By Luca Mochi
“I don’t know how much more Baltimore you can get,” Katelyn said to me while laughing when she told me that she was born at Johns Hopkins. We met up to chat about Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (MdVLA), which is located alongside GBCA in Motor House, her work as a photographer, and the long road to becoming MdVLA’s Program Manager.
Katelyn and I chatted while sitting comfortably on a couch in the Motor House lobby; Katelyn had injured herself and was wearing a boot on her foot, so the couch was really the only option. Comfort comes first during an interview of course! Katelyn and I have a lot in common; we both have a passion for fashion, we both are sooooo over the summer Baltimore heat (c’ mon fall!) and we both work in arts administration while practicing our individual art on the side, a situation that is extremely relatable to most who work in arts admin.
Katelyn began her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York studying fashion merchandising. While in NYC she nursed her part-time photography hobby and after graduation, she began working in fashion full-time for wholesale companies. That photography itch only got stronger and stronger because of her daily interaction with fashion photographers who inspired her with their creativity and passion. This constant artistic immersion forced her to quickly recognize how intense and unfulfilling her work in merchandising was. “The fashion industry (especially on the business end) can be very demanding with very little pay, I was tired of crunching numbers and it wasn’t where my heart was. I didn’t care about wholesale samples anymore, I just wanted to do something more creative. I am an artist and I wanted to formally learn photography, ” she said. After quitting her job she took a leap of faith and was accepted to MICA in their Photographic + Electronic Media program.
“MICA was just different,” Katelyn said. Fashion merchandising had really only allowed her to tap into the analytical part of her mind, and while she practiced photography throughout her time in New York, refocusing on her art was like a homecoming.
After graduating from MICA with her Masters she “was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to work for an arts non-profit and join the analytical and creative parts of my mind.” The summer after she graduated Katelyn attended the Baltimore Artist Retreat and met Adam Holofcener, Executive Director for MdVLA, and was once again inspired to follow her impulses and apply for the position she now holds. MdVLA was attractive to her because, after some training on legality in the arts, she would be able to help fellow artists without putting her personal projects on hold.
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
MdVLA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Maryland artists’ legal rights. Through the help of their network of lawyers, MdVLA provides pro bono legal referrals and services to artists in the state of Maryland. Those legal issues can range anywhere from artist contracts, to registering trademarks and copyrights, to business entity formations (when an artist wants to establish a non-profit or LLC). “We work with about 140 attorneys from all different types and sizes of practices,” Katelyn told me. Additionally, MdVLA provides services like lectures, seminars, and educational materials to keep artists in the know. One of these seminars is called The Art Law Clinic. This regular event is designed to allow artists to come and receive a 30 min in-person consultation with a trained lawyer for only $5. They are held once almost every month at different arts venues throughout Baltimore (they have been held at venues like Maryland Art Place, Creative Alliance, and Motor House). I actually met Katelyn for the first time when she was hosting the Art Law clinic at Creative Alliance. As Program Manager, Katelyn is responsible for communicating with artists and arts organizations who seek legal services, maintaining the network of volunteer lawyers, hosting and marketing the MdVLA programs, and working with community members to make workshops and programs as effective and educational as possible.
To learn more about Maryland Volunteer for the Arts, or see the schedule for upcoming programming, please visit https://mdvla.org/
While working for MdVLA, Katelyn continues to explore her art practice independently in a studio that she recently acquired at Motor House, which is incredibly convenient. “It’s really nice to just leave work and go downstairs and create,” she said. Her work explores the black woman experience and its marriage to the black community and the world in broader terms primarily through digital portrait photography and mixed media.
Currently, she is working on her photo portraiture and some larger painting projects (I hope she produces a solo exhibition sometime in the future). It is truly a gift to be able to work in the arts, while also being able to express ourselves in a setting that is not driven by the monetary value of our art. I find Katelyn’s story extremely relatable. Personally, I am a Pianist and Drag Artist but work at the Creative Alliance, GBCA, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. A huge portion of amazing artists in Baltimore work in the world of arts non-profits and pursue their individual art practices on the side. I think that is one of the most beautiful parts of this city, everyone you meet has a complex story and just about all of them have some sort of arts practice of their own. How are you blending your artistry in with your work?
Learn More about Katelyn’s art: https://www.katelynbrown.work/portraits