The ability to create art out of pain
Charm City Stories' first published magazine features art inspired by mental and physical illness. Photo by Ceyda Baysal.

The ability to create art out of pain

Baltimore is characterized by the diversity of its people. With each individual, there is a unique set of stories. This piqued the interest of a group of students at Johns Hopkins University. These students created “Charm City Stories,” a student journal devoted to art reflectant of mental and physical health.

The creators of “Charm City Stories” aimed to share the genuine narratives of the diverse citizens of Baltimore in efforts to not only spread a sense of awareness, but also understanding. Specifically, the leaders of this student journal wanted art that captured the authentic pain associated with mental and/or physical illness. The idea was not to romanticize illness but to show how art can contribute to one’s well-being.

UMBC, MICA, Loyola, Morgan State, Goucher and University of Maryland, College Park were all invited to submit poetry, paintings and any other art forms displaying their self expression. Accepted submissions were published in a physical magazine as well as a digital one.

On April 6, at John Hopkin University’s Center for Visual Arts, Charm City Stories’ very first publication was celebrated with an open art gallery as well as a live poetry reading. In fact, two of UMBC’s own students were invited to read their creative writing for all visitors.

The gallery beautifully represented the bridge between art and medicine, as the editors intended. The student paintings, drawings and photography showcased seamlessly coincided with the publication’s theme.

Art is a form of empowerment; artists recognize reality yet refuse to accept its vulgarity and use this world full of such disgust and tragedies to inspire their beautiful and creative pieces. And so, by dedicating the theme of the publication to illness, something sufferers and those around them are powerless to, Charm City Stories allowed artists to earn a sense of power over their own difficulties.

Each viewer has the power to interpret the piece in a way individualistic to themselves. And so, although not all viewers suffer from physical and/or mental illnesses, each person has felt weak and vulnerable at one point and therefore could attach him/herself to a piece in this gallery. The presented art’s ability to find relations in each viewer was very admirable.

The art also created a sense of community. Those with life-long physical and mental illnesses and disorders represent a relatively small portion of society. However, the entire gallery was devoted to this minority and brought together the sufferers. It almost created a trace of normality that was rather comforting. It is unfortunate to see how many people struggle with like difficulties, yet comforting to know there are people who can feel complete empathy for such tragedies.

“Charm City Stories” magazine presents the perfect collaboration of both written and visual art. Each artist featured should find great pride in their bravery in sharing their pain-inspired art. The first publication of “Charm City Stories” was a huge milestone for all contributing students of the Baltimore area, and future issues will be greatly anticipated. Any students who want to contribute to future publications with their own art may send submissions to charmcitystories.com.