Author Archives: Katie Bachler

About Katie Bachler

I am an artist and educator and lover of everything that grows. I walk as a way to know a place, and am always mapping life.

Talking life and the sociological imagination with jude Lombardi


jude Lombardi will be presenting her film Gentrification (k)NOT Movie on March 19th as a part of the BMA’s Open Hours Program.

The Gentrification (k)NOT Movie was born out of conversations jude had at the Station North Arts Café with owner Kevin Brown, who has been working in Station North for years. In 2002, Station North Arts District became the first designated arts district in Maryland. jude and Kevin felt the need to explore what was happening in the neighborhood which housed MICA and a burgeoning art scene, as well as changes happening all over the world in cities, often through arts-driven by development. Her film is meant to provoke questions about change and transformations: What is healthy neighborhood change? What is lost when a place is redeveloped? How might we prevent gentrification from happening during revitalization of a neighborhood?

I spoke with her about home and place and teaching, the parts that make a life. Hope you can join us at the BMA on March 19th for the screening and conversation.

What is home to you?
Home is where I live when I am not out in the world. It is a safe, warm, loving space that every human being deserves to experience on a daily bases. My home is in Baltimore and has been since my birth.

Can you tell me a bit about your classes when you teach sociology?
When I taught sociology, the scientific study of one’s own society and all that this entails (I know, that’s a lot), my favorite activity was encouraging students to develop a “sociological imagination.” The term “sociological imagination,” one of the most popular terms in sociology, was invented by C. Wright Mills (1959). He wrote a book on the topic by the same name. A sociological imagination is a way of looking at how one views the world, oneself, and their society. It’s about exploring one’s own biography within a historical context, nested in traditions, beliefs and other cultural artifacts. It makes a distinction between [when is] a “personal trouble” and “public issue[s],” and how they might intersect.

Not only is developing a sociological imagination about the biographical in a historical context, it is about exploring the “social” structures, or not so “social” structures that we co-construct and maintain through our language, beliefs and actions. It’s about living in a milieu–a system–and how the elements of that system might orient how one thinks, perceives and acts. It’s about understanding one’s self and our relations with “others,” not necessarily like us

As one person states in the Gentrification (k)NOT Movie, “How you view gentrification depends on where you sit.” That is, one’s position and positioning in the society in which they live affects one’s life choices and life chances.

Finally, when developing a sociological imagination, one’s sense of responsibility and ability for generating a society they desire emerges. Including how one’s thoughts, wants and actions might make a difference that makes a difference (human agency). It is a model for exploring and designing the constraints and possibilities for generating a society one desires to be an element of. (Interview with Lombardi, Sociological Imagination)

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How is this connected to understanding gentrification?
Today, gentrification is happening worldwide–locally, nationally and globally. It is a public issue.

Once I developed a sociological imagination I had little choice but to work in ways that improve the society I live in. That is one reason why I became a social worker, then a therapist, then a professor and then, a filmmaker. The films I make are about people trying to make a difference in the society in which they live.

The word gentrification was originally designed by British sociologist Ruth Glass to point at a particular dynamic that emerges when a “gentry” of people move into a neighborhood (1964). It was meant to connote a process by which during the revitalization of a neighborhood the residents who live there–through no fault of their own–can no longer afford to live there and are eventually displaced.

What I noticed was in our daily discourse the term gentrification had lost its original meaning. As I say in the movie, “If you think it means one thing and I think it means another than how do we design revitalization in ways that prevent it–gentrification–from happening?”

My intentions when making the movie were to explore the meaning of the term ‘gentrification’, to educate people about its original meaning and to offer possible ways for designing the revitalization and development of our neighborhoods so that people are not displaced from their homes.

What might a healthy change to a neighborhood look like?
The Gentrification (k)NOT Movie explores a variety of elements for creating healthy neighborhoods. In the movie I quote former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Peter Bellenson, MD, citing four basics for generating a healthy neighborhood: decent schools, decent housing, access to a living wage–work, and health. Mindy Fullilove MD, talks about the importance of generating social networks for sustaining healthy neighborhoods. She also offers a distinction between healthcare and disease management, arguing that 90% of our money goes to disease management while only 10% goes toward healthcare. Thus putting the cart before the horse.

Fullilove is the author of Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It.  ‘Rootshock’ is a term she adapted from gardening, which describes the loss of one’s personal ecosystem when our networks are destroyed and displacement happens.

 What is a city of the future?
I cannot say what a city of the future looks like. What I can say is what I desire. What I desire is space where there is participation by all when making decisions and designing our city.  Be aware when there is participation by all conflict will emerge, it is natural. It is how we deal with our conflict today (violence) that is unnatural. So this requires, among other things, our ability and a desire to participate in deep conversations embracing our conflicts as opportunities for generating something new.

What is one of your favorite spots in Baltimore?
One of my favorite spots in Baltimore is the Stadium Place, home to over 400 senior citizens of mixed income. It is an affordable housing community that emerged where the historical Memorial Stadium was once located. Stadium Place is featured in the Gentrification (k)NOT Movie as a prototype for revitalization without gentrification. Stadium Place sits in the middle of a historically diverse set of neighborhoods known as Waverly, Homestead, Edner Gardens, Montebello and Coldstream. All of which were — by order of the mayor –involved in the planning and re-development of this huge piece of land now known as Stadium Place.

How did this happen? What were the elements that allowed for this community to come into being without displacing any of its neighbors or neighborhoods?  For more information about Stadium Place and its history, come see the Gentrification (kNOT) Movie.

Judith (jude) Lombardi, LCSW-C, Ph.D. is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work (1981) and a social worker who went back to graduate school, then taught college-level Sociology for over a decade. She now makes documentary movies about people doing what people do. 

Gentrification k(NOT): A Film Screening and Conversation about Displacement in Baltimore is on at the BMA on March 19, 2016 @ 1:00 pm, as part of the BMA’s monthly Open Hours program.

The BMA Outpost in Reservoir Hill

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The BMA Outpost in Reservoir Hill.

The BMA Outpost is a portable museum that is taking up temporary residence in a variety of communities throughout Baltimore City, led by the BMA’s Amy and Marc Meadows Education Fellow Katie Bachler.

I spent October and November of 2014 in Reservoir Hill at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center – an old house turned church turned community center and after school program. The center hosts 43 students every day, and they work on projects and school work in rooms that were once bedrooms, with old fireplaces, and carved wood decorations. This was a home for the Outpost, our folding museum set up by the bus stop at the corner of Linden and Whitelock Streets, with reproductions of The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz and A Quick Nap by Walter Williams displayed in the sun. People from the neighborhood stopped by every day to chat, to share a story, to add to the map of what matters to them in the neighborhood. The kids were happy to see me every day, saying “art, art, art!” as they walked by or got off the bus. This corner became a home, and residents became familiar with me as a bit of extra street architecture and a source of conversation.

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Visitors to the Outpost create maps of what matters to them in the neighborhood.

This neighborhood was once home to wealthy business owners, who lived in three story brick homes, with marble staircases, decorative windows, and iconic spired roofs that glowed in the sunlight at the end of the day. These were and are grand homes, some with gutter systems that would bring rainwater into the kitchen for washing dishes.

Reservoir Hill was known as Jonestown, the original site along the Jones Falls where the Englishman David Jones claimed land, and built along the water, like people tend to do all over the world – growth happens around water. The land was filled with oaks, and small streams, in a time when Baltimore was growing, and land was available to claim. Druid Hill Park was once rural land outside of the city of Baltimore, whose northernmost boundary was North Avenue. Sheep grazed near untouched forests. Everyone put Druid Hill Lake on his or her map; it is the anchor of the neighborhood, a place to relax and walk and think and breathe.

There was a perfectly circular reservoir known as the Mt Royal Reservoir that brought water to half of the city’s residents in the 1850s, at the old entrance to Druid Hill Park, the remains of which are still flanked by two large marble posts. The city was growing then. The Jones Falls was a source of clean water, helping Baltimore to become a booming industrial town, immigrants flowing in to help create and alter the economic conditions of the city.  Water was home.


Hand-painted map of resident’s favorite places by Katie Bachler, handed back to participants who contributed locations.

The past is remembered in places, in the height and material reality of buildings, and what was cared about and what was given weight, given names, given space, like the gardens along Linden Avenue, which was once known as the Garden Path, and was manicured, and existed as an entrance to Druid Hill Park.

The stories I hear from residents now are still about home—about family, about eating dinner, about hanging out on the corner, and how the roofs of the neighborhood houses look so cool. I spoke with Juanita, who lives on a short street behind the St. Francis Neighborhood Center where there used to be the garden, as she walked past the Outpost. She remarked, “you have to smile at people, it makes it a place here, it makes it home.” Juanita’s little dog Sammy walks beside her. They are connected.

The BMA Outpost will be located at the Govans Branch of the Enoch Pratt library from  mid-January through mid-February. You can join us to experience art in public, and map your own journey to home.


Announcing the BMA Outpost – a mobile museum and project space!


The BMA Outpost

Keep your eyes open for a small museum in your neighborhood.

The BMA Outpost is a roving public space that will be exhibiting reproductions of works from the BMA’s collection, all related to the idea of home through time and across cultures. This small museum-on-the-move will also have content created by you – the residents of Baltimore. It is a museum about place, about home, and about why this city matters to all of us.

What does ‘home’ in Baltimore mean to you? Is it egg custard sno-balls, sitting on the stoop in front of a brick house, the way the clouds look over the Inner Harbor, or your grandmother’s collection of cups and bowls?  You can contribute to a map of the neighborhood with places and memories that are meaningful to you!

The Outpost is an exchange, a conversation, a dinner table.  You bring life and meaning to this space, then we decide together how it grows. We will be visiting places all over the city and partnering with organizations already working in your neighborhood.

In October, the BMA Outpost will be set up from 1-5 Tuesday-Friday at The St. Francis Neighborhood Center at 2405 Linden Ave.

I look forward to visiting your neighborhood, and making a museum with you.


A drawing of the BMA Outpost

Mapping Home at Mildred’s Lane


Katie Bachler is an artist and the 2014 Meadows Fellow at The Baltimore Museum of Art. In July, she spent a week mapping notions of home at Mildred’s Lane – a contemporary art complex(ity), situated deep in the woods of rural northeastern Pennsylvania. These are her reflections.

I was invited to go make a map of the layers of a place; of the home as the natural world and all the tiny tendrils of what grow on the land – the ferns and the weeping moss walls – the blue Marsalis shale. The cups and bowls, the caring of the body, how the towels are hung over the edge of the sink, a garden for growing food, the places we walk in the morning, shared meals, the way that the counters get wiped with a sponge… All of these acts are part of the Mildred’s Lane complex, a home-space that is a laboratory and school about how to live, how to create systems of engagement that are unique and outside of the dominant modes of production in the art world as object making and exchanging. What if all of the parts of life are treated with as much care as the art objects themselves?


I was invited to look at the complexity of this site, by talking with people and learning how to live in an intentional way, my hands holding objects in a new way; Mildred’s Lane became a home through the mapping of it. This is a story of that process.


Through the many hills that make up the state of Pennsylvania – the marble of Wilkes Barre – the great Delaware River Gap where people live off the land and the Hudson River school painters felt the thrill of light – exist the possibilities of what could be around a bend or the edge of some far away hills, and the romanticism of what was not the city in a time of the industrial revolution. It prompts a question: Where do we go to feel like ourselves; a parallel need for a wild place as the urban becomes future-like, not stopping, not us, not now.

Over a bridge that was a drawbridge painted green, and that rumbles underneath the tires as we drive, artists who wanted to make a life that was everything that a life is, moved up here in 1996 to build a home on some land; a home that started as a slab of concrete. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion, who had been a part of perhaps the last great swell of galleries and spaces in NYC in the early 1990s with American Fine Arts began making art to return to life; to all of the singular events and decisions that make up a moving life. A home is a place to learn about how to live together. A home is a shared intentional world. Puett calls it entanglement, workstyles, comportment. The creation of a language to name the specificity of a world.


How to map what matters to people, to map a relationship between city and country, between land and people?  A map is a changing organism that responds to space and time, and to the people who relate to it, who create it, who feel the woods and the way the paint peels off of buildings, or the light hits a long table in the evening as we prepare a meal on zig-zag tables, with upside down cups, in a way that is called workstyles because everything is done with intention.


Creating a map with people becomes about mapping a way of being, a specificity of a human intention to make a new sort of place, one with its own order and ways of investigating the components of a human existence, how we make decisions, how we live together in a world that is based on capitalist modes of production much of the time.


What if all modes of life are self-determined? Is this kind of utopia possible? Maybe it is my job to map it, but then to think of the map as a shifting exploration of a place. A map of any kind of utopia has to be open to change, so I make a growing map, an open map.


I will go back for a weekend in August to keep working on it, and for time after that as well, being in time and through time.