Friends School, McKim Center, and WombWork Productions launch partnership

On Wednesday, November 6, 2019, Friends officially kicked off a new partnership with the McKim Community Association and WombWork Productions.

Although the nature of the partnership is a new one, the McKim Community Center is no stranger to Friends School. Both institutions have a rich history that dates back to 1817 when prominent Quaker merchant, John McCkim provided funding to begin constructing the city’s first free school. Today, the McKim Center is housed in the historic Aisquith Street Meetinghouse—which also happens to be the birthplace of Friends School of Baltimore.

January 2021 will mark McKim’s 200th anniversary, and 200 years of serving Baltimore’s Jonestown community. To help mark this momentous occasion and uplift McKim’s legacy of service, Friends School has teamed up with youth at McKim and arts educators at WombWork Productions to co-create a celebratory performance.

The legacy of the McKim Center is certainly one worth celebrating as its creation in 1821 was an extraordinary development for Baltimore. Upper School teacher, Amy Schmaljohn, notes that at the time of its founding, the only way for children to receive a formalized education was if they were born into a wealthy family or affiliated with a religious institution that had a school. McKim was the first school of its kind in Baltimore to provide an education that Schmaljohn describes as both “free of cost and of dogma.”

Today, students at Friends and McKim are working to produce a culminating creative performance for the 200th year celebration that uplifts the stories and shared history of both institutions. WombWork Productions— who entered the picture via their Board President and Friends adjunct teacher, David Fakunle ’05— is the perfect supporting partner for this project. The group specializes in creatively uplifting stories that might otherwise go under the radar.

Arts practitioners at WombWork began teaching the foundations of dancing, African drumming, and singing to children at both McKim and Friends during the project’s launch week. Both student communities will come together on a regular basis for fellowship and rehearsals for the culminating performance. Their first performance is scheduled for January 2020 during Friends’ annual MLK Day Convocation. While the final format of the culminating performance remains to be seen— as it will evolve under the careful guidance of WombWork practitioners— Schmaljohn says it’s a great example of the Quaker value of trusting the process. “We trust the process and have truly gifted artists and teachers willing to work with our eager students,” she says.

Ultimately, Schmaljohn looks forward to continuing to “renew and reimagine” the Friends/McKim partnership for the 21st century, as Friends continues to discover ways to bridge communities through meaningful and lasting collaboration.

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