Harris' Heroes: Common Ground uses art to combat neighborhood crime

Common Ground uses art to combat neighborhood crime (ABC7)

It wasn’t long ago that parents in the Silver Spring neighborhood known as Quebec Terrace didn’t feel it was safe for children to play outside. But inside a small community YMCA, young residents are working to improve their neighborhood.

It’s a program called Common Ground, run by the nonprofit Arts on the Block.

The youth are making mosaic-tiled stepping stones that will become part of a rain garden.

Previous projects have included illuminated mosaic address plaques, painted windows, and the largest project, a pair of mosaic staircases leading into the community.

In the process, the young artists learn leadership and teamwork skills, and they gain self-confidence.

“We’re using our own creativity, expressing it,” says 11-year-old Montserrat Esquivel.

Adds 12-year-old Jefferson Umanzor, “It makes me feel good. It makes me feel excited.”

Seventeen-year-old Dee Lam has been a part of Common Ground since eighth grade and now is a teen mentor.

“It’s everybody’s artwork. It’s like part of the neighborhood and I’m just proud about being in the Y,” says Lam.

Teaching artist Natalie Ramirez says the youth take away a powerful message.

“Even though they’re just one person, everything they do inspires others as well,” explains Ramirez.

Arts on the Block Founder Jan Goldstein says, “It’s really about how arts can build a community, that a community that’s art rich is a community that’s rich period. And these little touches can mean so much and make such a difference.”

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