is a social media platform that fosters real-life intergenerational connections through storytelling. Elders of Baltimore seeks to celebrate, honor, and bring recognition to Baltimore’s elder citizens across race, class, and community divides by inspiring personal connections, and existing as a widely accessible public archive of the artifacts of those experiences.
Baltimoreans of all ages are encouraged to spend time with their elders, ask to hear their stories, and to listen closely. Photos and brief anecdotes or quotes related to these experiences can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for publication on the Elders of Baltimore Instagram account, and also in print via local print media. Instagrammers should follow elders.of.baltimore to see all of the wonderful posts!
Who are elders? Elders are senior citizens. They are grandmas, grandpas, great aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors. They are treasures.
Artists Ashley Minner and Sean Scheidt conceived of Elders of Baltimore while working on a related storytelling project, their photo essay The Neighborhood Changed: A Collaboration, featured in the current issue of the Bmore Art Journal of Art + Ideas. In an attempt to piece together a greater narrative of change in East Baltimore over the years, Ashley and Sean collected individual stories from a wide cross-section of residents. They started by interviewing their own elder family members and other elder loved ones. They made Instagram and Facebook posts about this experience which received a lot of attention. They so enjoyed interviewing these elders in particular, and the elders had such a good time sharing their stories, the team since decided to use social media to promote similar interactions across the city.
“Stories help us to realize how connected to each other we really are,” says Ashley who, like Sean, was amazed at the amount of overlap between the stories, both generationally and geographically. “And Baltimore is a special place,” adds Sean. “The lived experiences of the elders of this city inform our lived experiences here today.”
The team especially enjoys the notion of subverting social media to encourage real-life connections. Sean says, “The Instagram posts are really just artifacts of the true process we are trying to inspire.” Yet the team has also been careful to partner with local print publications so that the stories are more widely accessible than just social media. “Not everyone is glued to their phones like we are,” says Ashley. “We want everyone to be able to see what is published.”
The team pitched their idea for Elders of Baltimore to the Warnock Foundation Baltimore Social Innovation Journal. They were chosen as Spring 2016 Innovators and were funded $1000 seed money to begin the project. Ashley and Sean plan to publish one story per day for the first week after the launch of the account, and at least one story per week thereafter. They will turn administration of the Elders of Baltimore project over to another pair of artists in January 2017.
Special thanks to our friend Jess of JWatson Creative for our fabulous logo design!