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Why Balance Chose Wide Angle

This fall, Wide Angle Youth Media Festival’s traveling photography exhibition is on display at Balance the Salon. An intimate hair studio and art gallery located in Roland Park, Balance the Salon has been promoting local artists for over a decade, displaying artwork from local photographers on the salon’s walls rather than intrusive advertisements. We invited Balance the Salon’s creator, Matt Kone to share why he chose to showcase Wide Angle Youth Media Festival’s traveling photography exhibition:

In the recent challenging economic years, Balance has taken an increasing interest in connecting with area non-profits. A show for Wide Angle Youth Media was a perfect fit. The Wide Angle Youth Media Festival’s traveling photography exhibition is different from most previous shows at Balance. We are such a small gallery that we typically host single artist shows rather than groups of artists. It is however not our first show by a young artist for a non-profit. Several years ago, Thibault Manekin was working for an exciting outreach project in South Africa called Playing for Peace. His youngest sister Celine returned from visiting him with a beautiful collection of powerful images she had photographed. We ran the show of her work as a fundraiser. You can still see her images in the hallway of Miller’s Court. Wide Angle Youth Media provided us another rare chance to show work from young artists for an organization doing community outreach.

I love the optimism and enthusiasm of this show. The portraits of students by students show playfulness and personality. The subjects are happy to be seen and to participate. The work is not self-consciously arty. The artists and subjects seem to engage each other, and now they engage us as the viewers. Life is about our connectivity. The earlier anyone learns this the more opportunities we all have for growth.

This show does not really change my perception of Baltimore youth stereotypes, only because I don’t put much energy into stereotypes. What this show does is make my optimism feel more justified. I grew up here and attended public schools. My parents worked in the public school system. My daughter is in the public school system. I know bright, engaged kids exist here. It is great to see images of tuned-in kids who are excited about sharing their view of the world around them.

When I set out to create a business years ago, the name Balance was chosen because it was the only way to describe every aspect of the endeavor. Balance is not static, neutral or boring. It is the dynamic that allows opposites to work together for happy and exciting results. Edgy versus classic design, relaxing versus refreshing atmosphere, and work versus life are all constants. Giving back to the community is one way to better connect work and life. We are too small and not profitable enough for impressive philanthropy, so we contribute in small ways. Sharing artwork and ideas with our clients, contributing service gift certificates to various charity silent auctions, discounting service for K through 12 teachers, and periodic direct fundraising are all ongoing aspects of life at Balance. We are grateful for the support the community has given us. Thank you needs to be more than a parting comment after a service.

Matt Kone is a Baltimore native who discovered cutting hair for fun while finishing an English degree at Towson University in the 80s. After college he apprenticed with Chas (now at The Ritz Carlton downtown). After completing his training Matt spent the next thirteen years working for Lola Jones in Mt. Washington. During that time he spent three years as a regional design artist for Sebastian International, and became an in house educator new talent for Lola. In 2000 Matt created Balance the Salon.

The exhibition of photos produced by Baltimore City youth will be on display until November 3, 2012. This traveling exhibition is the result of several photography workshops in which middle and high school students were encouraged to tell their stories of being a young person in Baltimore. Join us for the closing event, which will be held on Saturday, October 20 from 6 pm to 8pm.