State Center redevelopment project to sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with project developer State Center, LLC.

The agreement governs the community process for this extensive redevelopment, mandating that the West Baltimore community organizations and adjacent institutions most affected by the site will have a say in how the project is implemented.

This CBA is of historic import, as it is the first in Baltimore for a project of this scale. Kristine Dunkerton, executive director of the Community Law Center, said, “It is surely a national model of a binding contract between grassroots organizations and a developer. It demonstrates the benefits of a developer taking the time to listen, include the needs, and address the concerns of well-organized area residents with a long term commitment of working together.”

Under the agreement, the developer must:

  • involve the community in planning, designing, and implementation of the redevelopment;
  • improve access to transit;
  • generate community jobs and leverage job training for local residents;
  • provide for environmentally sensitive construction and design;
  • work toward commercial synergy with surrounding areas; and
  • help finance additional community-led projects.

The State Center project was originally put into motion 10 years ago by former Governor Robert Ehrlich, and is currently awaiting final approval from the Hogan administration. If the Governor gives has go ahead, Phase One of the development is ready to go immediately.

A special thank you goes to neighbor John Kyle, who is both the president of the State Center Neighborhood Alliance and MRIA’s representative to the alliance.

Fitzgerald Park Needs Your Help

F. Scott Fitgerald ParkFor years, Andrew Fontanella and Charles Holman have taken the lead on maintaining F. Scott Fitzgerald Park at the corner of Bolton and Wilson Streets.

Under their guidance, the park has become a neighborhood gem.

Last fall, they reluctantly stepped down from their roles due to increased demands at work. Jackie Richardson, who has been pulling weeds and planting flowers right along with Andrew & Charles, continues the work on her own.

But this is too big a job for her to do alone. If you enjoy gardening or just making things beautiful, please consider volunteering your time. Email Jackie at if you’d like to help. Both she and the neighborhood will thank you.

Blue Plaque Committee Members Needed

Blue Plaque
Do you know where this blue plaque lives?

Neal Friedlander is recruiting volunteers to help select a new crop of Blue Plaque homes in the neighborhood.

A Bolton Hill home is eligible for a plaque if it was formerly occupied by someone who made a significant contribution to the community or to their field. The person must be deceased or at least 100 years old.

Candidates will be vetted by University of Baltimore history professor Betsy Nix.

If interested, email Neil at

Go to Market

Waverly Farmers' Market
Waverly Farmers’ Market

Joyful news! As the weather warms and good things start to sprout, the farmers’ markets open up for the season.

Get your share of the bounty at its freshest and most delicious. In the process, you’ll support the local farms that do all the hard work with loving care.

Here are the five closest markets to our neighborhood. One goes year round and the rest will be starting up real soon. Yummy!

32nd Street (Waverly) Farmers’ Market is open year-round, every Saturday, 7 am–noon, 400 E. 32nd St. west of Greenmount Ave.

Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar, the area’s biggest farmers’ market, opens this month. Runs every Sunday, April to December, 7 am–noon, Saratoga and Holliday Sts. under the JFX.

Druid Hill Farmers’ Market, next to the Rawlings Conservatory in nearby Druid Hill Park, runs every Wednesday, June to September, 3:30–7:30 pm.

State Center Community Farmers’ Market is within walking distance from Bolton Hill and is managed by neighbor Debi Celnik, who tells us Zeke’s Coffee is a new addition this year. Every Wednesday, May to November, 9:30 am–2 pm, at State Center, 201 West Preston St.

Whitelock Community Farm Stand—AND the farm—are right next door in Reservoir Hill, every Saturday, May to November, 10 am–1 pm, corner of Whitelock & Brookfield.

April Events

Here’s a brief overview of some of the local happenings in April.

Go to the Bulletin Calendar for details and additional events—just click on an event to see more information.

April 1 through10 – MICA’s Theatre Company Presents “Jailbait” and “Blackbird”, with performances Thursday through Sunday evenings.

April 2 – Hoi Polloi: An Experimental Fashion Event, one of two MICA student-led Fashion Shows showcasing nontraditional, provocative, and original fashion designs. The other is on the 9th.

April 3 – Brown Memorial Tiffany Series: LGBT Choral Concert

April 4 – Comedy Happens at Joe Squared, a benefit for Dance Happens

April 6 – B&P Tunnel Project Open House, with new information on alternative routes. Also on April 16.

April 9 – DONROSE, the 23rd Annual Benefit Fashion Show, featuring newly designed clothing by student artists and designers to showcase their creative visions as they push the boundaries of fashion with fiber, textiles and mixed media.

April 14 – Start of Early Primary Voting, and see related article here.

April 14 – Dutch Graphic Designer to Lecture at MICA, Richard Niessen will present “The Palace of Typographic Masonry.”

April 15 – Opening Night of Ragtime, Memorial Players spring musical. Additional performances on April 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24. More information here.

April 16 – Community Health and Wellness Expo, with health screenings, assistance with access to medical services, and information to help make positive changes in your health.

April 16 – Second Party with a Purpose, a Stoop Party! More information here. Afterwards, we’ll go together to the Bounday Block Party below.

April 16 – Boundary Block Party. Make a day of it with the Stoop Party above. Read more here.

April 19 – Chili Fundraiser for Mt. Royal Sixth Graders, to fund their Spring trip to Outdoors Camp.

April 22 – Ribbon-Cutting at Brookside Gardens, celebrate Earth Day at this event showcasing the installation of  neighbor/artist Linda DePalma’s sculptures.

April 24 – Two events at Brown Memorial, “City Love” Luncheon Speaker Series and Frederick Swann Organ Concert

April 26 – Primary Elections, please vote. More information on voting.

April 30 – Bolton Hill Garden Club Spring Plant Sale

April 30 – Walking Tour of Bolton Hill, with Baltimore Heritage, part of their ongoing series of tours.

April 30 – Kindling – Sparking Community Connection, guided conversations meant to deepen understanding of our diverse community.

Save the date – May 23 for the Samaritan’s Annual Movie Night Gala at The Charles