2020 Year in Review


Arts on the Block, a nonprofit arts organization with a 17-year history, is the only hands-on public art apprenticeship program in the region offering youth and young adults the opportunity to learn about art, design, and business by engaging in real-world public art commissions. We recruit, train, place, and support youth and young adults with art and design aptitudes who might not ordinarily be introduced to career paths in the creative industries. 

AOB apprentices join one of our existing studio crews led by master teaching artists and supported by a team of management professionals. AOB crew members work their way up through summer intensives and year-round projects to produce large-scale mosaic public art. Along the way, they receive customized professional skills training, connect with our creative network, and pursue individualized plans for success in creative careers.

AOB logo on a purple background with words "A Year In Review 2020" and four images of AOB art projects

With a 17-year history and your extraordinary support, an unimaginable 2020 was reimagined with the tenacity, values, and vision inherent to our mission. 

At AOB we prioritize problem-solving, part of the Eight Studio Habits that frame our creative practice. Bouncing between, around, and within these creative habits strengthens our artistic process and the AOB team. We ‘stretch & adjust’ with ingenuity to create public art, and to persist. 

Eight Studio Habits

  • Develop Skills
  • Explore, Experiment, & Persist
  • Envision & Plan
  • Create
  • Observe & Listen
  • Reflect
  • Stretch & Adjust
  • Succeed & Be Empowered


2020 Challenges Accepted
We are encouraged by the vision, talent, ambition, and grit of the young creatives who stand at the center of all we do. Even more, we are emboldened by the creative network of  family, friends, funders, clients, and colleagues who backed our work in 2020. With that incredible support system, AOB will continue to break the mold in using art as a regenerative force in community and lifting up the next generation of creative leadership.

Studio Crew, Taniya Dickerson, Sharing Smiles, watercolor, gouache, colored pencil

At Arts on the Block, the arts provide creative tools and processes that bridges cultural, racial, political, physical, and emotional boundaries and are among a class of industries known for adaptive capacities. (Sharing Smiles by AOB Studio Crew member Taniya Dickerson.)


Design Your Future (DYF)

Studio Habit: Explore, Experiment, & Persist

Within 48 hours of closing our doors, the AOB program team deployed remote working capabilities in an online studio. This robust digital platform complements our new Silver Spring studio and expands our regional reach.


Inspired by spirals, Nature’s Patterns echoes the Fibonacci sequence found in nature, these four large mosaic murals were commissioned by Landex Development for Artisan 4100, a new development in the Gateway Arts District.

Studio Crew working on color gradients and andamento style

Harmonizing stories with natural surroundings, Seasons of Sunrises reflects the beauty of nature within an urban setting for Lerner’s Black Hill Germantown development.


Pour Your Art Out (PYAO)

Studio Habit: Develop Skills

The digital creative economy has arrived! AOB is working to make equitable economic inclusion possible through our apprenticeship model and community-integrated design process. This year, we paid over $300k in wages and stipends to 70 emerging creatives.

MCDOT Flash PYAO mosaic

Driving toward success through a multi-year partnership with Montgomery County Department of Transportation, PYAO apprentices produced sidewalk murals for the FLASH bus rapid transit stops from Burtonsville to our new Silver Spring studio.

Time-honored icon, the Wheaton Tower, got a face lift through a partnership with Wheaton Urban District that features the design and production of four seven-foot medallions and 44 smaller works by PYAO apprentices.


Youth Arts Movement (YAM)

Studio Habit: Create

We launched a dual-language program designed to quickly make a positive and accessible virtual environment available to children and families facing socio-economic, language, and tech barriers and to begin AOB creative collaborations at an even earlier age.

Movimiento de las Artes Juveniles (YAM), programmed in English and Spanish was introduced with our partners at CASA de Maryland and an amazing team of faculty and researchers at University of Maryland-College Park. In this online studio, families create hands-on art projects while playing with technology and practicing scientific inquiry.


Block Talks & Online Galleries

Studio Habit: Observe & Listen

Block Talks and online galleries celebrate the creativity of our studio apprentices, crew, teaching artists, staff, board, and extended AOB family. This year, we used new online tools to  connect, share, and navigate change together during an unprecedented time.

In partnership with Montgomery County’s Office of Human Rights, the Maryland Civil Rights Educational Freedom Experience virtual event explored images by photojournalist Christopher Barclay in conversation with Director, James L. Stowe.


AOB 2.0

Studio Habit: Succeed & Be Empowered

Led by a distinguished New Majority board, AOB has mapped out three special projects in Racial Equity, HR, and IT for next year. With accountable leadership, training resources, and data-driven strategy, young creatives will be better prepared to succeed in our transformed world.

AOB 2.0 is our strategic plan to leapfrog digital divides and upend inequities through creative engagement with young leaders and communities. We aim to expand our capacities as we move toward a more racially, socially, and economically inclusive society. (Salto by PYAO apprentice Karen, displayed during the Arts on the Virtual Block Online Gallery.)


State of the Art Studio in Silver Spring 

Studio Habit: Envision & Plan

We are realizing our vision! 2021 brings the safe launch of our new studio and the space to welcome young creatives from across the region. We are excited to make our future in downtown Silver Spring!

900 Wayne Avenue is our new address and we are ready! AOB’s tech-forward and broadly accessible space will nurture teams trained to take on the next economy. (The Little Giant by AOB Studio Crew member Ruqayyah Aakil, displayed during the Arts on the Virtual Block Online Gallery.)

Ruqayyah Aakil, The little giant, 2020, photography, NFS


With Gratitude

Studio Habit: Reflect

AOB was able to take bold action in 2020 because of the enduring leadership, guidance, and support of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.

Our online studio was developed with critical emergency support, technology, and equipment provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Maryland Department of Labor, the Maryland Department of Commerce, our friends at the Greater Washington Community FoundationPhilip L. Graham Foundation and Taking It Global, and everyone who gave through our Power2Give campaign. 

We are especially grateful for the team members who serve through Americorps and VISTA programs at Project Change and the MOST Network. We benefited from expert business consulting and technical support through BoardLead, Catalogue for Philanthropy, Catchafire, COMPASS, and DataKind.

AOB’s apprenticeship model isn’t possible without clients who care about young creatives. We are so proud of the artwork produced this year and our partnerships with Chase, Landex, Lerner, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Residential Mortgage Center, Temple Emanuel, and the Wheaton Urban District.

The new Silver Spring Studio comes as the result of an extraordinary three-year collaboration between the Montgomery County Department of General Services, the Maryland Transportation Authority, and the United States Post Office. We thank Senator Chris Van Hollen, our District 20 Team, Montgomery County Council, Hickok Cole, GPI, Kay Management, Lerch, Early & Brewer, the Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District, and VIKA Maryland for fast help, expert guidance, and lots of patience!

Most remarkable are the individuals who made a difference in quiet moments that mattered this year and who show up for us every day in every way. Thank you is just the beginning!

PYAO, Nani, Thank You Card, Procreate

Connect with us in 2021! Become a mentor, attend a Block Talk, visit the online studios. We can’t wait to welcome you to new spaces, public events, and creative opportunities in the new year! (Thank You Card by PYAO apprentice Nani.)

Read our 2020 Year in Review as a Flipbook