I've been lucky enough to travel to many US cities and states, as well as some foreign countries like Japan, Serbia, Korea, Italy and Canada. Just by living in the US and having my own foreign relatives, I've met plenty of people from around the country and the world. So, as you can see, I have a lot of different people and places to think about.
Maryland has been on my mind a lot lately--its place in the world, and my place in it. If it isn't obvious already, I love Baltimore with a passion. I love the community and the way people collaborate at a grassroots level. I love how people call it "Smalltimore", because everyone seems connected, and it's true. I love how we are who we are, and we're not that simple. I especially love the nonprofit scene, including Maryland New Directions where I work, and Mesh Baltimore, where I often go to learn, meet people, and even teach! I of course love the art scene, the creative people here and the opportunities. I think that the citizens of Baltimore really are responsible for what happens here, and that's powerful. It is a great place to be right now!
I must admit, however, that I have not spent too much time exploring the rest of Maryland, or the region. Recently, though, I have been prompted more and more to find out who exactly we are in this area. MAP recently put out a call for artists to explore the contemporary cultural climate of mid-Atlantic region of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. I applied for that show, and am waiting to hear back. Also, Hood College in Frederick, which I have never visited by the way, put out a call for artists living within 50 miles of Frederick, which includes Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and DC. Happily, I will be participating in that show later this month. I realize by now, I am certainly a part of this region, but I also wonder, do I understand us as a region yet? What is the culture here? How would I describe it?
I recently started finding out a little bit more about Maryland. The state itself certainly feels small to me, but also vibrant and important. When it comes to land area, Maryland ranks 42nd in the country, yet its population is ranked 19th, with a population density of 596 people per square mile. That makes it the 5th most population-dense state in the country. To put that in perspective, the US has an average population density of 89 people per square mile, Colorado with 49, Serbia with 241, and Japan with 873. Wow! Maybe that is why it feels like we all know each other and we're all doing a lot--we're really packed in here! As basic as population density and area are, they really have an impact on a citizen's entire life experience.
I was starting to think that not just Baltimore, but maybe all of Maryland, is small, mighty and connected. This suspicion was validated when I invited Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot to visit and speak at Maryland New Directions. To my extreme delight, he accepted my invitation, and yesterday was the big day of his visit! To think that he oversees the finances of our entire state, lives in Takoma Park, works in Annapolis, but can come up to Baltimore so easily made me realize how truly closely-knit we are. Even though there are a lot of us here, everyone is within reach; that's not just a nice thing about living in Maryland, that's why we're special!