A&I was founded in 2008 by two parents, Caroline Chavasse and Danny Mydlack, also professors, professional artists, and residents of the Northeast neighborhood where Arts & Ideas began. Before starting Arts & Ideas, the founders formed a popular community playgroup for kids under age five that was inspired by the principles of Sudbury schooling. Children, free to follow their interests with minimal adult interference, were able to create their own games and activities as they saw fit while navigating a rich social scene, i.e, they got to play!
To learn more about the Sudbury model of education, Danny was hired part-time for a year at the Fairhaven school, another Sudbury school in Bowie, Maryland. During that time, he shot the documentary, Voices From the New American Schoolhouse, about the students at Fairhaven, while Caroline ran the playgroup.
After countless conversations with parents who said, "I don’t want to homeschool...but there is not a school I know of that I like," the idea of opening a school evolved into a concrete goal. Through visiting other Sudbury schools, continuing their research, and gaining hands-on experience, their understanding of and commitment to the Sudbury model deepened just as the up-and-coming vibe of their northeast neighborhood grew into a buzz. New restaurants, coffee shops and a bookstore opened, attracting families from all over Baltimore. It was a good time and place to open a school.
The school first opened with nine students in the upstairs hall of the Church of the Messiah in the Hamilton/Lauraville neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore. Almost entirely by word of mouth the school quickly grew, and in the second year it opened with 40 students, at near capacity at the rented space. Through the next five years, a search for a larger, more permanent home ran concurrently as the school culture stabilized and matured.
Parents, staff and students defined a wish list for the school’s forever home, which included remaining an urban school, with shops and city culture close by, while also having an attractive green space. It was not an easy task to find an affordable place to fit that bill in Baltimore. As the school's enrollment approached the limit of the space, the urgency of finding a new location became the defining issue of the school's seventh year.
Facing the difficult task of buying a property with the resources of fifty modest families, the community hired a consultant. The consultant, Reed Sumida of ISPG, specialized in working with small, independent schools. He guided the community in both raising the capital and finding the perfect location. The community chose his innovative plan that used its own resources to fund the purchase of a beautiful million dollar building and property. The capital plan helped maintain our low tuition for both current and future families.
After a year of hard work by parents and staff, the school purchased a lovely, enhanced property on Holder Avenue just a mile from the school's original home. This new space is within walking distance to Red Canoe, Zeke’s, Herring Run Park and other great shops and stores. It has over an acre of flat green space.
The school moved to its permanent home at the beginning of December, 2015. Staff and students made the pilgrimage on foot from the old space to the new space. Arts & Ideas Sudbury School had triumphantly claimed its home.
There's no other school quite like this in Baltimore!